History of Beer Gardens – More than Just a Shady Spot to Enjoy Your Beer!

What’s more inviting on a warm spring afternoon than sitting at an old wooden picnic table in the middle of an outdoor patio or garden, enjoying your favorite German beer under the shade of some trees?  Add an oversized Bavarian pretzel and maybe a knockwurst with some grainy German mustard – and the day can’t get much better!

While this al fresco spring and summer experience is always an anticipated, good time – there’s much more cultural history to a beer garden than enjoying a cold brew in a park like setting.

Beer Gardens (translated from the German word, Biergarten) originated in Bavaria in the 16th century when seasonal regulations were placed on brewing beer.  Among other reasons, beer could only be brewed during the cooler months to minimize the risk of fire when boiling the ingredients to make the beer. In response, since beer could no longer be produced during the warm spring and summer months, large breweries dug cellars in the banks of the River Isar to keep their beer inventory cool during storage.

As there was no refrigeration as this time, to keep the temperature as low as possible during the warm seasons, 19th century brewers also covered the river banks with gravel and planted chestnut trees for their dense spreading canopies. (Wikipedia)  Not long after that, serving cool beer in a pleasant shaded setting emerged.  Simple tables and benches were set up among the trees, creating the popular “beer garden” that we know today.

The “biergarten” culture began to grow in Germany and often, on Sundays, the beer garden became a family affair where children could play in a park-like setting while their parents enjoyed a cold beverage. When folks from Germany immigrated to the United States in the middle of the nineteenth century, they brought the inspiration for beer gardens along with them.

So when you and your friends are enjoying your favorite Hofbrau or Grevensteiner under the shade of an old Chestnut tree at your favorite beer garden, think about the rich history that inspired this outdoor, afternoon delight!