‘Our living room’
“You know,” Nastasja says between bites, “in summer, the beer garden becomes our living room.”
If you bring your own food, aim for the tables without a cloth. On set tables, however, you have to order a meal and will be served by a waiter. This distinction between BYO/self-service and full service is especially apparent at the Seehaus, a small beer garden with an adjoining restaurant. The Seehaus is also in the English Garden, at a lake called Kleinhesselloher See. While the garden at the Chinese Tower attracts an eclectic mix of tourists, students from the nearby university and locals from Munich and surrounds, the Seehaus, with its more refined atmosphere, a setting to die for and higher prices, attracts Munich’s well-to-do crowd. Yet you shouldn’t feel intimidated, because beer gardens are the great social equalisers, a bit like the Australian beach. Under the shade of the chestnut trees, neither your social standing nor your wallet plays a role.
Yet certain beer garden patrons do enjoy special status, and you usually find some at the Viktualienmarkt, Munich’s central market. They wear the traditional ‘tracht’ with lederhosen and hats adorned with gamsbart, a bundle of neck hair from a male chamois. Their table is marked with a sign saying “Stammtisch”, the regulars’ table, and they will always have a seat – not a bad thing on this Saturday afternoon where otherwise it’s standing room only.
Yet five minutes’ walk will get you to another Munich beer institution that has a totally different mood. The Hofbräuhaus is in a large atrium surrounded by historic buildings, and all the tables are set and serviced by waiters. For purists, this is not a real beer garden because you can’t bring your own food. But it is an enclave of peace within the muted din of the city outside.
By the riverside
For more of a rural feel, try the Inselmühle, perhaps Munich’s most beautiful beer garden. Patrons sit under the dense canopy of a riparian forest on the banks of the River Würm, with suburbia close but well hidden. Perfectly situated along a 30-kilometre bike track that follows the river, the beer garden is famous for its grilled chicken and steckerlfisch.
The citizens of Munich love their beer gardens so much that when an early closing time of 9pm threatened to become law, it triggered what is now called the First Bavarian Beer Garden Revolution in 1995. More than 25,000 concerned citizens crowded Munich’s central square to make their voices heard. The Bavarian government heard the voice of the people and the fun can now linger on until 11pm.
Na dann Prost! (Well then cheers!)
Oktoberfest near home
Oktoberfest is celebrated across Victoria. Here’s a short guide to Oktoberfest events.
Oktoberfest in the Gardens is on 14 October. melbourne.oktoberfestinthegardens.com.au
Bright Oktoberfest has been going since 2009. brightoktoberfest.com
Otway Oktoberfest is on 7 October. colacotway.vic.gov.au/upcoming-events
Beechworth Oktoberfest is on 7-8 October. bridgeroadbrewers.com.au
For your guide to free, affordable and other events across Victoria visit racv.com.au/events