Beer gardens came about in the 18th century as the result of one of life’s happiest accidents. German beer brewers began planting gardens on their rooftops because they found it to be an effective method for keeping the temperature cool enough for their brews to ferment. Soon, some of the more enterprising brewers found it profitable to begin serving beer in those gardens, and the concept has been booming ever since.
Beer gardens are appealing for two main reasons:
This is the same logic that explains such sensations as rainbow slushies and popcorn shrimp. Put the two together and people are bound to enjoy themselves. However, creating the right atmosphere, the Gemütlichkeit, within the space will take some care and attention.
What is Gemütlichkeit? In short, it's a German word that describes the feeling of social acceptance, belonging and overall cheerfulness from good hospitality.
Atmosphere might seem like an ethereal phenomenon that just happens without effort and cannot be controlled. But in truth, a concentrated effort will create the kind of atmosphere that draws customers in and keeps them coming back.
The original beer gardens in Germany lined up rectangular-shaped outdoor tables in rows in order to seat as many patrons as possible. This had the unintended consequence of forcing strangers to sit next to each other, which made beer gardens a great place to socialize and meet new people.
When arranging your seating, consider setting up long tables with benches or chairs. Create a communal setting that encourages the cheerful sociability of your beer garden. Remember to provide plenty of shade to encourage customers to linger longer. Place market umbrellas around seating areas to keep patrons cozy and cool.
Humans like lights almost as much as moths do. Beer gardens are known for strings of lights hanging over tables, lighting up conversations as the sun sets.
Place lighting fixtures, from Christmas lights to paper lanterns or candles housed in mason jars above and around your garden area. The illuminated ambiance carries with it a unique character that adds a warm feel to your beer garden’s atmosphere.
In addition to seating arrangement and lighting, there are other elements of restaurant design to consider when setting up your beer garden. According to the American Society for Landscape Architects or ASLA, people are most comfortable when they feel a sense of enclosure without being overwhelmed by it.
Low fences and trees surrounding your beer garden are a good way to create this effect. ASLA also recommends using a variety of textures in order to avoid monotony. Similarly, it is a good idea to use a color theme but to introduce plenty of variation to counterbalance that theme. For inspiration, check out some of the world's best beer gardens here.
Hiring a band or staging events can be a great way to add to the atmosphere. Live music draws in crowds of fans and music lovers alike. Work with the preferences of your target demographic when selecting a live band.
Depending on your demographic, a traditional German folk band, a blues band, bluegrass band or a string quartet all sound magical set against the night sky and a string of pretty lights. If your setup and concept allow, holding other events in your beer garden can also add to the overall ambiance. In Asheville, North Carolina’s popular bar and beer garden Bywater, community pillow fights and water balloon battles have been known to draw quite a crowd.
Oh right, beer. While many beer garden patrons come mainly for the atmosphere and would be happy with a beer from one of the big domestic breweries, many others will want something a bit fancier.
Craft beer sales are on the rise, and having a selection of interesting new brews will ensure you don't disappoint the growing population of beer aficionados. It is also a good idea to carry at least one German beer, in order to keep with tradition.
Overall, the main focus is to maintain the unique atmosphere of your beer garden. If you are opening up a new beer garden, determine the kind of environment you wish to foster and they type of clientele you wish to attract.
If you are expanding your current bar to include a new outside beer garden section, think about creative ways to bring your concept, décor and atmosphere outside and into the garden. Create the Gemütlichkeit in your garden and keep the beer mugs cheerfully full until close.