200 Years of German Beer Gardens

Munich, Germany

Photos courtesy Munich Tourist Office

In 2012, Munich and Upper Bavaria are celebrating an old Bavarian tradition. The 200th anniversary of the edict which permitted beer brewers to sell retail quantities of their own beer in their beer cellars from June until September and to serve beer and bread to their guests will be celebrated this year. The city and the breweries of Munich will offer numerous events in local beer gardens.

Big city, high-tech atmosphere mixed with rural charm, art treasures and traditional customs create a very special “Munich mix” which has helped the capital of Bavaria to achieve world renown. But what adds the final touch to the city’s popularity is the drink associated with Munich throughout the world: beer.

German Beer

Bavarian beer gardens fulfill an important social function, as they have always been considered to be a popular meeting point for a wide spectrum of the populace. Visitors should not hesitate to take a seat and start up a conversation with their neighbors at the table. Munich’s beer gardens and the beer gardens in Upper Bavaria are the epitome of Bavarian Gemütlichkeit – the uniquely Bavarian atmosphere of good living, warmth and comfort. And it’s been that way for 200 years.

Bring your own food! A special element of visiting a traditional beer garden in Munich is the fact that guests can bring their own food with them. A perfect Brotzeit, as a beer garden picnic is known, might contain the following: Obazda (a delicious and very Bavarian soft cheese dip), Emmental cheese, radishes, freshly-baked pretzels, butter and salt and pepper. A table cloth is also important (preferably a cotton red and white check), as are wooden boards to eat from, a sharp knife, cutlery and napkins.

But those who come unprepared don’t have to miss out on a Bavarian Brotzeit. Most beer gardens offer a range of typical treats, such as Wurstsalat (finely sliced sausage, dressed with vinaigrette and onions), Leberkäse (Bavarian meat loaf) or Steckerlfisch (barbecued whole fish, normally mackerel).

In a Bavarian beer garden, self-service is the rule, unless it is clear that tables have been readied for service. Typical beer garden drinks, such as beer or Radler (a mix of beer and lemonade or lemon soda), are generally only served in one liter steins. Alcohol-free drinks, such as Spezi (a mixture of cola and orange soda) or Apfelschorle (a mixture of apple juice and mineral water), are normally served in half-liters.

The most important rule when toasting with others at your table is to do it as often as possible, so creating a sense of community and giving you the chance to make contact with your new friends. But don’t forget to look your drinking partners in the eye as you touch steins.

The reason horse chestnut trees can be found in every “real” Bavarian beer garden is a matter of history. According to a decree from the 16th century, brewing beer was banned in
the summer months, due to the increased danger of fire. Therefore, beer that was brewed in spring for summer was made with a higher alcohol content to help preserve it. In
order to keep the beer cool, beer cellars were constructed close to the breweries, but because Munich has a high groundwater level, deep cellars were out of the question,
meaning that those that could be built had to be protected from the sun. And that is why trees which provide a lot of shade, such as horse chestnut trees, were planted above them.

Munich is the capital of beer – with six breweries, the Hofbräuhaus and the Oktoberfest. Interested in the story of beer? How German beer effected the monasteries and the purity law? Why is the quality of Munich’s beer so unique? Did you know that Oktoberfest was established as the national festival for the wedding of King Ludwig I with Princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen? Visit the Bier und Oktoberfest Museum for the answer to these questions and a lot more.

For more info, go to www.muenchen.de

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