By Pittsburgh Hot Plate’s new contributor, Jeff Zoet
If you live anywhere near Pittsburgh, you probably either know all about this place, or chances are you’ve been curious about checking it out. Well hopefully this will help you see what you’ve been missing! I’m not going to give you an entire history on this establishment, but just be aware that is one of three restaurant/breweries in the U.S. modeled after the 400+ year old original in Munich, Germany. I was really looking forward to visiting the Hofbräuhaus when it opened in the South Side Works in the spring of 2009. I just had a feeling it would be a place I would thoroughly enjoy… and I was right.
My most recent trip was for the monthly keg tapping. You see, Hofbräuhaus keeps 4 beers on tap year round – the Light, the Lager, the Weizen and the Dunkel. They come in half liters and full liters! (I recommend trying a liter of half Dunkel / half Weizen!)
Then on the first Wednesday of every month, they have a ceremonial tapping of a new seasonal beer. I’ve made it to 15 out of the 17 keg tappings that they’ve had since opening! This month’s selection is The Christmasbier. I arrived around 6pm to get a good seat. We sat in the Bier Hall – the largest room at the Hofbräuhaus, and THE place to be if you really want to experience it at its fullest! Just before 7pm, we were asked if we wanted to hold flags in the parade. Yes, you heard me right… a parade! As part of the keg tapping festivities, they have a parade winding back and forth between the bench-style seating to introduce the first keg of the new beer. It consists of the head brewer rolling out the wooden cask keg of beer, the full German band (more on them later), and a few lucky patrons including myself who carry Bavarian and other beer related flags. It’s a great way to celebrate a brand new addition to the Hofbräuhaus beer family!
As the parade ends, a line starts to form along both sides of the giant Bier Hall leading up to the front. Why, you may ask? Because the entire first keg is free! So everyone lines up in hopes that they are one of the lucky ones. But don’t fret, they run specials on the new Seasonal Beer after the tapping in case you get up there too late. After a brief explanation of how they created the Christmasbier, they have a new person tap the keg every month. This month’s keg tapper was one of the musicians at the Hofbräuhaus – The Mad Bavarian. Once the keg is tapped, they pass out 1/2 liters of the beer. Since I was in the parade, I was fortunate enough to be one of the first to receive mine. Oh happy day!
My friends and I quickly returned to our table. After shouting “Prost!” in unison (the German version of ‘Cheers’) and clinking of our glasses together, we took our first sip. As usual with Hofbräu’s beers, I was pleasantly satisfied by the flavor and aromas. What I like most about Hofbräu beer is that it’s the perfect balance of quality and quantity. Which means that it is delicious beer; easy to drink by the liter! (or two or three!) The Christmasbier is a lager that it is a bit more robust than their mainstay Lager. The first thing I noticed was the full malt flavor that I love about holiday beers. It just warms you up on the inside during those cold snowy nights. At the end I caught a hint of flavorful hops (but not too much) for a satisfying finish – overall, a great beer that fits the season perfectly.
Not to be overlooked, Hofbräuhaus has a great menu as well. I always come for the beer, but love the options they have for the food pairings. A favorite appetizer is the soft German pretzels with bier cheese ($8.99). This trip, I decided to order something that I’ve never had there before – the Grilled Chicken Sandwich ($7.99), which comes with some of the best fries in town. I’m not a huge grilled chicken fan, but wanted to check off another item on the menu. It was surprisingly good! I added some brown mustard to it to add a bit more flavor, and found myself enjoying yet another item off of their menu. I think the reigning champ is still the “Hofbräuhaus Hot Brown” ($8.99). I’m not even going to bother explaining this one to you. Just go there, order it, and thank me later.
And for you Vegetarians out there – you do have some choices here too. My wife is a vegetarian, so it is always nice when there are options for her as well. There are multiple salads and meatless appetizers (try the Fried Zucchini Strips… holy cow are they good!), and a Gardenburger.
Now just in case the beer or food hasn’t convinced you to visit, the other thing that truly makes this place unique (and long overdue in this area) is the fun atmosphere you can’t help but get sucked into. Most of that is in large part due to the bands. A couple different musicians perform there, but my absolute favorite has to be Alpen Glow led by Joe Grkman Jr. (Find them on Facebook – All Grk’d Up) They show up wearing traditional Bavarian lederhosen and draw in the crowd with their catchy tunes and amazing accordion skills! Adults and children alike find themselves dancing on the benches (not only allowed, but encouraged!), waving their drinks in the air and singing along.
The Hofbräuhaus is the perfect place for families & friends to come and have a great time. It will be an experience that you will remember long after your visit. But don’t forget to leave a reminder that you were there as well. They love it when you etch in your name or sayings on the table tops! Just make sure to keep them family friendly!hofbrauhauspittsburgh.com