This is arguably one of Germany’s most famous beers, at least by image.
Thoughts of Germany inevitably lead to visions of Oktoberfest, big mugs of bier
and lederhosen and no tourist pilgrimage to Munich is complete without a visit
to the original Hofbräuhaus am Platzl.
In reality, Hofbräu is one of the Munich “Big Six” breweries, along with
Spaten/Franziskaner, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr and Paulaner. It’s
one of two, along with Augustiner, that is still owned by Bavarians. In fact,
Hofbräu, which is loosely translated as the “royal brew” or “court brew” is
actually owned by the State of Bavaria, which is akin to the state of Texas
actually owning a brewery. It’s Hofbräukeller is the second-largest tent at
Oktoberfest, and traditionally one of the randiest.
The brewery itself was founded in the late 16th Century to service the royal
residence which still stands around the corner. Its beer hall is one of
Munich’s oldest, consisting of a courtyard, huge main floor hall &
restaurant, and three stories of halls and rooms above. Throughout its long
history, visitors have ranged from Mozart, to Lenin, to Hitler to JFK, among
many others (although some of the stories may or may not be entirely based in
complete truth). What is certain is that the Münchner Kindle, a rather
mischievous character symbol of Munich, sits in the main Biergarten to keep
tabs on patrons.
The brand is now franchised and Hofbräuhauses exist throughout the world,
including several in the United States. The recently opened Chicago version (2nd location) joins Pittsburgh, New York, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Miami, Houston and other cities as a “taste” of Bavaria on these shores. In my experience, the beer is usually
pretty good and relatively authentic in each of these locations, but the food
is a pretty poor replica.
Regardless, their Oktoberfest beer is readily available in the U.S. as an
import, and while I sampled this several months ago, I hadn’t found the time to
upload my review until now. I have to preface this by disclosing that the
export versions of these beers are probably more traditional that what I’ve
experienced at the actual Oktoberfest, where the brews tend to be pretty much a
pale helles style lager. This version, along with most other imported and U.S.
brewed versions of the style, are more in the direction of a true märzen…and
This pours very clean with a soft, fluffy white head that retains itself
relatively well. The color is clear yellow with a bready aroma, exactly as
expected. The nose is malty and rather chunky for a lager, jumping to a crisp
dry bite and long bready finish. This is surprisingly tasty for an imported
lager (although pretty tame in comparison to most American craft beers). The
flavors are clean, subtly rolling and balanced – withstanding a hint of light struck
on the nose. In short, it was better than I anticipated and absolutely worthy
of a session.