Wednesday, 11 April 2012


One would assume that all cultural trappings of a place are as old as the hills, however, like Oktoberfest, Biergรคrten in Germany just marked their two-hundredth anniversary this year. The German brewing purity laws had already been in effect for centuries when Bavarian King Maximilian I allowed that brewers could serve beer from their cooling vats in January of 1812.

For reasons of temperance and temperature, for fermentation and the heat from boiling huge quantities of water, beer could only be manufactured from early Autumn to late Spring, between the feast days of Saint Michael and Saint George. And though this ensured superior beer and reduced the risk for fires, suppliers, hoteliers and restaurateurs risked running out of beer for the summertime. As a solution, the bigger breweries in Munich (and spreading elsewhere) constructed giant cellars along the banks of rivers for storing the cooling vats. Shade from trees and gardens planted atop these buried barrels further helped regulate the temperature. Soon, the major brewers began serving customers directly. Quickly these bootleg establishments became popular retreats, but guesthouses in town, fearing losing more customers, petitioned the King to bar these garden-parties from serving food, other than bread which evolved into the host fare that one can find at traditional Biergรคrten. This appeased the smaller breweries (without property fronting the river) and restaurants, but also created a rich and enduring tradition out of a work-around.