The Biergarten Is Officially 200
Enlarge image What better way to spend a summer evening than in a "gemütlich" beer garden? (© picture-alliance / OKAPIA KG, Ge) The biergarten, or beer garden, has been a favorite social destination in Germany since the 19th century. Its existence is due in part to Bavarian King Ludwig I.
In 1539 a new law in Bavaria regulated when beer could be brewed. Brewing was allowed between St. Michael’s day on September 29 and St. George’s day on April 23 and forbidden during the summer months due to the threat of fire.
To ensure that there would be enough beer for the summer and to keep it at the cool temperatures needed for the development of the beer, the brewers built large cellars up to 12 meters (almost 40 feet) underground, usually adjacent to the brewing facilities. There, beer could be stored in barrels under large blocks of ice which were harvested from the rivers and lakes in the winter. They planted chestnut trees in the ground above the cellars to provide shade.
Enlarge image These guests brought their own "Brotzeit" (a light meal) with them to this beer garden in Munich. (© picture-alliance/ dpa) Once established, the trees provided ample shade and created a pleasant atmosphere. In the 19th century, brewers decided to set up tables and benches and began to sell their beer directly to the public. This aggravated the innkeepers who had previously held a monopoly on beer sales. When King Ludwig I became involved, he granted the brewers the right to sell beer but not food. As a result, the beer gardens continued to thrive and the brewers allowed their guests to bring in their own food, a practice which traditional beer gardens in Bavaria still allow today.
Enlarge image The beer and pretzels in Bavarian beer gardens are offered in large-sized portions. (© picture-alliance / dpa / Stockfo) Germany’s beer gardens, which are sometimes also called beer cellars, are popular with families and people of all ages. It is a place to socialize and enjoy the outdoors while quaffing a cool beer or other beverage. The type of beer – and even the size of the beer glass – offered will vary according to the region. The largest beer glass in northern Germany is usually 0.5 liter, while in Bavaria one can order a “Maß,” which holds a full liter.
Since some beer gardens are located outside of the city limits in forested areas, the beer gardens are also popular destinations for bicycle excursions. That is how the “Radler,” which means cyclist in German, came about. When bicycles became increasingly popular after World War I, Franz Xaver Kugler constructed a bicycle path through the forest to reach his restaurant the Kugler-Arm, which was located about 15 km outside of Munich in Deisenhofen. As the story goes, one Saturday in 1922 there wasn’t enough beer to quench the thirst of the many cyclists who made the journey to the Kugler-Arm. So Kugler mixed beer with lemonade, naming the new drink after the cyclists. It soon became popular all across Germany; however, in the north it’s usually called an “Alster,” after the river of the same name.
Today, beer gardens in Bavaria often offer an array of foods that pair well with beer. Some regional specialties you may want to try include thin, spiraled slices of the white radish affectionately called “Bierradi,” Obatzda cheese spread, a Brez’n (a soft pretzel big enough to share) or a slice of Leberkäs meat loaf.