Saturday, 30 August 2014

Upstairs at the Hofbräuhaus

The Hofbräuhaus, just after opening

My last trip to Munich a couple of weeks ago means I have now clocked up five visits to the Bavarian capital. On each and every one of those visits I have made a point of calling in at the Hofbräuhaus, the city’s most famous watering hole and sinking the odd Maß or two of beer, whilst soaking up the atmosphere of what must be the best known pub in the world.

Some might describe the Hofbräuhaus as a “tourist trap”, but whilst a stop for a beer there is undoubtedly on the agenda of most visitors to the city, and coach load after coach load of tourists are bussed into the place on a daily basis, this venerable beer hall still manages to attract its own bunch of regulars, and has several Stammtisch (tables set aside for regulars),  dotted around its bustling ground floor Schwemme.

Upstairs at the Hofbräuhaus
As I said earlier I have made at least five visits to the Hofbräuhaus, (some trips to Munich involved several sessions here), but until August this year I have never ventured upstairs. I was aware of the upstairs banqueting hall after watching the late Michael Jackson’s seminal Channel Four series “The Beer Hunter”. In the second episode our intrepid Beer Hunter is invited to join Munich’s elite with the tapping of the Maibock. Unfortunately, You Tube have blocked all episodes of the Beer Hunter from being viewed on their UK site, so there is no point in me posting a link to this clip. (Bastards!)

Marking one of the high points in the beer-lover's calendar, this springtime beer is tapped each year in the last week of April at the  Hofbräuhaus. Invitations to this social occasion are sent out by the Bavarian Finance Minister, and anyone who's anything in politics, business or culture makes sure they attend.  While the tapping of the first barrel of Maibock is naturally a cause for celebration, those expecting a congenial atmosphere alone had better watch out, as it is also a time for derision, paying back old slights and making fun of bigwigs, all in line with time-honoured tradition.   

The setting for the ceremony looked impressive, but I wasn’t sure if “upstairs” at the Hofbräuhaus was off-limits to ordinary folk. The upstairs is a right rabbit-warren of a place, as son Matthew and I discovered when we took a look for ourselves. Not only did we find that that the impressive banqueting hall is accessible to ordinary mortals, but there are also several side rooms up there where one can enjoy a drink, and perhaps a bite to eat, in peace and quiet away from the noise and bustle of the downstairs Schwemm. Have a look at the photos and see for yourselves

The upstairs banqueting hall
The Hofbräuhaus am Platzl, was founded in 1589 by the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V, and is one of Munich's oldest beer halls. It began life as the brew-house for the royal court; hence the name Hofbräuhaus. Twenty or so years later the Hofbräuhaus was brewing beer for common folk as well, after gaining a reputation for the high quality of its beer. It moved to its present site in 1828, and was rebuilt in something approaching its current style in 1897. I say “something approaching its current style”, because it was badly damaged during Allied bombing raids in World War Two, and was not completely re-built until the late 1950’s.

Of course the has had its unsavoury moments, as it was one of the beer halls used by the to fledgling Nazi party declare policies and hold functions in the years following Germany’s defeat in the First World War. These meetings culminated on 24th February 1920, with a proclamation by Adolf  Hitler on National Socialism in front of around 2000 people at the Hofbräuhaus. The proclamation reconstituted the German Workers' Party as the National Socialist German Workers' Party; commonly referred to as the Nazi Party. However, the description of the Hofbräuhaus as “Hitler’s local”, by one or two sensation seeking journalists is nonsensical, especially when one considers that as Hitler did not drink alcohol, eat red meat, or smoke, the beer hall was hardly his scene.

Anyway, that’s enough about the past; like I said earlier the Hofbräuhaus is almost certainly the most famous pub in the world and everyone who stops by there wants a piece of the action. Today, it is owned by the state of Bavaria, in a way that could only be possible in a beer-loving country like Germany. If you find yourself in Munich then do call in; I promise you won’t regret it!


Martin, Cambridge said...

Thanks Paul. I'm finally expecting to visit Munich via Nuremberg next month and have a large list of must-sees to take family to. The problem with Germany is the wealth of great places to visit; on visit to Nuremberg last year I failed to get to Bamberg, being distracted by Pottenstein !

Paul Bailey said...

You are right Martin, about the wealth of great places to visit in Germany. We will probably base ourselves in Nuremberg next year. Pottenstein and the surrounding Frankische Schweiz sound interesting, as do towns further east, where Zoigl is available.

You must visit Bamberg though; we will certainly be making a return visit.

Brett said...

Hi Paul, FYI if you use Google Chrome as your browser you can get an 'extension' called Hola - lets you set you browser to different regions so, for example, you can set it to the US to get around the you tube viewing issues...

There are probably similar methods for other browsers...