Beer garden

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A typical Munich beer garden
A beer garden at night

A beer garden (a loan translation from the German Biergarten) is an outdoor area in which beer and local food are served, typically at shared tables. Common entertainment includes music, song, and games, enjoyed in an atmosphere of Gemütlichkeit.[1]

Beer gardens originated in Munich, the capital of the German state of Bavaria, in the 19th century, and remain common in Southern Germany. They are usually attached to a brewery, beer hall, pub, or restaurant,[2] with a distinction being made between a Wirtsgarten where only food sold by the venue is allowed[3] and a traditional Biergarten where patrons may also bring their own.

Beer garden popularity continues increasing worldwide in the 21st century.[1] This became even more the case during the COVID-19 pandemic where as part of lockdown easing plans in some areas beer gardens were allowed to open before indoor venues.


Decree by King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria, dated 4 January 1812, allowing Munich brewers to serve beer from their cooling cellars, but no food other than bread

It is unknown which Munich brewery opened the first Bavarian Biergarten, but it was likely one of Munich's big six: Löwenbräu, Hofbräuhaus, Augustinerbräu, Paulaner, Hacker-Pschorr and Spaten.[1] What is known is that they developed in the Kingdom of Bavaria in the 19th century.

Seasonal limitations on when beer could be brewed were already in the Bavarian brewing regulations by 1539. In 1553, Albert V decreed a period from 29 September, the Feast of St. Michael, to 23 April, the Feast of Saint George, for its production. The cool seasons were chosen to minimize the risk of fire when boiling mashed grain into wort. Numerous conflagrations had occurred, which resulted in the prohibition of brewing during the summer months. In response, large breweries dug cellars in the banks of the River Isar to keep their beer cool during storage. "Beer cellars" for consuming beer on premises naturally followed.

Tavern Garden. Painting by Jan Steen, c. 1660

To further reduce the cellar temperature during the warm seasons, 19th-century brewers layered gravel upon the cellars by the bluffs and planted horse-chestnut trees for their dense spreading canopies and shallow roots, which would not damage the cellars.[4] Soon afterward, 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 is known today. Food service followed, aggrieving smaller breweries that found it difficult to compete, and they petitioned Maximilian I to forbid it. As a compromise, beer gardens allowed their patrons to bring their own food, which is still a common practice. Most beer gardens offer clothed tablesets, whose guests must buy food from the house. Those who bring their own food must use the bare table sets, unless - which is common - they bring their own cloth(s) also. With the advent of widespread lagering in the later 19th century, beer gardens grew more popular than ever.

Maximilian's decree is no longer in force, and many beer gardens forbid victuals not sold through the establishment. Common Bavarian fare such as Radi (radish), Brezn (soft pretzel), Obatzda (cheese dip), halbes Hendl (half a grilled chicken), Hax'n (knuckle of pork), and Steckerlfisch (grilled fish) are often served. Equally important to the beer garden is an atmosphere of Gemütlichkeit,[1] conveying a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and belonging. Reinforced by shared tables, it is often accompanied by music, song, and fellowship among strangers.

That is so integral to beer garden culture that the Bayerische Biergartenverordnung (Bavarian Beer Garden Ordinance) of 1999 permits traditional tree shaded venues that allow their patrons to bring their own food to close later and exceed the noise limits that are otherwise in force.[5] The term Biergarten is not otherwise restricted, and anyone can call any kind of open-air restaurant by that name,[citation needed] but purists[who?] distinguish between a Wirtsgarten,[3] in which only the brewery's food is sold (such as the outdoor tables at the Hofbräuhaus am Platzl),[6] and a Biergarten, in which patrons may bring their own.

Around the world[edit]

A beer garden in Pilgrim's Rest, South Africa

The term "beer garden" (Biergarten) has become a generic term for open-air establishments where beer is served. Many countries have such establishments. The characteristics of a traditional beer garden include trees, wooden benches, a gravel bed, and freshly prepared meals. Some modern beer gardens use plastic chairs, fast food, and other variations of the traditional beer garden.

The largest traditional beer garden in the world is the Hirschgarten in Munich, which seats 8,000.[7]


Australia has many beer gardens, typically as part of a pub, or often next to sports fields.[8][9][10]


In Austria, the beer garden is called Gastgarten (guest garden). They serve food such as ein Paar Würstel (a pair of the German Bratwurst) or Schweinebraten (German pot-roasted pork). When ordering beer, the choices are usually a Pfiff (0.2 liter), a Seidel (0.3 liter), or a Krügerl (1/2 liter).


