By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Jun 13, 2013 at 11:04 AM

It has been a year since the Estabrook Biergarten opened in Estabrook Park and so, it’s time to raise steins and say "prost!"

This will undoubtedly happen at the anniversary / grand opening party, set for Thursday, June 20 at 5:30 p.m. with ceremonial speeches followed by a celebratory keg tapping.

The party will celebrate a year of service, the biergarten’s new lease with the county and the major renovations to the building and surrounding green space.

Hans Weissgerber III, who also owns the Old German Beer Hall, is managing the biergarten which is operated by ABC Estabrook, Inc.

Last year, after six years of negotiations, Weissgerber signed a one-year lease with the county. It was renewed for 13 more years earlier this year.

Once the long-term lease was in place, Weissgerber felt comfortable making a major investment.

"It needed a lot of work. The building had been neglected since the ‘50s and not used since the ‘70s, based on newspapers we found in the space," says Weissgerber.

Weissgerber says the first year was an evolutional process and provided great insight as to how to improve the biergarten experience. The biggest issue, according to Weissgerber, was the wait-time for beers.

"There was a 40-minute wait on a fairly regular basis," he says. "Clearly, we needed to handle peak business more efficiently and get more beer out faster."

The general amenities have also been upgraded with new electrical and plumbing. 

"The bathrooms are clean, modern, restaurant-quality bathrooms now. We went the extra mile," says Weissgerber. "We consider it a privilege to operate the biergarten. One of the obligations of our lease is that none of the improvements can be a cost to the taxpayer. We see this not as a burden but an opportunity to put some really high qualities things in the space."

There will be a minor increase in table seating, but guests are always invited to bring a blanket and picnic. The biergarten, technically, spans 50-feet outside the gravel area.

"Last week, some brought towels and laid out like they were at the beach and that evoked images of Central Park," says Weissgerber. "It was great."

Although Weissgerbrer plans to expand the biergarten concept to other county parks in the future – he has four or five locations in mind – he did not submit a proposal for 2013.

"We wanted to finish the work at Estabrook first," he says.

The family-friendly biergarten has a limited menu but encourages guests to bring their own food. However, smoking and bringing in alcohol is not permitted.

"It is unlawful to bring alcohol on a licensed premises. And you’re stealing 20 percent revenue from the county if you do so," says Weissgerber. "There are other areas you can bring your own alcohol, and do your own thing, but if you bring it into the biergarten you are defeating the community aspect of it. The people of Milwaukee county own the biergarten."

The biergarten serves primarily Hofbräu beers. Last year, Miller Lite, a seasonal Leinenkugel and a local Big Bay beer were also on tap. Weissgerber does not plan to expand the beer selection because of limited storage space. 

"Also, you’ll receive a far superior experience with freshness with a smaller selection," he says. "It’s not what we do at biergarten that makes it authentic, it’s all the things we don’t do. There is nothing on par with this anywhere else in the country. Even in our own community. This is not a patio."

Although former Parks Director Sue Black was instrumental in the development of the biergarten, Weissgerber says the parks continue to be very helpful since Black was let go last year.

"Sue was the catalyst for us finally being able to do this. She was instrumental in moving it forward," says Weissgerber. "The parks continue to be nothing but supportive to help move this forward."

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.