Beer Gardens are to Germany What Pubs are to Britain:
Beer Gardens (Biergärten) are as fundamental to the German culture as pubs are common to the British cultural landscape. Everywhere you go in Germany, you’ll find restaurants and beer halls with outdoor shaded areas where beer and local food are served.
Beer Garden History
Beer gardens are believed to have originated in Bavaria and Bavaria’s brewing regulations can be traced back to the 16th century. In 1553, Albert V passed an edict that beer could only be brewed from September 29 (Feast of St Michael) to April 23 (Feast of St George). This cooler season was more suitable for the beer fermentation as the high temperatures required for the malt boiling process caused a few fires in the 16th century. It therefore made sense to prohibit the brewing of beer during the warmer months.
So, to provide the supply of beer during summer, the breweries had to find a way to store their beer and keep it cool as there was no refrigeration at that time. The larger breweries were able to build storage by digging huge cellars in the banks of the River Isar. They covered the ground with gravel and planted linden and chestnut trees as an added measure to keep the ground and their cellars cool. In January 1812, King Max I decreed that beer brewers could sell retail quantities of their cellar beers to the public from June until September. Before too long tables and benches popped up under the trees and hence, the biergärten was born.
There are not many restaurants or drinking establishments in the world where you can bring your own food in. So it came as a surprise to me to learn that in many traditional Bavarian biergärten you can do so. This tradition started way back in the 19th century when the smaller breweries were not happy as they were losing business to the big breweries and they petitioned King Max to restrict the beer gardens from selling food. As a counter measure, the beer gardens then allowed their customers to bring their own food when they came for a drink.
Although the decree prohibiting the selling of food by beer gardens is no longer in force today, the traditional beer gardens who maintain the custom of allowing guests to bring their own food are rewarded with later closing hours. On warm summer evenings Bavarians love to pack their picnic baskets and head to their beer gardens for an evening of gemütlichkeit, with good company and beer from the tap.
Beer and Food in a Bavarian Biergärten
In Bavarian beer gardens, beer and beer mixes like radler are typically served in one litre steins (or “maß”). For non-alcoholic drinks, such as spezi (a mixture of cola and orange soda) or apfelschorle (a mixture of apple juice and mineral water), the normal serve is half-litre measures. The beer gardens also offer the opportunity to enjoy typical Bavarian cuisine such as radi (radish), hendl (grilled chicken), Hax’n (knuckle of pork), sausages, meatloaf and Steckerlfisch (grilled fish). The traditional beer gardens are self-service, but some also have a serviced area.