In the 16th century, Germany brought to life one of the world's most famous institutions: the beer garden. During this time, the German state of Bavaria imposed regulations (called Brauordnung) on the brewing industries that limited when they were allowed to brew beer during the year. Under these laws, breweries couldn't make beer from May to September. These regulations were imposed for two reasons: 1) breweries often caught on fire thanks to the coal used to heat the kettles, and 2) Bavarians realized that fermenting beer at cooler temperatures made for better tasting booze.

In response to these regulations, breweries began storing more and more beer in cellars so that thirsty patrons would have plenty to sip on during the warmer months when beer couldn't be brewed. These watering holes were the first step to creating what we now know as beer gardens.

In the 20th-century, Germany brought to life one of the biggest beer fans: my dad. My father always complained that we didn't have a proper Biergarten near us, but I never really understood what he meant and why it was such a big deal. When I visited Germany as a child, I was never old enough to get into a Biergarten. Consequently, I always wondered, what is a beer garden and what's the big deal? Years later, I found out for myself. 

What Is a Beer Garden? 

A beer garden is an open area outside, usually surrounded by trees, where food and beer is served. It's a very social area that's meant to create new connections between strangers. In traditional beer gardens, benches have minimal space in between each other to provide a community-like feel.

Many mistake any German-themed bar for a beer garden, but if it's not outside, it's not a beer garden. The concept of open-air dining originated in Bavaria after the brewers discovered during the Brauordnung that beer is better when stored at cooler temperature. In order to ensure cool temperatures year-round, "breweries planted gardens above cellars to keep their lagers cool enough to ferment underground." After long hours of work, brewery workers would go outside to hide in the shade and take a quick beer break.

The basic functions of the beer garden have not changed in modern times. They're still open-air areas where people of legal drinking age can chill, try new beers, and enjoy some unique food.  

What's Served at Beer Gardens?

If you're a first-timer, you might think that beer gardens only offer unlimited supplies of beer. Well, that assumption is only 50% correct. Beer gardens carry various beers ranging from locally crafted pints to exclusive, international finds. However, every beer lover knows that beer is only good when you pair it with your favorite beer foods.

Every beer garden offers quick snacks to complement their beer selection. No matter where you go, expect to see a lot of salty pretzels and German sausages—these are the most common finger-foods. In general, beer gardens serve very basic foods, such as burgers, nachos, fries, wings, and other salty, fatty, and satisfying foods.

Some of the Best Beer Gardens in the US

Slowly but surely, beer gardens are making their way to the United States. Some cities already have some of the best places to hang out, meet new people, and enjoy a few pints. If you want to experience a truly magical beer garden, I suggest you check out The Garden at Studio Square NYC in New York. They offer not only an open-air, Bavarian beer garden, but they also host live music concerts and have a Bulb Room for private parties. 

As a proud University in Connecticut student, I couldn't forget about my favorite local beer garden. Two Roads Brewing Company has one of the coolest beer gardens I've seen. They host concerts, celebrate Halloween, and even have their own version of Oktoberfest. They craft and brew their own beer, so you bet you can try some unique flavors in their beer garden. 

Chicago is keeping up with the trend as well, with Sheffield's in Lincoln Park being one the most famous beer gardens for locals and tourists alike. Every year, Sheffield's beer garden gathers thousands of beer lovers to the Chicago Craft Beer Festival.

Now that you have a Beer Garden Expert certificate, show it off on your LinkedIn. JK, don't actually do that. But if you're 21+, jump on a bar crawl as soon as possible and find new gems in your city. Is there a beer garden near you? It's time to find out.