Live Arts Beer Garden Sky

This was shot last summer on the Charlottesville Pedestrian Mall—looking up above the space in front of the “Live Arts Center.” If you were to look down you’d see a beer garden.

Beer gardens (Biergartens) began in 19th century Germany—particularly Austria—because the king (Ludwig) decreed dark winter beers could only be brewed in the winter when the temperatures were low enough (between 4 and 8 degrees Centigrade) for these types of beer to ferment properly.

The dark beers were quite popular—people wanted them during warm weather—so brewers began digging cellars where the temperatures would be low enough during the warm months. To further insulate the cellars, gravel was placed on the earth above and Chestnut trees planted to shade the area. Since the cellars and the landscaped areas above were usually adjacent to drinking/eating establishments they quickly morphed into a garden sort of space where customers could enjoy food and beer in a park-like setting. Benches and tables were provided and the beer garden was born.

The oldest beer garden in the U.S. is in New York City (built in 1919) and beer gardens have become quite popular in Japan where they are frequently found on the roofs of department stores.

The largest traditional beer garden in the world is the Hirschgarten in Munich, which seats 8,000.

The characteristics of a traditional beer garden include trees (no sun umbrellas), wooden benches (no plastic garden chairs), gravel bed (no street pavement), and solid meals (no fast food).

The particular beer garden out of view of this picture was on asphalt, there were no trees of any description anywhere near by, fast food was everywhere and plastic seating was rampant. No doubt the beer garden gods were enraged.

Though I love beer I gave up all drinking 7 or 8 years ago—I was starting to enjoy it a bit too much! But I have fond memories of a beer garden in Chapel Hill, North Carolina (home of the Univ. of  North Carolina) I used to frequent. It was called “He’s Not Here,” and was a great place to meet girls and enjoy being young and a completely irresponsible college student.

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