Discover the Charm of the Biergarten

by Mar 9, 20202 comments


… mugs are glass and are about 4-5 pounds when filled

America has its breweries, England has its pubs and Germany has the biergarten!

They all serve the same purpose — places for people to socialize, eat good food and drink great beer. Typically there are shared tables, local food and maybe some entertainment.

A little research tells us that the biergarten was born out of the decree restricting beer brewing from September 29 through April 23. This was the mid 1500’s and applied only to Bavaria.

There were two main ideas behind the restriction. They didn’t want summer fires to start from the heating of the brewing kettles. But more importantly (to the beer lover) is that the Bavarians discovered that fermenting lagers at cooler temperatures made better beer — now who doesn’t like that? This was a turning point where German breweries started to focus more on lagers than ales.

Before modern refrigeration, in order to keep the beer cool, brewers dug deep cellars. They planted chestnut trees over these cellars to further cool the ground. The broad leaves on the trees created a great shade canopy. It wasn’t long before someone tossed out some gravel, added some tables and the beer garden was born!

Biergartens in Germany originated in Bavaria and quickly spread to the rest of the German Empire. At the smaller breweries there was a tradition of bringing your own food — some modern breweries still honor that tradition, and you will see families enjoying their picnic and beer.

The biergarten is a great way to experience some local culture and meet people. The tables are usually shared, and it is easy to talk to strangers when you are sharing menus, asking about what food they are eating, and what beers they recommend.

I’ve enjoyed learning about the biergarten tradition. My boyfriend is from Munich, so I’m getting some great guidance on the topic! Over the last couple years we have visited a few of the more famous breweries in Germany.

My first experience with a German biergarten was at a neighborhood restaurant in Munich. I was surprised by how large the beers were — and how heavy — those mugs are glass and are about 4-5 pounds when filled. I learned that the waitresses at Octoberfest carry 10 of these at a time — they must be very strong!

Beer making is an old tradition in Germany and there are lots of places to visit to get an authentic experience. Augustiner-Keller has been around since the early 1800’s. Besides the outdoor biergarten, they have turned the old beer storage cellar into a beer and dining hall. It has great charm, with red brick walls and long wooden tables. The tall ceilings make the space feel very open. I was surprised how large the cellar is — they must have stored a lot of beer down here! Augustiner-Keller offers an authentic experience with great food and beer choices.
The Hofbräuhaus in Munich claims to be “the world’s most famous tavern”. Their website says “The Hofbräuhaus is the cradle of Bavarian tavern culture — the origin of tradition, “Gemütlichkeit” and hospitality.” I had to look up Gemütlichkeit and learned from Wikipedia that it meant “a feeling of warmth, friendliness, and good cheer”. I have to agree — we had a good beer garden experience there with plenty of great food and beer choices. Our table mates were interested in practicing their English, and eager to share their opinions on the beer choices. The Hofbräuhaus in Munich has been around for almost 500 years and has both dining hall and garden spaces!

The Hofbräuhaus also has a location in Las Vegas. This is not a traditional beer garden, but a beer hall (I’m guessing it is too hot for sitting outside in Vegas). This location has the rest of the experience, with community tables, music, authentic white sausages, pretzels, and of course a wide variety of German beer! Don’t forget to look up — the ceiling is beautifully decorated!

Local to San Diego you can get a great authentic biergarten experience. El Cajon has a wonderful Oktoberfest with authentic German food, beer and entertainment (they bring in a band from Germany). This is a popular event, and the long community tables are quickly filled. Oktoberfest happens on two weekends every year. This year the festivities are scheduled for (mark your calendar so you don’t miss out):
1st Weekend: Sept. 25, 26 and 27
2nd Weekend: October 2, 3, and 4, 2020

When you are stuffing yourself with all that good German food (we like the potato pancakes with applesauce, and sausages) and beer (you have to start with the Oktoberfest beer) remember to leave room for dessert. In fact, grab dessert first (you can always take it home if you are too full). The baked goods always sell out, and they are amazing!

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If you are a beer fan and find yourself in Germany…

…look up some of these historical beer gardens in Bavaria:
Augustiner-Keller, Munich
Hofbräuhaus, Munich
Bräustüberl Weihenstephan and beer garden, Weihenstephan
Andechs monastery brewery, Andechs

It can be a really enjoyable experience to bend an elbow with a local — I’m sure they will be happy to share their other favorite biergarten locations with you!

With San Diego’s great weather, a lot of local brewers and restaurants have duplicated aspects of the biergarten experience. Check out Karl Strauss in Sorrento Valley, Stone Brewing in Escondido, and a second location in Liberty Station. These places have beautiful gardens and great food and beer.

Enjoy the journey!

Karin H Wilson

Karin H Wilson

Artist | Designer | Photographer | Traveler | Storyteller

I am Karin and I just love to share a good story — preferably with snacks! I’m particularly interested in capturing the world’s beauty and wonder in photographs.

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