“The term “beer garden” (Biergarten),” says Wikipedia, “has become a generic term for open-air establishments where beer is served. Many countries have them. The characteristics include trees (no sun umbrellas), wooden benches (no plastic garden chairs), gravel bed (no street pavement), and solid meals (no fast food).”
The largest traditional beer garden in the world is the Hirschgarten in Munich, which seats 8,000, and dates back to 1791.
Here in the U.S., one of the earliest, and most popular, beer gardens was Castle Garden at the southern tip of Manhattan, which, today, is a national monument.
Some U.S. beer gardens hosted shooting galleries, bowling alleys, and live classical music along with beer drinking. This tradition lives on today, as many modern beer gardens feature outdoor games, as well as board games.
Turning your backyard, sideyard, sundeck, porch or patio into a beer garden is fairly easy…and trendy.
1. Start by browsing the Internet for pictures. They’ll put you in the mood, and serve as visual templates.
2. Next, ponder how and why beer gardens sprouted up — in 19th century Bavaria. GardenGates.com tells us that “the concept started when cellars were dug into riverbank sides to keep the beer cooled. Trees were planted to add more cooling shade.”
3. Determine a location that would be convenient to the kitchen so you have easy access to food and dishware.
4. Then look for a flat area that would be good for relaxing and entertaining. You can use a patio or barbecue area that is already in place or create a new area. Use flooring that is easy to clean – patio stone, cement, gravel or decomposed granite, for example.
5. If you have a shady tree available, that might help you decide on placement. Remember shady trees were a basic for the traditional beer garden. If you don’t have trees, plant large shrubs and trees around your beer garden. Or you can also construct a permanent or temporary shade cover instead.
6. Rustic wooden outdoor seating in the form of tables, chairs, benches or stools will all help create the ambiance. Try using trestle tables to give that German tavern beer garden effect. You can also carry through the theme with half-barrels filled with soil and spilling trailing flowers. Or use whole casks for small tables.
7. Finishing touches include a wooden frame around a cooler that lets you store ice, beer and other cold materials outside. Consider hanging old beer posters on fences and walls to complete the look, and place antique signs and decorative German beer steins as accents.