Beer Gardens

Tom Cizauskas (ciz-ows-cus) at Yours for Good Fermentables hosted The Session #134 – Beer Blogging Friday – for April 2018. And the theme of this month is "Beer Gardens". 


THE SESSIONS #134 BEER BLOGGING FRIDAY The Session, a.k.a. Beer Blogging Friday, is an opportunity once a month for beer bloggers from around the world to get together and write from their own unique perspective on a single topic. Each month, a different beer blogger hosts the Session, chooses a topic and creates a round-up listing all of the participants, along with a short pithy critique of each entry. 

 If we were to do a word association for "beer garden" my first three thoughts would be: 1) fresh air, 2) trees and 3) good drink.

The beer garden is one of those mysterious concepts that I never considered having an origin — it simply always was. What more natural thing could occur than someone enjoying a beer under a grove of trees. And if you create beer and want to attract people to buy and drink your beer, it seems logical that you would gladly provide such a place. So when I read that the new American population from Germany brought with them their beer drinking culture which not only included lager beer but also how to drink it — outdoors — that really caught my attention.

German Beer Culture

I've been enjoying my reading of Maureen Ogle's excellent book Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. There, she unveils the founding of many of our beer traditions under such names as Adolphus Busch, Frederick Pabst, Joseph Schlitz and Frederick Miller. There have been more than a few "aha" moments in this book. For example, just how revolutionary and popular the early Budweiser beer was in 1880. Even then, it was brewed with corn and rice and stood in contrast to and was highly preferred to the darker beer most drinkers were used to in that day. 

America’s first beer gardens appeared in the nineteenth century, courtesy of a wave of German immigrants.
— The Rise and Fall of America's Beer Gardens - Serious Eats

Another of those revelations was the rise of the beer garden. Reid Mitenbuler wrote an excellent article entitled the "The Rise and Fall of America's Beer Gardens" for Serious Eats. Reid tells about the first beer gardens showing up in the 1880s as the German immigrants moved to the United States. These drinking places were established that reminded them of their places back home and often created social events for families. Other authors have described the beer gardens as places where families would come for entertainment where they could find bowling, music, food and shooting events. The German lagers served were lower in alcohol so they could drink more than one and still enjoy a pleasant afternoon gathering. Reid also references Maureen Ogle in her book Ambitious Brew tells how Joseph Schlitz build a massive beer garden called Schlitz Park in Milwaukee. Drinking beer in public became fashionable with the dignitaries of the city coming out to enjoy the outdoors and the fine German lager. Here, families could find bowling alleys, a restaurant, twenty-five piece orchestra and a sixty-foot lookout tower. Not be outdone, Pabst built a similar park of great grandeur. Beer gardens (more simple than these beer-themed parks) could be found wherever German breweries were to be found.

How the Beer Garden Came to Be

An article from The Atlantic tells How the Beer Garden Came to Be.

"[Beer] cellars, which were typically about 40 feet deep, were used to store beer brewed during the winter so that people would have something to drink between the dry months of May and September. Down in these cellars, beer barrels were covered in ice; to further ensure cool temperatures, breweries planted broad-leafed chestnut trees above the cellars for shade. Gradually, breweries began to scatter gravel and place tables underneath the trees. These areas, in turn, became popular drinking spots.'

'By the early 19th century, these watering holes had become so trendy that they were poaching patronage away from innkeepers and tavern owners. In response, innkeepers and tavern owners petitioned the authorities to revoke the breweries’ right to sell beer directly to the public. On January 4, 1812, Maximilian I, Bavaria’s first king, signed a compromise decree allowing brewers to continue selling beer but prohibited them from selling any food beyond bread. Thus was the biergarten, or beer garden, born."

Beer Garden Final Jeopardy

Someday, you never know, you could find yourself facing Alex Trebek asking the the Final Jeopardy question "Beer Gardens". To help you meet that opportunity headon, here are few things you might want to know. (Source: Wikipedia - Beer Garden)

  • Beer garden comes from the German "biergarten"
  • Beer gardens originated in Munich, the capital of Bavaria, in the 1800s
  • The Hirschgarten restaurant in Munich has a beer garden with seating for over 8,000 people
  • The Raleigh Beer Garden in Raleigh NC has the world record for largest selection of beer at a single location with 309 different beers on tap

A Favorite Beer Garden


Silvia serenades Old Stein Inn guests with her accordion

As I was thinking of all the local taprooms I've visited, it wasn't apparent which would be my favorite beer garden. Actually, I couldn't think of any that even had a beer garden worth mentioning. Certainly, there were outdoor locations you could take your beer, but nothing I would call a garden. Then I remembered, my favorite beer garden isn't at a brewery but at my favorite German restaurant — The Old Stein Inn. The Old Stein is located in Mayo MD (map) and if you are not familiar with this place, it is highly recommended for great German food, beer and atmosphere. One of the highlights is the music and if you are fortunate enough, Silvia will be playing her accordion. Maybe, just maybe, if you buy Silvia a beer or schnapps she will serenade your table for a while. What could be better on a sunny day in the biergarten with a fine German beer in hand?

Spread the Word

It is my goal to have 1,000 subscribers to this beer journal. More will be nice, but 1,000 is a good start. We are on our way and are asking you to offer a little wind behind our sails. You can help by:

  1. Add your thoughts to this beery tale in the comments section below,
  2. "Like" this post by clicking the heart icon below, and
  3. Share this post on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest by clicking the "Share" icon below. I ask this at the end of the post because all of those wonderful buttons are right there below. Take action, now. Please! Thank you!