Sunday, 6 November 2011

In Berlin steht ein Hofbräuhaus

The famous Hofbräuhaus beer hall in Munich has opened a franchise in Berlin for the first time. As well as the Bavarian original, there is also a Hofbräuhaus in a dozen or so other cities including Melbourne, Las Vegas and Seoul.

Like most people who've been to Munich, I've visited the Hofbräuhaus. Built in 1589 for the Duke of Bavaria, it's an impressive building both from the outside and walking around the massive rooms inside. I bought a pen from the gift shop but didn't stop for a beer, despite it being supposed to be good if a bit pricey.

The Hofbräuhaus pulls in tourists by the coachload who think they're experiencing authentic Bavarian entertainment. What they actually experience is large groups of American, Australian and Japanese students singing drunkenly along to the oompah band. I'll give that a miss thanks.

The upside of the Hofbräuhaus being such a tourist trap is that other more authentic beer halls and gardens like the Löwenbräukeller, or my favourite the Augustinerkeller, are relatively untouched by the snapping hordes and I can sit in the shade of the trees with a Maß of great beer inflicting my German on the waiter and locals without Hank from Pittsburgh and his twenty mates providing a chorus. We're all tourists of course but you don't have to behave like one or travel in large groups of your compatriots.

The other reason some people steer clear of the Hofbräuhaus is its Nazi connections. This I think is less fair on the place. OK, the Nazis did hold their first meeting there in 1920 but the year before it had also been the headquarters of the shortlived Bavarian Soviet Republic. The Nazis met in other pubs too, including the Löwenbräukeller and the Bürgerbräukeller where they staged the Beer Hall Putsch in 1923.

The main problem I have with the Berlin Hofbräuhaus is the falseness and soullessness of pub chains, whether they be German or the much more prevalent fake Irish pub. One of the saddest things I've ever seen is a group of tourists sitting in one such place in Düsseldorf's Altstadt, drinking Guinness amidst the usual plastic paddwhackery just yards from some of the best pubs and beer in Germany.

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