In the United States, the term beer garden has been muddled a bit so here is a quick guide: beer garden equals outdoor space, a beer hall equals indoor space, a beer keller (cellar) equals underground space. Beer garden is by far the most popular phrase in this new Yankee renaissance even if no outdoor space is available.
Historically, while it was not uncommon for patrons to enjoy beer while sitting in an outdoor area of a tavern, the phenomena and drinking experience that we today refer to as beer gardens began life as nothing more than a refrigeration method. In the early 1800s, Bavarian breweries began to improve the technical aspects of their operation and found new ways to keep their precious bocks, lagers and wheat beers cold for the summer months.
Ice was hacked out of the lakes during the winter months and taken to dug-out cellars next to the brewery,” said Horst Dornbusch a brewery consultant and beer writer who frequently travels to Germany. On the land above the cellars the breweries often planted chestnut trees that helped keep the ground at a lower temperature. “It doesn’t take much imagination to put chairs and tables under the trees. Plus, you have a ready supply of beer, right below the tables in casks. Hence, beer gardens.”
This new style of outdoors drinking also gave birth to another quintessential German drinking tradition—the lidded stein. Salt-glazed earthenware of various sizes but perfectly suitable for beer were of course nothing new. They had been used indoors for generations.
If you are sitting under a linden tree with a helles in the garden, with birds above, little insects and maybe dirt and squirrels, you need to keep your beer clean,” said Dornbusch. “This is the reason why beer steins have lids. To keep the dirt out, to keep out the bird shit.”