Beer gardens = community

The newly formed Curator magazine — an International Arts Movement project — posted a good read today by Brian Watkins called An American Beer Garden.

Watkins starts by talking about his impression of a beer garden while recently in Munich:

    They have beer gardens in Munich. Outside. In parks. Where children play, and moms walk with a stroller in one hand and a beer stein in the other. They drink, communally, outside. In the middle of a weekday afternoon. Some even actually wear lederhosen. They share giant picnic tables with complete strangers and awestruck tourists like me. They guzzle liter after liter of ridiculously good beer out of massive glass beer steins in public. And the most remarkable thing: generally speaking, they do this with extreme civility, without the slightest whiff of debauchery.

He then goes on to lampoon the idea of a beer garden in America. A beer garden in America, Watkins suggests, would first be a curiosity, second a commercial hot spot (“McBeerstein” anyone?), thirdly a local police nightmare and — just before the trees walk away from the disaster — is lastly paved over by suburbia.

The question the article raises, though, is a good one. Can Americans duplicate the community found in a German beer garden? Would the availability of such outdoor spaces “force us to experience nature with strangers, start new traditions, get out of our cars and malls, encourage family interaction, and create relationships and spirited conversation?” Watkins lays out what he thinks it will take for something like this to succeed in the states. For example, more pies cooling on window sills, more enormous squash featured in local vegetable competitions and the Cubs winning the World Series. He sums up the opportunity with this equation:

people + nature + moderate amounts of alcohol – television = good

And if you’re not into beer, why not wine. Or tea. Or coffee. How about a nice mango lassi on a hot afternoon. No Kool-Aid or other lo-fi beverages, please; surely there’s a correlation between the quality of what’s consumed and the quality of the adjacent conversation. The point is that there’s something in the nature of a German beer garden that Americans need to pay attention to. We lack this kind of forum and community in our culture, mostly. Our culture would benefit from such a space. We as people will benefit from relaxed, open-air conversation and new friends.

Maybe we take baby steps, Watkins posits, starting with informal gatherings in the park. Later we can add the drink, when “the awkwardness subsides.”

Photo from Wikipedia by Fritz Geller-Grimm.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

4 Responses to Beer gardens = community

  1. Tim J. says:

    A marvelous idea, though (sadly) I’m not sure it could work in the U.S., but for a few exceptional places.

    There is no myth in Germany of beer drinking being particularly wild, immoral or dangerous, as there is in the States.

    I suppose it COULD work (in the abstract), with adequate security and good judgment in spotting drunks… but it would immediately be picketed by everyone from local churches to MADD members. It’s not the fact of serving alcohol, it’s the idea of it’s corrupting influence being right out in the open, rather than being hidden away in a dim saloon.

    Think of the children!

  2. pNielsen says:

    Yeah, I think Watkins realized the uphill battle it would be in our culture, hence his humorous timeline which includes some of the things you mention, at least partly. Regardless, I don’t keep this blog out of realism, but idealism!

  3. Pingback: Daily LifeStream for 2008-09-17 | Sacramental Living

  4. Pingback: Art for Art’s Sake: Enjoying it « The Aesthetic Elevator

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