Having grown up in Austin in the 1980s, I often feel a rush of mixed feelings when I frequent familiar parts of town that look almost unrecognizable. In the ever-changing, always hip city of Austin, there is a comforting nostalgia when you run across that rare gem that has stood strong for over a century. Scholz Garten is one such treasure, defining the downtown Austin scene and carving out a special space in history as the longest-running biergarten in America.
Fun Facts About Austin’s Scholz Garten
If you’re just getting to know Scholz Garten, here are some interesting facts:
- Oldest restaurant in the state of Texas
- Oldest live music venue in the state of Texas
- Oldest bar in Texas
- Longest-running biergarten in America!
Walking into the biergarten, an elixir of perfectly preserved antiquity brushes my senses. There’s the smokey smell of German-Texas comfort food, the western-yet-urban music swag, and the approachable ambiance that oozes a Cheers vibe. Scholz Garten is a place you can go and, even if no one knows your name, they will before the end of the night.
Whether you treat yourself to one of the uniquely Austin signature drinks or guzzle down a refreshing mug of craft beer, Scholz Garten prides itself on being a place where everyone fits, from liberals to conservatives, UT students to families. Holding to its identity, this local icon earns itself an eclectic and loyal customer base, ready to raise a stein to cheers the UT win or just the end of the work day.
Scholz Garten’s Colorful History
In 1866, German immigrant and Civil War veteran August Scholz, a.k.a. Papa Scholz, opened Scholz Garten over an old boarding house in Austin. He ran the establishment until his death in 1891.
Scholz’s stepson, Theodor Reisner, took over and later sold the biergarten to St. Louis-based Lemp Brewing Company. In 1908, Austin Saengerrunde acquired the property and built a bowling alley and German hall. The vintage six-lane bowling alley is still home to Saengerrunde Bowling Club.
Music and Event Venue
In keeping with Austin tradition, Scholz Garten plays an intrinsic role in the live music scene, offering free local music to patrons throughout the week. Hosting an array of events, including political rallies, festivals, the largest University of Texas tailgate party in the city, a packed SXSW lineup, St. Patty’s Day party, and Oktoberfest, Scholz Garten is your go-to for parties that celebrate all of Austin’s favorite events. But who needs a special reason to celebrate?
The physical space at Scholz Garten is incredible: open and breezy, refined yet relaxed, making it a unique and adequate space to host your own gatherings. There is an airy banquet space and beer garden room, both of which are available to rent for corporate and private events.
Scholz staff will even bring the party to you with its catering team. Trust me, the sauerkraut balls and smoked BBQ brisket are nothing less than mouth-watering perfection.
The Scholz Garten of Today
It’s rare that a story comes as full circle as it did for Papa Scholz and his great-great-great grandson, Daniel Northcutt, who has taken over the day-to-day operations of Scholz Garten. Northcutt’s recipe for magic is to keep it simple. Rather than change what is obviously working, he opts to chisel out small changes reflective of Scholz Garten’s roots, but adaptable to its community.
According to Northcutt, “Less is more in this unique situation. Paying attention to the history and energy of a space this old requires subtle nods and improvements methodically. To date, we have added a new floor and refreshed paint in the north dining room, added custom woodwork to our new tap system, and introduced new art history with several Texas flags and maps by the great folks at Gallery of the Republic.”
Northcutt sees the strongest improvements to the venue in the updated and expanded beer, liquor and cocktail menu, as well as enlightened culinary offerings with German, Texas, and Mexican influences.
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Scholz Family Secret Recipe for Success
To hold the record for longest-running biergarten in America is no easy feat. So I had to know, what is it about this place that has made it flourish for over 150 years? Northcutt explains that even though Scholz Garten has had different operators over the years, everyone stayed true to the tradition and culture that brought about the icon’s initial striking success. While Scholz Garten has reinvented itself with new owners, “It stayed a tried and true biergarten selling hot food, cold beer, and hosting community events.”
And therein lies the secret of an establishment alive and kicking, and better than ever. The team’s goals have always centered around respecting the location’s history, while keeping the biergarten relevant with savory tastes and expansive beverage options.
Northcutt states it best, “No big splash. This is not about us. It’s about representing a brand, energy, and history of an iconic Austin institution. I truly believe that if we continue to honor and respect the history of Scholz Garten, then–as a community–we’ll see the establishment thrive and create new memories for many, many more years to come.”
1607 San Jacinto Blvd. — Website
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