B is for…Biergarten

Bier Steins in Munich, Germany

Fresh air.  Beer.  Sausages.  Music.  Playground.  Friends.

It’s no wonder the Bavarians are affable, good-humored people.  They have the whole relaxed-family-fun-day figured out.

Our family spent a few weeks in Munich, Germany last summer and visited at least 7 different biergartens around town.  They were one of the highlights of our trip, for parents and kids alike.

Leading the kids to the play area at a biergarten in Munich

Many people visualize biergartens as a bunch of drunk 20-somethings sitting around a table singing and clanking bier steins. That is often the scene in the evenings, before a big soccer game or during Oktoberfest.  But, in Germany, biergartens are also the hub of the community.

There are several biergartens in each town or neighborhood in Munich; one is always within walking distance.  As soon as the weather warms up in April, the biergartens open.  Our friends that live in Munich say they go to one at least once a week to meet up with friends, have play dates, grab a bite to eat after school or on a walk or bike ride, celebrate kids’ birthdays or just enjoy a family afternoon or night out.  They are also a great place to meet up without kids after work or for a kids-free night out.

Coincidently, we were in Munich during the World Cup soccer games which only added to the festive mood at the biergartens, especially as Germany advanced to the semi-finals.

Gooooooal!! Watching Germany play in the World Cup at a biergarten in Munich

Each biergarten was set up essentially the same:  outdoor picnic tables, a pavilion, a food counter, beer counter, most also have table service indoors or outdoors as part of their adjoining restaurant, peppy background music sometimes played live by an oompa band or accompanied by patrons singing in unison, and–this is the kicker–some sort of playground for the kids within spitting distance from the tables.

I’m not talking about some sad, simple playground.  I’m talking a real “spielplatz” with a kids miniature train, pony rides, trampolines (supervised so kids don’t jump into each other), carousels, putt-putt golf, swings, sand boxes, jungle gyms and more.  One biergarten we visited downtown had a supervised play area where they gave you and your kids matching bracelets while you ate/drank at a picnic table nearby and the kids played!

Miniature train ride at a biergarten in Munich

Personally, I love the selection of sausages, sauerkraut and German potato salad.  Biergartens also serve wiener schnitzel, jumbo soft pretzels, hot dogs, ice cream and other food kids (and adults) love.  Several types of beer are sold, including nonalcoholic beer, which I sampled since I was pregnant at the time and I have to say tastes infinitely better than the bland US varieties, all served in a large glass bier stein.  Kids drink apfelschorle (sparkling apple juice) in smaller bier steins and wine, sodas and other beverages are also offered.  Patrons can also bring their own picnic, as long as they buy beverages.

Bier and Apfelschorle

A few of the famous bier gartens in Munich are: Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) and Seehaus in Englischer Garten as well as Hofbräukeller along the Isar River.  Further south along the river and a nice bike ride from the city, is Waldwirtschaft (“WaWi”) which is special because they have live music (usually jazz) every day.

Antique, yet operable, carousel at a biergarten in Englischer Garten in Munich

As we enjoyed these perfect family outings, I had to hand it to the Bavarians for fully embracing this marvelous idea of the biergarten in their way of life.  Ever since our trip last summer, I am on the hunt for authentic German biergartens, bierhauses and Oktoberfest celebrations to enjoy on this side of the pond.

If you find one, raise your stein and sing as the Germans do:

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemutlichkeit. [A toast, a toast, to the coziness of it all.]

Ein Prosit, Ein Prosit, der Gemutlichkeit. [A toast, a toast, to the coziness of it all.]

Eins, Zwei, Drei, G’Suffa!!!  [One, two, three, Drink up!!!]

Prost!  [Cheers!]

Do you know of an authentic biergarten, bierhaus or Oktoberfest celebration here in the States?  Please share in the comments below.

Watching World Cup Soccer at Biergarten in Englischer Garten in Munich