Bad news: Starting tomorrow, you won’t be able to brew beer for about five months.
That’s the deflating message that 16th-century Germans subject to the Bavarian Brauordnung (beer regulations) would have received. Fortunately, great innovations are borne of extreme limitations. From the Brauordnung sprung one of the world’s most hallowed warm-weather institutions: the beer garden.
The Brauordnung are often traced back to the year 1539, but Franz Hofer, who teaches German history at Cornell University and runs a beer blog, explained by email that the “decree limiting beer-brewing to the time between the feast of St. Michael [September 29] and that of St. George [April 23] wasn’t promulgated until 1553.” The decree came from Duke Albrecht V and applied only to Bavaria, the southeastern region that contains modern-day Munich.
There were two rationales behind this regulation. The first was that major fires were common throughout Europe at the time and Bavaria’s traditional wooden “fachwerk” architecture burned easily. Authorities feared that the coal fires used to heat breweries’ kettles might cause summer conflagrations.
The second reason, Hofer told me, was that Bavarians had discovered that fermenting lagers at cooler temperatures—between 39 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit—yielded a purer beer than ales brewed in warmer conditions. The Brauordnung, in fact, marked the point at which Germans started emphasizing lagers over ales.