What is a Beer Garden?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A beer garden is an outdoor area where beer is served. Beer gardens can vary from establishments which are exclusively outdoor to temporary gardens erected to serve attendees of a party. The beer garden tradition appears to have emerged in Bavaria around the 1800s, and it has since spread around the world, with such facilities being especially popular in areas with temperate climates where sitting outdoors with a beer is an enjoyable experience.

A stout, a brown ale, and a pale lager.
A stout, a brown ale, and a pale lager.

Classically, a beer garden is landscaped, and has a garden-like feel in cases where the beer garden isn't a literal garden. The garden usually includes trees and may have shrubs and other plants, along with seating such as benches, chairs, and tables. Some beer gardens have umbrellas for shade, while others do not, and they may include water features or wildlife parks as well. Large gardens can seat thousands of people.

A beer garden typically offers a variety of styles of beer.
A beer garden typically offers a variety of styles of beer.

Often, a beer garden offers food as well as beer. The food can vary from full meals to more casual snack foods to catered food, and in some regions, guests are still invited to bring their own food into the beer garden for picnicking. These sites are usually designed for use by people who plan on some extended leisure time to relax with a beer and some food. Music may be played for entertainment, and the clientele may also play games, sing, and engage in other recreational activities which may be encouraged or facilitated by the staff.

Some taverns and restaurants have beer gardens attached to their properties.
Some taverns and restaurants have beer gardens attached to their properties.

Some taverns, restaurants, and public houses have attached beer gardens, which can vary from true gardens to glorified patios. These sites may have restricted hours of operation, especially during the winter, and it is usually possible to rent them independently of the parent business, for people who want to hold events in the garden. Temporary beer gardens are also created for festivals, state fairs, parties, and other events, allowing people to enjoy the outdoors while they drink beer. Some beer gardens are also historic sites, recognized for their innovative design or age.

Temporary beer gardens can be created for festivals, state fairs and parties.
Temporary beer gardens can be created for festivals, state fairs and parties.

Access to beer gardens is often restricted to people who have attained the legal drinking age, because the primary purpose of such facilities is the service of alcohol. In a beer garden where food is served, underage patrons may be permitted, although patrons who are of age may be identified with wrist bands or stamped so that the staff do not serve minors. Non-alcoholic beverage options are typically available for minor guests.

Beer gardens may feature catered food samples.
Beer gardens may feature catered food samples.
The federal state of Bavaria, which was a kingdom during the Medieval period, is located in southeastern Germany.
The federal state of Bavaria, which was a kingdom during the Medieval period, is located in southeastern Germany.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

summing

@chivebasil - Beer garden costumes seem to be a big part of the appeal. I live close to a bar that has waitresses running around in referee costumes. I have been to another one that had them wearing roller skates.

I guess the sky is the limit when you are trying to dress up the wait staff. I'm glad I never had to wear something silly like that just to serve people beer

chivebasil

I live close to a bar that has a large beer garden. The space is nice, but I think the biggest draw for most people is the beer garden girls. They dress them up in German lederhosen and they walk around with huge mugs of beer and big smiles. It is kind of silly, but it is an effective novelty. The bar is not even German but for some reason they wear German costumes. I have been there a lot of times just to watch the waitresses lug around those huge mugs of beer

whiteplane

I like how much the definition of beer garden changes. I get the feeling that a standard beer garden is basically a garden with patio seating. The plants and other natural features are a big part of it and the space lives up to being called a garden.

However, you go to some places that bill themselves as a beer garden and they are little more than a concrete slab with some metal tables and chairs. A plant couldn't live there if it tried. It is just a way to make a patio seem more exciting and inviting.

truman12

@irontoenail - I live in St. Louis which just recently passed a smoking ban. Many bars went from having no outside space to installing patios and beer gardens to accommodate smokers. I think it is a great change. It is kind of inconvenient to have to go outside, but the ambiance is so much nicer than a smoky bar.

I have friends who don't smoke and who don't like smoking and they don't seem to mind when they are in the presence of smoke outside. It is one thing to be in a small bra filled with smoke, but when the offending substance just floats off into the air I don't think it bothers most people.

irontoenail

Beer gardens are especially popular now as they are often the only bars around that allow smoking on the premises. Since they are outside anyway, people can smoke with their friends around rather than having to go and sit outside.

This is a good thing from the point of view of the smoker but not so good for everyone else. So, some beer gardens ban smoking altogether, and others are taking advantage of the ability to make their clientèle more comfortable.

Just something to be aware of when you feel like going to one of these places.

indigomoth

Beer gardens are truly all over the world. I worked in West Africa for a while and there was usually at least one Belgian beer garden in the capitals of all the cities.

Granted they weren't always quite the same as say a Boston beer garden would be. They had fewer beers on offer for one thing, and might have only a small garden area. But I was impressed the option was even available and in a hot country, it can be very nice to sit in a garden space (with lots of insect repellent on) and sip on a cold beer.

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