Looking for a way to keep their dark lagers cool during the hot summer months, 19th century Bavarian brewers dug out large, underground cellars along the banks of the Isar River. To further reduce the cellar temperature, gravel was placed around the area, and chestnut trees were planted to provide shade. The area provided the perfect location for the beer to ferment and stay cool. The brewers noted that the shady trees, as well as the river and greenery, provided a tranquil spot for people to gather and enjoy beer. They began to sell their beer to the public in these outdoor areas, which were called “biergartens,” or beer gardens.
Today, Munich is home to almost 200 beer gardens, including Europe's largest, Hirschgarten, which offers seating for almost 8,000. Beer gardens provide a place for people to enjoy a cool beer mug or beer stein of refreshing lager and the camaraderie of friends as well as strangers, all gathered on simple benches placed at long wooden tables. Traditionally, food was not served at the establishments. When they first originated in the 19th century, innkeepers objected to the impact it would have on their businesses. The Bavarian king ruled in their favor; however, people were able to bring their own food, which they enjoyed while they sampled the establishments’ beer. Today, many beer gardens serve a variety of hot and cold German dishes, although some keep with tradition and allow guests to bring their own.
Visit our beer wagon and pub motif steins page for a selection of beer garden steins.