Kirsten Hall profiles ten of the best places in the city to enjoy an al fresco beer…
It was decreed by Albert V of Bavaria that only during the period from the feast of St. Michael to the festival of St George could beer be brewed. This led to breweries storing beer underground, usually along river banks, beneath the cool shade of chestnut trees.
Inevitably, some genius (or perhaps drunkard) realized that the combination of cold beer in the pleasant shade made for the perfect summer spot: thus, the beer garden was born.
Although our modern interpretations of the historic Biergarten often differ from the traditional guidelines – traditional ‘rules’ included that shade must come from trees not umbrellas, and that no fast food would be served, only solid meals – we still enjoy them on sweltering summer days with as much veracity as our beer swilling ancestors before us.
Berlin has its own proud tradition of brewing and is subsequently host to a decent range of beer gardens, ranging from the classic to the contemporary, where cocktails are served alongside cool draft beers, and beach chairs and wifi are freely available. Here’s our pick of the best…
Most Berliners associate Berghain with sweaty ravers and all night techno sessions. But right out back is the lesser known Bierhof Rüdersdorf, which comprises a restaurant, a smattering of pleasant foliage and ample seating for exhausted clubbers and afternoon punters alike.
The grill usually roars to life around 6pm serving up a range of barbecue dishes, though the 10am breakfast is particularly popular – especially for those who enjoy a nice frothy pint along with their bacon and eggs.
Rüdersdorfer Straße 70, 10243 Berlin, Tel. 030-29360215, U: Weberwiese, Open Mon-Sat from 4pm, Sunday from 10am
Located in das grüne Herz am Ufer (the green heart on the bank) along the Landwehrkanal across from the Sommerbad Kreuzberg swimming pool, Brachvogel has considerably more to offer than the average beer garden. From live music events to a mini golf course and playground, there are amenities aplenty for patrons of all ages. Guests can sample the Mediterranean and German cuisine under the shade of the white umbrellas, or even pretend to be busy with a laptop thanks to the free Wi-Fi.
Carl-Herz-Ufer 34 (an der Brachvogelstraße), 10961 Berlin, Tel. 0 30 6930432, U: Hallesches Tor, Open daily from 9am
Part brewery, part beer garden, Brauhaus Südstern has both a rustic ambience and modern entertainment. Located in the underrated Hasenheide park, this exposed brick brewhouse frequently hosts live music gigs (predominately jazz and funk) on its small stage.
The actual brewery itself is a huge draw for beer enthusiasts, who are able to book a guided step-by-step look into the brewing process (which includes cooking the barley juice to create their all natural unfiltered beer), and even take one of the regular brewing courses.
Hasenheide 69, 10967 Berlin, Tel.: 030 – 69 00 16 24, U: Sudstern, Open Mon-Sat from 2pm; Sun & Fri from 10am
You would think that a Turkish beer garden in the heart of the Berlin capital would shout sacrilege to some people; but the surprising combination of hookah pipes and frothy mugs actually works brilliantly.
Located on the Landwehr Canal, the Burg am See (Castle on the Lake) is a rare multi-cultural adaption with a real community atmosphere combining the best elements of the classic German beer garden with non-traditional treats like Turkish coffee, ice cream, and oriental fare like olives and feta cheese. The garden also boasts a large playground and facilities for watching popular football matches like the World Cup.
Ratiborstr. 14c, 10999 Berlin, 030 69598060, U: Schlesiches Tor, Open daily from 10am
Berlin’s equivalent of the famous Central Park boathouse restaurant, Cafe am Neuen See is one of the most popular waterside beer gardens in the city.
Located in the heart of the Tiergarten, the main cafe-restaurant is open year round, but its the expansive outdoor area – with its custom-built wooden shacks serving beer, pizza and pasta, abundant, attractive chestnut trees and picnic tables that look out over the eponymous lake (as do those of the restaurant terrace, we should add) – that’s in high demand during summer.
There’s a sandpit for the kids to potter around in, and you can even row them around the lake for a few euros. The zoo is also just a skip away if you want to make a day of it.
Lichtensteinallee 2, 10787 Berlin, Tel. 030 2544930, U: Tiergarten, Open daily from 9am
At Eschenbräu there is a beer for every season: and dozens in between. Whether it is one of their three year-round beers (they have a pilsner, a dunkel, and a hefeweizen) or one of their nine – count ‘em–seasonal brews, there are beers to suit every mood and taste preference. The brewery cum beer garden is slightly oddly located in a cellar of an apartment complex in Wedding, but rest assured it spills out into adjacent courtyard during summer months, from where guests are serviced from a small kiosk serving beer and Bavarian snacks.
Triftstr. 67, 13353 Berlin, Tel. 030 462 68 37, U: Wedding, Open daily from 3pm
The ivy covered Fischerhütte inn that lies on the banks of the unspoiled Schlachtensee is rumoured to have been built (in 1759) to house an oversized amount of fish. Today, the historic building no longer harbours the lingering scent of trout, though; that’s long been replaced by the wafting aromas of fresh-cooked German-Austrian cuisine…think Wiener schnitzel, Kaiserrschmarrn, and warm apple strudel. While the main restaurant is fairly high end (with prices to match), the umbrella covered terrace offers great views across the lake and a cheaper menu that includes grilled chicken, salads and pasta dishes. There’s also a top-notch wine shop, private beach and children’s playground to explore.
Fischerhuttenstr. 136, 14163 Berlin, U: Krumme Lanke, Open daily from 9am
In many ways, Golgatha is about as far as you can get from a traditional Bavarian beer garden. Nestled in Kreuzberg’s popular Viktoriapark, it draws in a broad mix of families and local hipsters, who come to not just sip frothy ales, but sip long drinks in beach chairs, sing karaoke, and make use of the free wifi. Busy as you’d expect it to be on warm days, it really gets going around 7pm when the crowds flock to the ground level garden as well as the adjacent rooftop terrace, a popular spot for watching the nearby football matches until the dance floor heats up and the late-night festivities begin.
Viktoriapark, 10965 Berlin, Tel. 030-7852453, U: Yorckstrasse, Open daily from 10am
Berlin’s oldest, and arguably most popular beer garden, opened in 1837, and has seen its Prenzlauerberg neighbourhood undergo various transformations and resurgence before and after the reunification of the city.
Incredible to think that almost two hundred years later (you can read its history here) it’s still a staple of this now trendy district, still welcoming one and all into its vast back yard, where simple, picnic-style seating (for up to 600), amply shaded by chestnut trees.
Though the menu in the main restaurant is a combination of home-made Berliner cuisine and seasonal specialities, most visitors to the garden seek sustenance in the surrounding kiosks, which serve hearty snacks like sausages and pasta salad. Prater also occasionally hosts events like open air theater.
Kastanienallee 7 – 9, 10435 Berlin, U: Eberswalder Strasse, Open daily from 12 noon, April-September
Named after the nearby sluice for passing boats, the historic Schleusenkrug started life as a small kiosk along the river. Nestled on the edge of the Tiergarten park under a canopy of trees, it has the train tracks (it’s a short walk from zoo) and a lower terrace that overlooks a small branch of the Spree on the other. A summertime institution for locals and tourists alike, the garden has a traditional but relaxed vibe even when it’s busy (which it usually is, especially at weekends). There’s barbecues in summer and a snack stall selling pretzels and more, though hungry diners can also check out the 50s-style interior, which serves up classics like Wiener schnitzel, steaks and quiches.
Müller-Breslau-Str., 10623 Berlin, Tel. 030 3139909, U: Tiergarten, Open daily from 10am