Beers, Boys and Biergarten
On the day that we arrived in Munich, the first thing my 16-year old son asked was when we can sit and buy beer? I know right?! But no worries, my teen doesn’t have a habit of drinking alcohol hahah but he was simply tickled by the idea of finally being able to buy beer at the age of 16. You see, where we are from, the legal age of drinking and buying alcohol is 18 so you can just imagine how exciting all this was for him.
This all started when my dear hubby requested to include a beer garden on the itinerary for our Bavarian and Austrian winter holiday. He lived in Germany for a while during his post-graduate studies and he recalled just how much he loved the beer garden culture. This culture is one which, apart from drinking fine beers, also emphasizes camaraderie hence the shared tables and benches, presence of music, some dance and singing.
Beer garden, or Biergarten in German, is literally a garden where beer is served and is usually attached to a brewery, beer hall or restaurant. In the past, patrons would bring their own food, but now, beer garden operators serve food as well.
Here’s a bit of history… Biergarten, a treasured Bavarian tradition, started in Munich in the 19th century. During that time, brewing of beer was limited only to cooler months to avoid causing fires. To be able to serve beer during the summer months, the breweries thought of building cellars along the Isar River in Munich. Soon, apart from just brewing and storing beer, they also served beer in the cellars. Now to reduce the temperature of the cellars even further, they started covering the riverbank with gravel and planting bushy horse-chestnut trees. Under the shade of the chestnuts, they began putting benches and tables and started serving beer. And that was the birth of the beer garden that we know today…
Anyway, I promised my hubby the Biergarten experience although I wasn’t entirely sure that they operate in winter. Some do on good winter weather days according to my research, so I kept my fingers crossed. We chose the Biergarten at the Viktualienmarkt because it is also a proper farmer’s market with shops selling anything from fresh meat and vegetables to exotic cheeses and wines. I mean, just in case there’s no beer, at least there would wine and meat! But really, Viktualienmarkt is the most popular open market in Munich and is also just a stone’s throw away from Marienplatz, the main square in the city where we would likely be.
That day, the benches under the chestnut trees were wet and traces of snow that fell overnight were still visible on the cobbled floor. The Biergarten was empty…
It was quite disappointing that we could not have our beer outdoors, it was too cold and wet and there were no signs of any outdoor heater. Hayy, sigh… But I wasn’t surprised. We searched around the market for a covered ‘garden’ instead. There it was, Munchens kleinste Gaststatte, literally translated ‘Munich’s smallest restaurant’, in English. The restaurant was essentially a tent attached to the kitchen, and during warmer days, they put up benches and tables outdoor as well. I couldn’t tell if the other customers were tourists like us, but they were friendly and helpful in explaining some German food names for us.
There, the boys had their first Munich’s very own Paulaner beer and weisswurst, the traditional Bavarian white sausage made from minced veal and pork back bacon.
Beer craving, solved! Prost!
Trivia: Traditional Biergartens serve the standard full litre beer. In Viktualientmarkt, half a litre is available.
Tips for Viktualienmarkt and Biergarten in Winter:
- If you’re in Munich and weather cooperates, do find time for a beer garden even in winter.
- Viktualienmarkt is a good candidate because there are other things in there not just the beer garden. Allot 2-3 hours because you wouldn’t want to hurry so much, you’re there not just for Biergarten’s history but also to relax and rest.
- In wet winter, the surer way to experience the beer culture is to go to a beer hall, preferably at night. We did that and it was one of the highlights of our time in Munich. That’s up next in my blog. 🙂
- Here is a list of Munich’s beer gardens and beer halls: https://www.munichbeergardens.com/Main_Page
- Here are the websites I used for Viktualienmarkt: http://www.biergarten-viktualienmarkt.com/ https://www.muenchen.de/int/en/shopping/markets/viktualienmarkt.html
- Here is the website of the covered beer garden at the Viktualienmarkt: https://muenchenskleinstegaststaette.de/
Here are the other posts on our Bavarian and Austrian holiday:
- Bavarian cars and beers, Tyrolean Alps and Viennese waltz: The start of our family’s tales from last winter
- Munich: BMW Museum and BMW Welt
- Munich: Theatine Church