By Ryan Sexton
Having backpacked through Europe for 40 days a few years prior to my most recent trip, I have definitely tasted real beer and thoroughly enjoyed it. But it was not until my more focused trip in Germany this year that I really got to experience German beer culturally. Now in a way, I had already but nothing in the scope of what the Hofbräuhaus in Munich had to offer. It was full of good times, good memories, good beer and certainly good food. On top of that, the experience was very educational and culturally enlightening.
Now one may quickly jump to the conclusion that it’s nothing but a ‘drunk tank’. For the most part this is NOT true. Sure, there might be a few people who have had one too many, but at what bar or club do you not ever see that? But fear not, it rarely becomes an issue thanks to the abundant security at night, which typically is when it’s the busiest. If you wish to avoid a large crowd, try going in the afternoon or early evening on the weekdays. Some tours offer ‘beer challenges’ and ‘pub crawls’ and typically do these in the evenings and on the weekends.
Also there are several different areas. If you want to see the polka band and hear people break out into song from the surrounding tables full of smiles and laughter, you should sit downstairs in the main hall. If it’s nice out feel free to sit in the courtyard (biergarten), or if you prefer a more restaurant style and quieter experience, the second floor is the place to be.
Now that I have hopefully assured you that it’s not merely a slosh house, and that it caters to almost everyone, we can get into the good stuff. First and foremost, the beer! You can get the original Hofbräuhaus beer in your choice of a 1 liter mug (about 3 beers) or just a tall mug. You can also get it ‘dunkel’, or dark if that’s more pleasing to your pallet. They also offer a variety of beers such as other local German beers and Hefeweizen. I say go for the liters, not only does it taste good but it boils down to about 2 Euro a beer, which is a lot less than I pay for the now non-American owned Budweiser at bars and night clubs in the states. It also tastes great! Nice body, aroma and goes well with just about any type of food. You can even buy those giant mugs or a stein if you want to, but keep in mind, they are heavy and as I found out, hard to haul back home. I didn’t want to check it and possibly have it broken, so I kept it in my backpack wrapped in clothes. For one reason or another the mugs tend to look ‘suspicious’ on airport x-ray machines, which for me resulted in my bag being checked twice, once in Frankfurt then again back in the States. So if you don’t want to un-pack and repack your carry-on I suggest putting them on top or shipping them if you want to avoid the hassle completely. At any rate, they are pretty nice and just maybe will make the watery American counter parts taste a little better!
Of course what goes well with a good beer (or liquid bread as they call it)? Food of course! And boy do they have some good food! My traveling companion and I ate there twice because we loved it so much. The meat there is always cooked to perfection and is very juicy. The suckling pig was amazing. The Crackling Pork Knuckles are to die for. The chicken falls off the bone. It is just amazing food and is almost like a little time warp. For example, the Crackling Pork Knuckle (I really really recommend you try this) is like a big chunk of savory pork wrapped in its own attached bacon. I’m not sure how they do it but they do it really well! The sides are pretty basic and a bit odd. I personally kind of liked them and kind of didn’t. Things like potato balls are kind of bland and have a weird texture. The bread balls are much better. They also have bacon coleslaw-ish stuff which was pretty good, and a bacon red cabbage dish, well that’s good in moderation. You can still have a treat even if you aren’t that hungry. Pretzels or cookies anyone? If you just want something to munch on or help sober yourself up definitely stop the Pretzel girl and purchase what grabs your eye from her basket of treats.
Good food and beer is not all the Hofbräuhaus has to offer. The fact that it is centuries old and has been involved in many historic events and enjoyed by many historic and famous people only adds to its charm. After a day of walking the streets Hitler walked, standing where he stood as he preached his hateful propaganda and visiting the very site the beer hall putsch took place; stop by the Hofbräuhaus House to relax and refuel.
Other interesting facts about the Hofbräuhaus: Did you know that women weren’t allowed in the Hofbräuhaus House, and it was originally for the noble and rich? Also, there weren’t bathrooms in the building so you had to go outside and urinate in the still existing sloped drain in the cobblestone. Well to fix this they put drains under the table that ran outside, this way one could relieve himself without losing his spot, or beer for that matter. But what about the splatter one may ask? Well, wooden walking canes were originally used to help guide the urine to the drain without getting others wet. Weird, but genius, and lederhosen were even more convenient with its easy to open front flap. Talk about Germany efficiency! I would really recommend a tour to get the full history of this very Bavarian watering hole.
I’m incredibly thankful I was able to stop in Munich. At first I thought it was just a tourist trap and that the Hofbräuhaus was just a drunk tank. I’ve never been happier to be wrong. The sheer amount of history is truly interesting, the beer is some of the best I’ve had, and the food is mouth watering. People are also pretty friendly there and the city is, for the most part, clean. Tours are also in abundance and I would recommend taking one. Noambit.com is working on one and their attention to detail is fantastic. Don’t pass up Munich and definitely don’t pass up the Hofbräuhaus! Till my next adventure, take care and remember the only boundaries are the ones you set for yourself, so get out there and explore!