A beer garden in Churchill Square in Edmonton, Alberta, during the "Cariwest" Caribbean festival

Canada has traditionally lacked an outdoor eating culture conducive to beer gardens. Cold weather and biting insects are part of the reason. However, with increased urbanization during the 20th century, drinking at outdoor cafes and restaurant patios became more common. Since Canadian alcohol laws in most provinces forbid drinking in unlicensed public places, beer gardens in Canada are generally a segregated area attached to an event such as a concert or festival. They are very popular at large sporting events such as the Memorial Cup in hockey. One cannot legally remove alcohol from the area or bring in outside alcohol.[11][12] Beer gardens are also common on university campuses.[citation needed]


Beer gardens are still very popular in Germany. The Hirschgarten restaurant in Munich is noted for its beer garden, which is possibly the largest in the world. It has seating for over 8000 people.[13] The restaurant dates back to 1791.

In 2011, the world record for 'The world's longest beer garden' was set in Berlin by the Berlin Beer Festival, measuring 1,820 m long.[14]


Beer gardens are popular in Japan. Many are located on the roofs of department stores and hotels.[15][16]

United Kingdom[edit]

A beer garden in England

In Britain a beer garden is an open space which is attached to a pub. In the countryside they usually provide a surrounding view of the area; in towns and cities a beer garden is an open garden space.[17] Pubs located along canals will usually have a canal-side beer garden. Many pubs compete throughout the year to be named 'Britain's best beer garden' in numerous awards. Some provide open air music, as well as food, beer and other drink options.[18][19]

United States[edit]

A beer garden at Coasters Pub, Indian Harbour Beach, Florida

In the United States, historically, beer gardens offered many pastimes besides just beer drinking. Some spots hosted shooting galleries, bowling alleys, and live classical music.[20] People could come for entertainment and events,[21] even if they did not want to partake in the drinking. Today, many beer gardens have outdoor games, as well as board games, available to patrons.

The Raleigh Beer Garden in Raleigh, North Carolina holds the world record for largest selection of beer at a single location with 378 different beers on tap.[22]

American liquor laws condition how beer gardens can operate in each state (legal drinking age is 21). For example, Washington alcohol laws require organizers to apply for and receive a liquor license, alcohol only to be consumed in the designated venue, the area to be fenced, and staff to "cut off" obviously drunk patrons. Additional laws restrict alcohol-related signage associated with the event and prevent smoking in the beer garden.[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Gemütlichkeit - All About Beer". Archived from the original on 5 October 2017. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  2. ^ Dan Packel (12 March 2012). "A Brief History of Beer Gardens". Retrieved 27 December 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Munich Beer Gardens - Wirtsgarten". Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  4. ^ Schäffer, Albert (21 May 2012). "120 Minuten sind nicht genug" [120 minutes aren't enough]. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (in German). Retrieved 11 October 2016.
  5. ^ Bavarian Minister of the Environment and Health: Bayerische Biergartenverordnung von 1999 Archived 2010-02-15 at the Wayback Machine (Bavarian beer garden decree of 1999) (German)
  6. ^ "Munich Beer Gardens - Hofbräuhaus". Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  7. ^ Johann, Herr Eichmeier. "Koeniglicher Hirschgarten Munich - restaurant - event location - beer garden - Muenchen - Bavaria - Germany". Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  8. ^ "The best beer gardens in Australia". 23 January 2015. Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Australia's Best Beer Gardens". Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  10. ^ "Australia's 11 best summer beer gardens - MTV". Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  11. ^ [1] Archived 2 June 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 October 2012. Retrieved 23 October 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  13. ^ "Hirschgarten beer garden Munich". Retrieved 4 July 2017.
  14. ^ "Internationales Berliner Bierfestival". Archived from the original on 23 September 2013. Retrieved 17 December 2015.
  15. ^ ""Beer" – A Summer Necessity in Japan". Japan Monthly Web Magazine.
  16. ^ "How Different are Japanese Beer Gardens From the Rest of the World?". Japan Info.
  17. ^ "17 of the most remarkable views from the UK's best beer gardens". The Telegraph. 11 September 2017 – via
  18. ^ Nick (25 August 2016). "Britains Best Beer Garden 2016".
  19. ^ "Britain's best beer gardens". 4 June 2006 – via
  20. ^ Sismondo, Christine (2011). America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. USA: Oxford University Press. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-19-932448-4.
  21. ^ Packel, Dan. "A-Brief-History-of-Beer-Gardens". Drink DC. Retrieved 13 March 2012.
  22. ^ Raleigh's Record-Breaking Beer Garden Has 378 Unique Draft Taps, Travel & Leisure, October 1, 2015
  23. ^ "" (PDF). Retrieved 4 July 2017.[permanent dead link]

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