The history of the beer garden

In the warm summer months, the beer garden is a popular destination. People get together, make themselves comfortable on the rustic beer benches and enjoy a nice cold beer or two.

von Revier Südost • 19. May 2021

The desire to be able to enjoy a beer in the summer was the origin of the creation of the nowadays well-known traditional beer garden.

Of course, the history of beer gardens begins in Bavaria. In the 16th century, fatal fires threatened Munich every summer, caused by the firing of the boiling kettles in the breweries. In order to prevent the devastating fires, it was not allowed to brew beer between the day of St. George (23.04.) and that of St. Michael (29.09.) from the year of 1539.
Therefore, the last beer of the winter was brewed in March, which is why it was given the name "Märzenbier". This was a bottom-fermented and stronger brew of beer, so that it could be stored a little longer. But the "Märzenbier" also had to be cooled so that it would not spoil.

In the 19th century, Munich brewers therefore began to build beer cellars or "Märzenkeller" next to their breweries. Because of the high water table in and around Munich, the cellars often could not be built deep enough to cool the beer sufficiently. In the winter months, they cut ice from the surrounding ponds to provide extra cooling for the beer in the summer months.
In addition, the shallow depth of the cellars had to be compensated by a sunshade.
This is exactly where the typical image of a beer garden was created. To prevent the ground above the beer cellars from heating up too much, it was sprinkled with gravel. The breweries also planted chestnuts in their beer gardens. These grow comparatively quickly, have large leaves which provide a lot of shade, and they root exceptionally shallowly so that the cellar vaults were not damaged.

In the hot summer, people naturally looked for a shady spot and gathered under the large chestnuts. Without hesitation, the breweries set up tables and benches and sold the freshly tapped beer directly from the cellar to the thirsty Munich residents. Quickly, other drinks and food were also sold in the newly born beer gardens. The innkeepers didn't like this at all, because since their pubs had no outdoor areas, they were running out of customers in the summer. To settle the dispute, King Maximilian I decided in 1812 that the breweries could continue to serve their beer, but could not sell food and any other beverages. This created the tradition of bringing one's own food to the beer garden.

Although today most beer gardens also sell food to their guests, the right to bring one's own food still exists today. In many beer gardens, it is now the custom that if you are served at a table, you are not allowed to bring your own food. These tables or areas are often marked by tablecloths, which are basically missing in the self-service area.

From the original beer gardens with their beer cellars today still exist the Augustiner-Keller, the Paulaner am Nockherberg as well as the Hofbräukeller.

(Image: Max Liebermann: Brannenburg Beer Garden, 1847, Oil on canvas)

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