The beer gardens of Munich – how it all began
The beer cellars died out one by one, as other cooling methods became more practical. Since the area on top of the beer cellars was no longer in use, a lot of the breweries in Munich conceived the idea of converting the beer cellars, such as those under the chestnut trees on top of the steep banks of the river Isar, into open air restaurants, something which became popular with the Munich population in the summer time. The result of this was, however, that the restaurants in the city centre noticed a marked drop in custom. Not surprising, really, because who enjoys drinking warm beer in a musty inn when a cool beer and dish of roast pork can be enjoyed just outside the city gates, in the shade of chestnut trees?
The town’s innkeepers were having none of this and the dispute between them and the breweries escalated to such a point that the King of Bavaria had to put his foot down. The birth of the beer gardens was sealed with a royal decree issued by King Maximilian I. on 4th January, 1812, with which all the parties were in agreement. Accordingly, breweries situated on top of beer cellars were permitted to sell beer in the summer months, accompanied by bread but not by any other beverages or food. However, thirteen years later the city innkeepers found they had drawn the short straw when the laws governing innkeeping and restaurants were liberalised. As a consequence, it was now permissible to serve food in beer gardens too. Now you know the background history. It turned quiet in the beer gardens then, but only,of course, as far as their relationship with Munich’s innkeepers was concerned.
The tradition in Munich
The beer gardens have remained popular with the Munich population since then. Indeed, during the first half of the nineteenth century, it became in some case all the rage to dine out in open-air restaurants. Nevertheless, the influence of the prohibition of the sale of food, which was in force until 1825, continued its effect after the law was rescinded, especially in Munich. People still felt entitled to take along their own food to accompany their cool beer in the beer garden. The breweries tolerated this custom, hoping it would lead to an increase in turnover. This tradition holds good even today, which makes it a custom unique to Munich.