“It takes beer to make thirst worthwhile.”
— German proverb
I remarked at the end of my Feb. 23 post — about a portable sauna pulled around by a bicycle in Prague — that such a device would be of little use in Texas, save for a few frosty days each winter, because the heat and humidity of a Texas summer sometimes makes the whole state a gigantic sauna.
That prompted a comment from a reader: “Maybe a rolling beer garden?”
Well, in fact, rolling beer gardens, propelled by pedaling patrons, are already a fixture on the streets of Germany and the Netherlands. I even mentioned the BierBike in a post on Sept. 14, 2009.
It seems that my German forebears have mastered the concept of combining biking and beer.
BierBikes, sometimes called “pedal pubs” or “mobile conference tables,” usually feature a barrel of beer at the front and a dozen seats modeled on bicycle saddles around a bar. The imbibing patrons crank away at the pedals at their seats to keep the BeirBike moving. When they get thirsty — and of course they get thirsty — they help themselves at the beer tap. Music from a sound system aboard Der Rollende Biergarten keeps the party lively. A non-drinking driver is supposed to keep the BeirBike on course.
These bizarre conveyances apparently first appeared in the Netherlands, but have become especially popular in Germany, where they’re offered to tourists in more than 30 cities. (See the TV news report below about a BierBike in Frankfurt.)
Some German officials, however, contend that the rolling beer gardens are a monumental nuisance and a safety hazard to boot.
“These rolling beer bars take up the width of a car and are real traffic impediments,” Klaus-Peter von Lüdeke, deputy leader of the Berlin Free Democrats, told the newspaper Der Tagesspiegel last August and urged that they be banned. The drivers are required to remain sober as they guide the tours, but Lüdeke said they still can’t be trusted to negotiate traffic.
The Rhineland city of Düsseldorf, concerned about “indiscriminate peeing,” the noise that accompanies the beer bike tours and beer glasses — and guests — falling onto the street, became the first in Germany to outlaw the rolling beer gardens. Other cities were expected to follow suit.
As reported Aug. 16 by The Local, an English-language newsper in Germany: “The beer is flowing, the pedals are turning and the mood aboard the BierBike, or beer bike, is euphoric. But the passengers’ high spirits aren’t shared by nearby car drivers, stuck behind the six-kilometer-per-hour vehicle on Dusseldorf’s main drag, the Königsalle.”
The owners of the vehicles, which cost about 20,000 euros ($27,650), didn’t take the court ruling lightly. “More than 100 jobs are at stake,” said a spokesman for the Cologne-based Bierbike GmbH, which runs tours in more than 36 cities.
It’s a pretty lucrative business. The BeirBike costs 120 euros ($166) per hour to rent, and it’s rented more than 150,000 times per year. BierBike’s manager, Udo Klemt, said the ban would destroy a “pure success story.”
Perhaps the reader of this blog who suggested that a rolling beer garden would be an appropriate antidote to a Texas summer should take his proposal to some of cities in the Texas Hill Country — say New Braunfels or Fredericksburg. They abound with residents of German extraction to supply the beer and summertime cyclists to keep the beer bikes rolling.