Baron von Biergarten

Party-Gyle by | Sep 2013 | Issue #80

I love the idea of a beer garden, but the reality isn’t always so rosy: smashed between several parties, waiting forever for refills, shouting over the din of the crowd so hard your voice turns hoarse. That’s why, even if you don’t have a home bar with 20 tap handles, it’s great to re-create the setting in your backyard. Grab a few long folding tables, and turn your yard into the best place around for a pint. Just don’t ask your girlfriend to wear a dirndl and pigtails, unless you want to get slapped in the face.

Contrary to the dimly lit, indoor bar scene, outdoor beer gardens originate from breweries or microbrew pubs, where guests are served a variety of beers from a single maker. Even today, tents at Oktoberfest are erected for each of the participating Bavarian breweries, so it’s fun to hop around and try from them all. Each brewery offers their own different culinary menu in the gardens, and their signature colors or crests strewn about. At home, you can create a miniature version of this age-old spectacle by designating tables to each of you and your friends’ favorite breweries—however far-flung they may be.

This is where the division of party-planning labor comes to your aid. Appoint one host, or chairman, of each brewery to decide on both the brews for that night as well as the food and décor. Their sitting area will receive those brews and food, and the host or patrons of that party will be responsible for refilling pitchers for the table and providing a complementary menu. Guests can hop from table to table—see which brewery becomes most popular. It’s a fairly comprehensive contest, since each table ideally serves a whole spectrum of beers from its brewery, rather than just the flagship or a random seasonal. But the quality of service and food could account for much more than expected, too.

Encourage your co-hosts to pull out the bells and whistles with their area, especially if you have a heated debate over which brewery is best. In the end, you’ll all be united in one garden, and won’t have to travel in order to hang out the whole time.

Think about the location of each brewery to inspire the food pairings for the tables. If it’s based in Washington, for example, you might opt for some grilled wild salmon and a (Washington) apple slaw. If the brewery is based in Chicago, place a cast-iron pan on the grill with plenty of oil and plop a pizza in there to cook deep-dish style. (No, really, this works well.) And so on. A smorgasbord of flavors and styles is what you’re going for, and if you’re feeling adventurous, a paired course for each of the brews from a single brewery could be served to each table à la prix fixe beer dinner.

This is the type of party that gains momentum, and several repeats. Go head to head with your winning host at his place the next time. Or just mix up the breweries, trying some that you haven’t tasted a whole range of brews from before. You might just find your new favorite brewery in the process.