A Brief History of Beer Gardens
Beer garden, from the German “Biergarten” began in Southern Germany, notably Bavaria. Strictly speaking, a beer garden is an outside area where beer and sometimes other beverages as well as food, are served and savored. Traditional beer gardens have communal seating, typically long wooden tables with benches. Sometimes there is live music, sometimes not. Beer gardens are almost always attached to a brick-and-mortar public house or beer hall.
Give me your tired, your poor, your…thirsty?
The influx of German and other Northern European immigrants to America brought the beer hall and its accompanying beer garden to America. East Coast cities such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia have a proud tradition of beer gardens.
Fittingly, New York City saw the establishment of one of the earliest, and most popular, beer gardens: Castle Garden at The Battery in Manhattan. This former fort, theater, and immigration station (predating Ellis Island) is a national monument today, leaving us to imagine the great bocks and brats once served up there.
Among city beer gardens currently in operation, the venerated Bohemian Hall and Beer Garden in Astoria (completed in 1919) is the oldest. Its beer garden, which seats 800, is a popular spot for festivals and events, notably Oktoberfest.
Sadly US Beer gardens declined in the 1940’s and 1950’s, a reflection of the anti-German sentiment sweeping the nation in the aftermath of World War II. But, as the cliché goes, time heals all wounds. In the last year alone, numerous new beer gardens have opened throughout New York City. Read this cool article, “Beer Gardens Bloom Around the City” (NEW YORK TIMES, August 10, 2010) ((http://events.nytimes.com/2010/08/11/dining/11bars.html)) by Robert Simonson.