Party trivia time! What’s the difference between a German biergarten and a regular beer garden?
Just kidding. There isn’t one. The German term is a blanket definition for any place that serves beer outside, though traditionally beirgartens have been attached to pubs or beer halls. There’s also no rule about serving food, schnitzel or otherwise.
Beer gardens became popular in Southern Germany in the 19th century. Because the high heat required for brewing often caused fires that decimated entire cities, Albert V of Bavaria decreed that beer could only be brewed from September 29 to April 23, when the cool air and precipitation were more likely to prevent fires from spreading.
But obviously no one wanted to stop drinking during the summer months, so brewers began to overproduce beer in the winter and store it in underground cellars for the summer. To better insulate the cellars, brewers often paved them with gravel. It wasn’t long before people were congregating on the gravel above the cellars to enjoy their beer in fresh summer air instead of in the dark corners of dank pubs. Brewers realized folks would stay longer and drink more if they provided outdoor seating, and thus the first biergartens were born.
These days, beer gardens can be found all over the world, from Ho Chi Minh City, to Australia, to cities and towns all across America. Outdoor drinking has a way of bringing people together, making friends of strangers and family of friends. Standing shoulder to shoulder having a beer on a warm summer night under the stars makes a bar feel more intimate, like a backyard barbeque or the wedding of a cousin you don’t know that well. In a beer garden, it’s easy to forget that you’re paying for the privilege to play ping pong against some dude in a White Snake tee shirt who throws the sign of the horns every time he scores.
So here’s our tribute to summer, outdoor drinking, and Steve, who may or may not be singing “Here I Go Again” ironically. We’ve ranked the top beer gardens in the US, taking into consideration travel experts’ opinions, the fun factor of the spot, the food offerings, and most importantly, the beer. A big patio offering only a couple of warm domestics is not a beer garden. It’s your parents’ back yard.
12. Garden District, Washington, D.C.
Okay, a beer garden should primarily be about the beer, but when everyone from Food & Wine to Parade magazine is raving about the food, you should probably try that, too. At Garden District, low and slow barbeque is the star, but the picnic tables and taps outside are pretty great as well.
11. King’s Biergarten, Pearland, Texas
It’s hard to believe that GermanDeli.com’s 2013 pick for “Best German Restaurant” in America began as a snack stand attached to a car wash! At King’s, owner and trained butcher Johann Sitter has realized his dream of bringing a piece of his native Austria all the way to Houston. This restaurant serves German delicacies along with a huge selection of beers.