The German “Biergarten” is well known all over the world but where does it come from and when did it start? Of course everything started in Bavaria …
As early as in the 16th century, a Bavarian brewing regulation stipulated that beer was only allowed to be brewed from September 29th (St. Michael’s day), to April 23rd (St. George’s day).
The reason for this, in addition to the low temperatures required for the fermentation process of the mostly bottom-fermented beer, was above all the enormous fire risk that emanated from the brewing process. It was feared that the coal fires used to heat breweries’ kettles might cause summer conflagrations in the town centres.
Therefore, larger Munich beer brewers set up new breweries outside Munich with deep beer cellars in the river slopes of the Isar. To prevent the cellars from warming up in the summer, large ice blocks were used for cooling, which were cut out in winter from the frozen river Isar. Furthermore, the area above the cellar was covered with gravel and broad-leafed chestnut trees were planted to provide shade.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the first brewery owners had the idea of selling the beer on the spot in the "beer garden" in summer. It’s generally believed that customers brought a large mug to take home the beer they bought (which is why there were also jugs with lids).
In the hot summer months, however, the beer was often drunk on site. After a while, the beer cellars were also used for serving food by placing simple benches and tables under the trees.
These places soon became a popular destination for the locals, much to the annoyance of tavern owners of the centre of Munich, whose taverns did not have a garden.
In order to counteract the increasing emigration of guests, they petitioned the Bavarian King Maximilian I., who as a compromise decreed in 1812 that the beer cellars around Munich could continue to sell beer but were not allowed to serve any food (except bread). Thus, the beer gardens were born and became popular spaces to picnic.
Later on, Munich’s beer gardens were also permitted to sell food, but by then showing up with food from home had become a tradition which is still in use today.
Beer gardens are very popular in all German regions. However, to be able to bring one’s own food is a special characteristic of Munich beer gardens, where the story began.
One of the traditional recipes to make for a picknick in the beer garden can be found here.
Watch Dana Newmanns video from about Beer Gardens: