What the café is in Paris and Vienna, the pub in England and the teahouse in China , the beer gardens are in Bavaria. Here you can meet for a white sausage breakfast, a snack , a long brunch or just to drink a beer , let your soul unwind and take a break from everyday life.
But not every beer garden in Bavaria has the characteristics that characterize a typical Bavarian beer garden . These definitely include old chestnuts , which provide necessary shade in summer, worn wooden chairs or, even better, ancient wooden benches and gravel concrete slabs.
Beer gardens have existed since the beginning of the 19th century . More precisely, according to Wikipedia, on January 4, 1812, the rescript (legal source for legal questions in individual cases) was published by King Maximilian I that the beer cellars in the Isar district around Munich were allowed to serve food, but were not allowed to serve any food other than bread.
According to the “Biergartenfreunde” platform, there are more than 2,913 beer gardens in Germany , at least that’s what’s listed there. There is probably no exact number. The fact is, the city with the most beer gardens is and remains Munich . Munich and beer gardens – they remain inseparable.
The largest beer garden in Germany is also in Munich (Hirschgarten) and can accommodate more than 8,000 guests.
Decree of King Maximilian I – original text!
“The local beer brewers should be allowed to use their own brewed Merzen beer in Minuto in their own March cellars in the months of June, July, August and September and to serve their guests there with beer and bread. They are expressly forbidden from serving food or other drinks.” (January 4, 1812)
But one after anonther:
- What makes visiting a traditional beer garden in Munich so special?
- Why are beer cellars called here?
- What does the decree of King Maximilian I regulate?
- Why did a (traditional) beer garden need gravel and chestnuts?
In purely mathematical terms, the first beer gardens appeared in Munich more than 200 years ago. At that time , beer was only brewed in the winter months . Because: Every summer, devastating fires broke out in the densely built-up, woody city center of Munich, caused by the boiling kettles being fired up in the breweries.
Regardless of the anger of the citizens, a decree was needed that forbade brewers from brewing beer between St. Michael's Day and St. George's Day. In other words, the farmers' cauldrons were sealed on April 23rd and only reopened on September 29th. A summer without beer? Not with Bayern. Beer in stock . That was the (theoretical) solution.
What exactly did the solution look like? On the one hand, a bottom-fermented beer and therefore longer-lasting “Märzenbier” was brewed with more alcohol (before the summer break). But this also needs to be refrigerated so that it doesn't spoil. So, on the other hand, so-called “ Märzenkeller ” were dug into the ground next to the breweries. Problem: They soon came across the high groundwater level, especially in Munich.
The aim was to compensate for the shallow depth by providing sun protection from above. Gravel and chestnuts was the convincing answer. The chestnut trees shaded the cellar ceilings and helped cool the cellars below. Because the “ common horse chestnut” grows quickly, provides a lot of shade thanks to its large, broad leaves and has exceptionally shallow roots, the vaulted cellars remained undamaged by the roots. And were optimally protected from sunlight.
To cool the beer in the cellar, it was placed on ice bars - this is what the blocks of ice weighing up to 270 kg are called, which were sawn out of frozen rivers and ponds in large blocks in winter. The wooden barrel beer is stored there under blocks of ice. The melt water and the humidity in the chamber make a significant contribution to the tightness of the wooden barrels. In the Holzfass-Stüberl in Pschorr on the Viktualienmarkt you can still see the barrel beer cooling with stick ice cooling up close.
Josef Pschorr - the father of Munich Hell
Josef Pschorr (1170 – 1841) learned the craft of brewing from Simon Hacker in Munich. At the age of 23, he married Maria-Theresia, his instructor's daughter, and took over the Hackerbräu. Pschorr was hard-working, very business-minded, but also stingy. In order to save wood, his employees were only allowed to put the green malt (germinated grains) into the vat half-drying and not fully roasted as usual. The new brewing process gave the beer a golden color and lost the smoky taste . The Munich Hell was born.
The tasty beer tasted good and sold well. In order to keep it cool even in the summer months, Pschorr had a revolutionary idea: He built a huge storage cellar , the so-called beer fortress , on the western bank of the Isar. The barrels were stored in a 12 meter deep cellar , with chambers filled with ice above them and further storage rooms above them. Pschorr had the still vacant space planted with chestnuts. They kept the cellars cool and the people of Munich had their beer garden... - where the European Patent Office is today , the city's largest beer cellar, the so-called "beer fortress", once stood.
For this reason , many beer gardens have the word “ Keller ” in their name – e.g. Hofbräukeller, Löwenbräu Keller, Augustinerkeller , …
Beer garden culture - the Solomonic judgment of King Max I
Thanks to the Solomonic decision (= very wise judgement) of King Max I, we are still allowed to bring our own food to the Bavarian beer gardens.
If a host refuses to bring food, then it is not a beer garden, but a “ guest garden ” or a so-called “ free bar area ”. What is behind it, what is the background for this special regulation?
At the beginning of the 19th century, the beer cellars were no longer just used to store beer, but also to serve it. To do this, the brewers set up simple benches and tables under the trees. The squares soon became a popular excursion destination , much to the chagrin of the innkeepers , who complained massively about the competition, especially in Munich.
At that time, restaurants had no gardens and so guests stayed away in the summer. King Maximilian I had to settle the dispute between breweries with their “factory sales” and landlords . In 1812, an ordinance was passed that allowed breweries to continue serving drinks, but prohibited the sale of food and other drinks in the beer garden.
Nevertheless, many pubs do it, they are proud of their little “beer garden” and want to call it that. Here is the little Solomonic solution: If you are being served at the table, you are not allowed to bring any food with you . A distinctive feature of these areas are often tablecloths , which are generally missing in the self-service area. The large beer gardens, such as the Hofbräukeller, have both.
The Bavarian state government assigns an important social function to the traditional beer garden in the beer garden regulations. Beer gardens are a popular meeting place for broad stories of society and enable social differences to be overcome.
Four unwritten rules when visiting a beer garden
Great drinks :
If you go to the beer garden, you should definitely bring thirst . As a rule, only large drinks are served here. Under 0.5 liters is usually nothing.
Desirable to add :
The purpose of a beer garden is to spend time together, conviviality is the key word here. Unlike many restaurants where you want to be alone with your partner or family, sitting down is expressly encouraged. So let it happen and get to know new people with whom great conversations might develop.
The toasting :
Anyone who only toasts their neighbor with the first sip is considered unfriendly. The rule of thumb is: clink glasses about ten times for every measure you drink. And always remember to look the other person in the eyes...
Bring your own food :
What was once a restriction became perhaps the decisive advantage of not having to rely on what the innkeepers had to offer. Being able to pack the best things into your lunch basket at home, for example homemade “ Obazden” (crushed camembert with cream cheese) or a “ sausage salad” made from Regensburgers with lots of red onions.
Beer garden knowledge for the "smart guy"...
- Harlachinger Einkehr (formerly Restauration Harlaching: Originally, the “Harlachinger Einkehr” was an estate, built on behalf of the royal court banker Baron Baron Josef von Hirsch with the right to serve a brewery (hence the suffix “beer-friendly”).
- In the 19th century, pubs in which the brewery served its own beer were referred to as beer-friendly pubs. At that time, the beer garden was a popular meeting place for pilgrims to the St. Anna church opposite.
- “Bratwurstglöckl” at the cathedral: The history of the Bratwurstglöckerl begins in the 18th century, where since 1796 the building at Frauenplatz No. 9 has been listed as “Reale Gerechtsame” in the land register, which means nothing other than that beer was allowed to be served there. The restaurant right next to the Frauenkirche had a striking resemblance to the “Bratwurst-Glöcklein” in Nuremberg, which was built directly onto the Moritz Chapel in the Sebaldus Church.
- Since at that time not every name had been trademarked by the German Patent Office and the innkeepers were perhaps a little nicer to each other, the owner of the “Bratwurst-Glöckl” in Nuremberg had no objections to another innkeeper in Munich also having a “Bratwurst-Glöckl.” “ opened.
- The innkeeper Simon Bäumler , owner of the “Bratwurstglöckl” was no stranger to Munich residents: in 1888 he opened the “ Café Luitpold ” that still exists today in the then newly built Luitpold block...
A pint of beer takes strength!
Don't overestimate your strength - a filled beer mug weighs a good two kilos . That's why it's better not to grab it by the handle when carrying it, but rather to hold it through the handle and onto the jug .
In the words of cabaret artist and Bavarian explainer Harry G: "You give the mug a friendly hand and say: "Fresh colleague, I greet you!" ????
88-year-old Munich woman still works in the beer garden
At 88 years old, Inge Kaufmann is far from thinking about quitting. The senior works in Schwaige Fürstenried and wants to stay there until she is 100. Inge has been part of Schwaige for ten years, but she has been in the catering industry for 74 years. She has been in Munich since 1961. As the Bavarians are known to say, in the most beautiful city in the world - the senior woman and smiles.
The “ Fürstenrieder Schwaige ” is something very special, she enthuses. “I have wonderful colleagues and the guests are incredibly nice and friendly. I haven't experienced something like that everywhere.” She knows all the regulars by name.
Hectic? Please! “I love action, I need hustle and bustle,” laughs the soon-to-be birthday child. By the way, the spareribs are a hit in the beer garden. “Our chef does it particularly well, and people even come to us from out of town to do it,” says the 87-year-old, and her phrasing casually shows that they don’t see themselves as a “city”. (Source: Merkur, August 20, 2023, Mathias Bieber)
Highest beer garden in Germany (2952 m) - Zugspitze
You're guaranteed to get a spot with a breathtaking view at this location: Germany's highest beer garden is at an altitude of 2,952 meters - just ten meters away from the summit of the Zugspitze. After the glacier hike to the summit , a beer and a hearty meal with a view of the beautiful Alpine panorama are a fitting reward . The dishes range from Bavarian specialties to international cuisine - and even those with a sweet tooth will find what they are looking for here. The beer garden can also be reached by cable car.
What's exciting to see?
Munich's most beautiful beer cellar and beer garden
Augustiner Beer Cellar
One of the oldest, most beautiful and most traditional beer gardens in Munich is the Augustiner Bierkeller on Arnulf-Straße near the main train station. It is a place where you can recharge and really relax. For example, under one of the more than 100 chestnuts . With a measure of Augustiner Edelstoff freshly tapped from a wooden barrel . The beer garden, which now has 5,000 seats, was first mentioned in the Munich city map from 1812.
Of the cellar beer gardens with Märzenkeller in Munich, only the Augustiner Keller of the Paulaner am Nockherberg and the Hofbräu Keller remain. The cellars of the Bürger Bräu-Keller and Franziskaner now form the underground car parks of the Motorama and Franziskanerhof complexes.
In the Augustiner cellar you can enjoy fine wines freshly tapped from wooden barrels all year round. Beer from wooden barrels is easier to drink because of its lower carbon dioxide content. It only flows fresh and cool out of the barrel slowly and only with the pressure of its own weight. This also accounts for the special mildness that beer connoisseurs value so much about wooden barrel beer.
The serving from wooden barrels contributes significantly to the traditional Bavarian atmosphere in the Augustiner cellar. Especially in the beer garden, where the wooden barrels are tapped on the so-called ganders , visible to all guests, and each new barrel is celebrated with the ancient ritual of ringing the bell .
The beer garden of the Weihenstephaner Bräustüberl is located on the Weihenstephaner Berg and offers a beautiful view of the city of Freising and the Weihenstephan surroundings. The highlights in the Weihenstephan beer garden are of course the delicious beer specialties from the Bavarian State Brewery Weihenstephan, as it is now called.
People here are familiar with brewing beer, as the University of Brewing Science at the Technical University of Munich is nearby.
Here in Weihenstephan is the cradle of the art of brewing in Bavaria , where Saint Korbinian and 12 companions founded the Benedictine monastery of Weihenstephan in 725. Hops and malt have probably been brewed into beer in Weihenstephan since then, but the year 1040 is said to be the official start of the Weihenstephan monastery brewery. This year, the city of Freising granted brewing and drinking rights to the Weihenstephan monastery under the leadership of Abbot Arnold .
Royal Deer Garden – where the deer roar…
The deer garden can look back on a long history: In the summer of 1780 , Elector Carl Theodor had a fenced-off "tiergarten" created on the site and filled it with a good hundred fallow and noble deer . Just a few years later, it was opened to the public and developed one of the most popular excursion destinations for Munich residents .
In the shade of countless chestnuts and parasols you will find Munich's largest beer garden: there is space for around 8,000 guests in the beer garden in the Royal Hirschgarten. There is no beer garden in Bavaria that has more seats.
A highlight for park visitors young and old is the two-hectare enclosure with fallow deer and mouflon.
Forestry Großhesselohe - jazz sounds in the Isar valley
This is how the Bavarian imagines paradise. A homemade Obazda, hot delicacies from the grill, crisp pretzels and a cool glass of the wonderful Spaten beer. Welcome to a traditional beer garden . In the middle of ancient chestnut trees , in the partial shade, you can enjoy what has made Bavaria world famous. True coziness .
The legendary forestry in Großhesselohe has the character of an excursion. The jazz bands from Munich, Prague and Warsaw have been performing here for what feels like an eternity. It has also been an eternity since the beer serving record, which is still unmatched : On Whit Sunday 1900, an incredible 123 hectoliters were sold to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the dance pavilion.
The serving tradition even goes back to the 15th century .
Kugleralm – from cyclist to cyclist measure
The eponymous operator of the Kugleralm, a renowned excursion destination in Oberhaching near Grünwald/Munich, recognized that cycling would develop into a popular sport. So he quickly had a cycle path created to his alpine pasture and his premonition was confirmed. However, he had not expected the onslaught of 13,000 cyclists who attacked him one day.
He couldn't satisfy the many thirsty throats with the stock of beer and so he quickly replaced the beer with his (excess) supply of lemonade with an almost revolutionary idea. He proudly announced that he had created this new mixed drink especially for his cycling guests so that they wouldn't have to drive home too drunk .
The rest is history... To this day, the Radlermaß is very popular and when you hear the story of how it came about, many of us will probably drink the next measure with a little smile...