Timeline: The Rise of German Beer Halls
When you think of good times and beer drinking, what country comes to mind? There isn’t a country in the world that is more identified with the consumption of beer and the good times that go along with it than the country of Germany.
The Germans have a rich history, described more than 2000 years ago by the Roman writer Tacitus, of guzzling beer, singing drinking songs, and sharing good times with friends and strangers alike. Since the arrival of brewing technology in Germany, and the first commercial sale of ale (and later of lager), the beer hall or beer garden has been one of the great institutions of German culture.
Beer in German Cultural History
The earliest evidence of brewing in Germany dates back to 800 years before the common era. Additionally, there is evidence of beer being produced for trade as early as the 2nd century after the beginning of the common era. Brewing was originally done in the home, but by the dawn of the second millennium, the monks of Germany’s various cloisters had taken up and radically advanced the brewing process, first by introducing hops and other flavor enhancements.
The devotion of Germany’s monks to the brewing arts eventually led to the establishment of an economy around beer, and the monasteries that developed into the world’s first taprooms, or Kloisterschenken, where the monks could sell beer to go.
The Origin of the Beer Hall
As the popularity and economy surrounding the taprooms continued to grow between the 11th and 15th centuries, so did the production and commercial sale of beer outside the monasteries of Germany. The rivalry between monastic brewers who paid no taxes on the sale of their product, and commercial brewers led to the state restriction and eventual outlawing of monastic brewing for commercial sale. Thus, the taproom was liberated from the monastery, marking the beginning the great German Beer Hall tradition.
Beer Halls and Beer Gardens Throughout History
Beer halls have served as public meeting places, entertainment venues and political rallying points throughout their long history in Germany. The most famous political event having to do with a German beer hall is Hitler’s first attempt at seizing power in Germany, the Beer Hall Putsch, which came to a head during the Nazi Party’s failed attempt to seize power in Munich in November of 1923.
The rapid growth of the communal beer hall in German culture received an additional boost with the invention of the beer garden sometime in the early 19th century. The beer garden was, and remains, a public extension of the beer hall, with beer for sale from the beer hall, accompanied by food for sale from onsite vendors and patrons allowed to bring their own food from home. It is a communal, social gathering place of fun, song, and camaraderie perhaps best exemplified by the annual Oktoberfest in Munich.
Beer Halls in the United States and Elsewhere
Beer hall culture, and beer halls themselves, are not only the products of Germany these days. Wherever Germans have emigrated and put down roots, beer halls and beer gardens have sprung up as a natural consequence of the importation of German culture. Early German beer hall examples are still open for business in the St. Louis area, as well as in several other places throughout the United States and the world at large.