Germany’s Beer Gardens: Hours, Etiquette, and Ordering your Drinks

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Written by Andrea Kirkby for Suite

One of the great pleasures of traveling in Germany is drinking the local beer, particularly in summer when the beer gardens are open. But to make the most of your experience you do need to know the ropes; beer halls don’t work quite like pubs.

First of all, drinking hours are different. Many beer gardens and beer halls, particularly brewpubs, don’t open until the late afternoon during the week, though they may stay open till one in the morning or even later.

Secondly, the regulars are very protective of their space. If you see a brass plaque over a table, don’t sit there. The brass plaque isn’t there to say ‘Karl Marx drank here’ or commemorate past glories. It marks the table as a Stammtisch, the meeting place of a regular club or group of drinkers.

However, the public tables are there to be shared. Don’t feel awkward about heading for free spaces on a table that’s otherwise occupied – just ask if the seats are free (‘frei’) or occupied (‘besetzt’).

How to order your beer depends on the venue. In a beer hall, don’t head for the bar – you will be served at the table. In a large beer garden, on the other hand, you may need to head for the central beer pouring point. Pay the cashier first, find a mug, and take the ticket and the mug together to the pourer. Get ready to catch your mug as it slides along the bar – this is speedy pouring, not elegant service!

In beer gardens or at street festivals, you may be asked for a deposit (‘Pfand’) for the mug. Don’t forget to take the mug back and reclaim your money.

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