Beer Garden History, Menu, & Locations
The beer garden, or Biergarten in its native German, has a long and illustrious history of bringing people together for happy hours and events while serving up good times ... and beer of course, cause you know, it's not called a Seltzer Garden.
Before we start, we have to talk about seltzer ... cause no joke, Budweiser made an Egg Nog Seltzer. Ok, with that off our chest, let's get back to beer gardens.
Beer gardens are a unique space where people come together for a fun night of entertainment, community, and drinking. Craft beers are as commonplace in these beer gardens as pretzels, live music, and the occasional private event.
Want to find out all you ever wanted to know about beer gardens around the world and throughout history? Cool. Let's take take a trip together.
What is a Beer Garden?
First, let’s understand what makes a beer garden a beer garden. These are outdoor areas covered in lush greenery (hopefully) and ambient lights (sometimes $14.95 "Amazon's Choice" string lights) where beer selections are great and the company is better.
Many times these beer gardens offer community seating at those big, long biergarten-style wooden tables that remind you of kindergarten lunchrooms, only if K-12 had a gourmet food menu or small plates and served up your favorite Hefeweizen. Don't be afraid to say hello to strangers and make friends at one of these long, wooden tables. You may just make a friend.
Outdoor beer gardens aren't exclusive to one type of brewery, or one type of offering. Oftentimes they have specials on food and beer during happy hours, other times they host private events. Some even open for brunch.
They also aren't afraid to hit unmute, as live music and singing can be a large part of the experience. Some even offer special nights and upcoming events like competitive games or trivia.
The modern beer garden we know today originated in Bavaria in the capital city of Munich. This location is in modern-day Germany, and many biergartens exist in this area still today. The largest Biergarten in the world is in Munich. In fact, the oldest brewery in the world is Germany's Weihenstephaner. Cool, right?
Biergartens of Bavaria popped up in the 19th century as a place for people to gather for beer consumption in the warmer months. Based on a decree by the ruler at the time, Maximilian I, beer could only be produced in the cooler months. The beer menu wasn't exactly robust back then, ya know?
However, to keep it cooler and preserve its taste, breweries began offering seating to the public outdoors in the shade. Some shortcuts are necessary after all.
In 1999, an ordinance was signed in Germany that allows beer gardens to stay open later than other businesses, and it gives them a pass from abiding by the same noise laws as other institutions.
The Biergarten allowed patrons to drink from their wide beer selection and bring their food. This was mainly due to other beer gardens protesting against the sale of food to minimize competition in the market. Patrons were even required to bring their tablecloths!
Today, bringing your food or drink is still a common practice, but many beer gardens have food available to purchase. Some even have gift cards, which is a great beer gift to give a friend.
What is Served at a Beer Garden?
Beer. As for food, most have food that is common to their region as well as traditional Bavarian fare. These traditional eats include pretzels (mustard optional) and beer cheese dip. That said, some modern takes on traditional food include chicken or burgers as meats were always served in ancient beer gardens. In certain countries, you can find more traditional foods like German bratwurst, German pot-roasted pork, and of course pretzels. You're seeing the doughy trend here, right?
Depending on where you are in the world, you can expect to be able to order up to a half-liter of beer! Beer selection is important to consider when scoping out the next biergarten you want to visit. In some cases you can even try a variety by ordering up a flight of beers.
Where Can You Find Beer Gardens Around the World?
Many countries have adopted the idea and practice of a beer garden since the 19th century. Countries that commonly have beer gardens include the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Austria, Canada, Japan, and of course, Germany.
Each location has local innovations of its own while keeping the tradition of the original biergartens alive. For instance, Australia often has beer gardens attached to sporting facilities. This is conducive to the warmth and camaraderie often found at a Biergarten.
In Japan, beer gardens are often on rooftops. Beer gardens in the US often have other lawn games or sporting events on televisions for patrons to enjoy, as many, including microbreweries such as Tuckerman's Brewing Company in Conway, New Hampshire have the square feet to pull it off.
The United Kingdom intertwines the outdoor scenery with its beer gardens. Many are located canal-side or in a location with surrounding views of the city. A huge part of the beer garden culture in the UK is competing for the best beer garden each year. Many pubs compete each year to be “Britain's Best Beer Garden.”
You can expect the beer gardens in Austria and Germany to be closer to the biergartens of the original days. They serve more traditional Biergarten food like German bratwurst and pretzels (third time is a winner!).
Canada has one of the most interesting customs surrounding beer gardens. Many are located on University campuses! Many of them are also in areas connected to hockey barns. For example, the Memorial Cup in hockey is a big deal in Canada and you can bet your double double of Timmy Ho's that you're gonna find some good ol' fashioned beer drinking at the next event.
Hopefully, this has inspired you to visit your local brewery and beer garden, raise a mug of beer, and yell Prost! Or, whatever drinking toast you wish to use.
From the first Biergarten in Munich to the Raleigh Beer Garden (North Carolina), the spirit of the beer garden is alive and well. No joke, the Raleigh Beer Garden might just have the biggest beer selection in the world, coming in at 366+ taps.
Anyway, these one-of-a-kind outdoor dining spaces are rooted in history, but nothing overshadows the fact that they are simply a good time for everyone. Beer gardens have been a part of human culture for centuries now. Regardless of its location, you can expect the beer garden you go to to be a place of warm feelings, good beer, and maybe even some fun music and dancing!