Friday 21st May 2010
This world famous pub is often known by the longer name of Hofbräuhaus am Platzl. Its story begins in 1589 when Wilhelm V (1579-1597) of Bavaria decided that the royal court should have its own brewery in Munich. The royal beer at that time was brewed at Einbeck, a town in lower Saxony, noted for the quality of its brews. It made no sense, he thought, for it to travel all that way. In making this decision he helped pave the way forward for Bavaria to develop into the great brewing nation it became, thus establishing its reputation throughout the world. After all, if the ruler drinks it, it must be good!
However, Wilhelm had passed away before he saw the fruits of his momentous decision. Maximillian I was in power when the brewery opened in 1607 within the palace grounds. This was in the area of Platzl (small Platz or square), that still exists. The first brews were wheat beers, the style predominate at the time. Nevertheless it wasn't long until a Maibock was produced in 1614.
A very notable event occurred in 1632 when the city was entered by the Swedish army. Catastrophe was averted when 362 buckets (an ancient measure equal to about 64 litres) of beer were supplied to the invaders and in consequence, they chose not to burn Munich to the ground.
In 1828, on the exact site of the present beer hall, the first Hofbräuhaus was opened to the public selling beer and food, the latter not common at the time in beer halls. So the royal monopoly on these beers ended and the palace brewery closed and was replaced by another within the new building.
It was during the reign of Prince Regent Luitpold that the plans to move the brewery were finalised. The lagering of beers had previously been moved to the other side of the river Isar to an area known as Gasteig on Inere Wiener Strasse.
This was where the brewery also went and the last brew on the old plant was on 22nd May 1896. The first on the new brewery was on 10th August of the same year.
This left the way clear for building to be remodelled into a huge beer hall. The Tap Room, which is the big room in the corner of the building, opened on 9th February 1897.
The demolition of the brewery's office building commenced on that date and the remainder of the Hofbräuhaus complex replaced it opened on 22nd September, later that year. The building was very badly damaged in an air raid on the night of 25th April 1944 and its reconstruction was not entirely completed until 1958.
What you have today is a massive beer hall with seats for 3,500 drinkers in its many rooms and a lovely leafy garden which itself has accommodation for 450 of them.
I have often heard disparaging comments about the Hofbräuhaus, normally centring on the number of tourists that frequent it, yet that ignores the fact that over half of visitors are regulars. My recommendation would be to go in the morning. You can really soak up the atmosphere as shafts of sunlight stream through the windows. It is a beautiful building, just look at the photographs.
Another aspect that is overlooked, is the wonderful artefacts that are in daily use and are not always seen in other beer halls. These include the magnificent cupboards containing the personal beer mugs of the locals. Each is obtained by opening a sort of safe in which the mugs are secured with a padlock. The mugs are washed out in a copper sink.
Less salubrious fitments are the chunder sinks in the toilets. A quaint tradition is that the regulars pay for their beer with tokens and they can buy 11 for the price of 10.
The Tap Room is vaulted with fresco-type painting on the ceiling and at quiet times you can imagine the famous that have had a beer here.
One of them was Lenin who was with his wife Nadezhda who, in true socialist style, said of it "We have especially fond memories of the Hofbräuhaus, where good beer erases all class differences". I'll drink to that!
In complete contrast someone else who popped for a beer was Empress Elisabeth of Austro-Hungary, known to her subjects as "Sissi". Another claimed famous drinker was Mozart in 1780, but I suspect he was a visitor to the royal palace, yet there is no doubt he consumed Hofbräu beer.
I'm sure there are many more as I've no doubt Bill Clinton has oiled his neck here. He's visited pretty well every other well-known pub in Europe, if not the world!
So all in all, a great place to visit. It may be heavily frequented by tourists, yet is easy to see past them to appreciate the real soul and beauty of the place.
Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, Platzl 9, München 80331
Open: Daily 09.00-23.30
Marienplatz station is about five minutes walk away and is served by all of the S-Bahn lines that run through the East-West tunnel, that is: S1, S2, S3, S4, S6, S7 and S8.
It is also a stop on U-Bahn lines U3 and U6. Odeonsplatz station is about the same distance from Hofbräuhaus and is on U-Bahn lines U3, U4, U5 and U6.