The beer garden turns 200

The Bavarian beer garden turns 200 this year

The Bavarian beer garden is one of the most authentic Munich institutions. On 4th January 1812, by decree of King Maximilian Joseph, the breweries were allowed to sell their beer in their beer cellars directly to the people. Before that, brewing was only possible from September until the end of April. It was too hot to make beer any later in the year, so the brewers made every attempt by the end of March to have enough beer brewed to get them through the summer.

The cellars were outside the city at that time and because cooling systems didn't exist, the breweries planted chestnut trees and put gravel on the ground to help cool the beer that was being stored underground. The citizens of Munich sat in the shade and drank the beer that had been originally intended to be drunk at home. It was at this point that the idea of a beer garden was born.

The King´s decree said that people were allowed to bring their own food. This is a tradition that still exists. Even now people are allowed to buy the beer from the beer garden, whilst eating food that they brought from elsewhere. However, this is only to be done in a traditional beer garden. Not every location where people sit outside and drink beer is a beer garden according to the Bavarian Beer Garden Regulation (Biergartenverordnung). In nearly all other circumstances, a restaurant would never allow you to bring your own food to their establishment. Unlike their historical predecessors, the modern beer gardens serve their own food to complement their traditional brew.

The special relationship between Munich´s citizens and their beer gardens was on full display when the so called 'Beergarden Revolution' took place in 1995. Neighbours of the famous "Waldwirtschaft" beer garden in the south of Munich decided to sue and the court decided that the "Wawi" had to close a 9 pm. The result was uproar. The Minister President, as well as some members of the government and thousands of citizens, demonstrated against the court's ruling and the government established the "Biergartenverordnung" which allows traditional beer gardens to be open between 7am and 11pm.

Until the 1st of September, there is an excellent exhibit of the "200 Years of Beer Gardens" on display here in Munich, at the Bier und Oktoberfest Museum (Sternecker Straße 2). Opening hours are 1-6 pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays.

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