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Hofbräuhaus München

Hofbräuhaus Festival Hall photo

ABOVE: A folklore show in the Festival Hall, which seats 900 guests. INSET BELOW: Personal mugs owned by Hofbräuhaus regulars, and a tourist working on his fitness regime.

photo of beer safeIn a city where beer flows more visibly than the River Isar, the name "Hofbräuhaus" runs second only to Oktoberfest as a tourist icon. But Munich's most celebrated beer hall isn't just a destination for visitors: According to the Hofbräuhaus management, about half of of the customers are regulars, the luckiest of whom keep their personal mugs padlocked in storage cages on the main floor.

The Hofbräuhaus München traces its origins to 1589, when Duke Wilhelm V commissioned a brewery near the site of the current building. In 1607, Maximilian I built a Weißbier brewery on the Platzl (where the current beer hall is located), and in 1828, King Ludwig I opened the court brewery to the general public. The brewery was moved to the River Isar in 1896, and in 1897 a new beer hall--the current Hofbräuhaus--opened its doors to thirsty Münchners, German tourists, and foreign visitors.

Hofbräuhaus München photoToday, the Hofbräuhaus München is owned by the city of Munich and operated by Wolfgang and Michael Sperger, whose parents were Hofbräuhaus landlords before them. The building can accommodate 3,500 beer drinkers and diners simultaneously, with 100 waiters and waitresses serving up to 30,000 guests on busy days.

Where to eat and drink

The big and lively Schwemme, or main taproom, is on the main floor. It's a good place to go if you just want a beer, a snack, or a casual meal.

For a more refined atmosphere, head for the smaller Bräustube on the first floor (or second floor, if you're from the U.S.).

The Festival Hall--on the top floor--has a nightly "Bavarian Evening" buffet and folklore show. The price is reasonable, and the food is surprisingly good, with such specialties as crisp-skinned roast pork, sausages, grilled chicken, and a wonderful apple strudel in the all-you-can-eat buffet line. (The show is excellent, too, with first-rate musicians and customers who frequently jump up on tables during choruses of "In München steht ein Hofbräuhaus.")

In summer, you can also drink and dine outdoors in the tree-shaded beer garden.

  • Weisswurst and pretzel photoFun food fact: The Hofbräuhaus München's Weißwurst is made fresh every day at 4 a.m., in time for the 9 a.m. beer-with-breakfast crowd. The Hofbräuhaus claims that, if all of the sausages consumed each year were placed end to end, they'd extend 20 km or 12.5 miles.

  • Inebriation alert: The standard beer serving at the Hofbräuhaus is a Maß, or liter (unless you order the Weißbier, which comes in a slightly smaller glass). Alcohol content runs from 5.1 to 5.5 percent. The most popular beer nowadays is the "Hofbräu Original" lager or Helles; the dark, or Dunkles, is more traditional and is slightly stronger than the other regular varieties. (The strongest beers of all are the Oktoberfestbier, with 6.3 percent alcohol, and the springtime Maibock, which has a 7.2-percent alcoholic punch.)

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2nd inset photo copyright © Andreas Weber.

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