Years ago, German immigrants in Columbus—many of them getting off a long day of brewing or building carriages—might have found their way down to one of a number of traditional beer halls that used to dot the city. Loud laughter, flowing beer, and traditional food would all be shared at long tables, set against a score of joyous music. They were warm, inviting, communal celebrations of Bavarian German life, but many such places, regrettably, have long since gone.
That is unless you find your way down to the Hofbräuhaus Columbus in the Grandview Yards, where this age-old institution has found new life.
Started in 1589 by Wilhelm V, Duke of Bavaria, in Munich, the original Hofbräuhaus was a royal brewery for the Kingdom of Bavaria. The beer brewed there was wildly popular. How popular? Well, when the King of Sweden threated to sack Munich in 1632, he was convinced to halt the attack with a promise of some hostages being released and 600,000 barrels of beer from the Hofbräuhaus. Miller Light is cool and all, but it probably never prevented Milwaukee from being burned to the ground.
Hofbräuhaus Columbus is the sixth Hofbräuhaus in the U.S. modeled after the original, and it comes complete with all the trappings. The 850-900 capacity bier hall is decked out in authentic art, decorations, and furniture, all crafted and sourced from Munich, including a massive wooden Hofbräuhaus seal at the entrance made from one of their brewing kegs back in Germany. All the wait staff are decked out in Bavarian garb, and even a few of the executives, who attended a special VIP opening last month, were sporting traditional duds from the homeland.
But the real star of the show in any bier hall is the beer, and just like everything else in the Hofbräuhaus, the home office in Munich is keeping an eye on things to make sure that it’s completely authentic. One key to Hofbräu Original is its adherence to the Bavarian Purity Law of 1516.
“The Bavarian Purity law is the oldest food law that still exists in the world,” said Robert Makein, Brewmeister for Hofbräuhaus Columbus, who comes to us by way of Munich. “This allows us to only use malt, hops, water and yeast. Our beers are still produced after this law. If you come here in October, you’ll never get a pumpkin beer. For that, we’d need to add a pumpkin, and pumpkin is not in the Purity Law. [In some of our beers] you might notice a clove or a banana taste, for example, but we haven’t added banana. It’s just in how me make it.”
In addition to being a bier hall, the facility is also a full-fledged brewery—all Hofbräu Original is made in the actual Hofbräuhaus. Giant copper kettles behind the bar are where the process starts and the finished product is stored in tanks outside. According to a spokesman for the brewery, anything you drink there is between one day and two weeks old—much fresher than your average beer. Also, the beer brewed at the HofBräuhaus facility is only available inside. If you go to a supermarket and buy Hofbräu Original, it has been imported from Munich.
The Stein Club is another feature of the Hof. Members can purchase steins that stay locked up in the entranceway. They can pick up the steins when they come in, use them, eat and drink at a discounted rate, wash them and put them back in their personal locker. But you’ll have to wait until they expand their lockers to enjoy this perk. Hofbräuhaus sold all their stein lockers—168 in total—in the first two hours they were available. They’re adding an additional 220 to keep up with the demand.
The menu accommodates the American palate with a couple local favorites such as burgers and fries, but the vast majority of the food is authentic German cuisine, produced in the top-notch and expansive kitchen facility in the back. The fare can be enjoyed either in the bier hall, in the second floor dining area (affectionately referred to as “The Stube”), or come spring, in the biergarten out back, which will be have a full bar, televisions, seating and the whole nine. And seven days a week, live music will fill the air, with strong audience participation included for such numbers as “The Chicken Dance” and the like.
For those looking for an authentic slice of Bavaria, Hofbräuhaus is sure to deliver. You won’t have to go all the way to Munich to enjoy the traditions of the real thing. You can partake in the merriment, fare and beverage of this 400 year-old tradition right here in Columbus, and if you feel the need to belt out “Oans, Zwoa, G’suffa” along with the band, more power to you.
Hofbräuhaus Columbus is located at 800 Goodale Blvd. For more information visit hofbrauhauscolumbus.com.