There’s nowhere like the Hofbrauhaus. Normally, I’m hardwired to avoid tourist traps but I love a night at Munich’s – if not the world’s – most famous pub. It’s such a ludicrous place that’s it’s impossible not to enjoy a visit, and often so busy that you’re forced to take pot luck where you might sit, getting forced into drunken mateship with a coachload of Koreans, a snuff-taking, corpulent farmer in full Lederhosen, a group of St Pauli fans or even 8 Dutch nuns. Even the band parping out schlager sounds good after a couple of litres. I don’t begrudge paying the thick-end of ten quid for a mass of HB helles, thankful that it’s not the Paulanerhaus or the Lowenbrauhaus, two Munich brewers where cost-cutting following takeovers has become very evident in the taste of their beers (or in Paulaner’s case, total lack of taste).
HB also run the city’s most famous biergarten, the Chinese Tower in the Englischer Garten, (home also to probably the world’s drunkest oompah band and definitely the rudest serving staff) and just outside the city centre my old local, the Hofbraukeller. The HBK is in leafy Haidhausen, a ten-minute tram ride up the hill. Visitors don’t often seem to make it here, which is a shame. They’d find an echt Muenchner bierkeller, one of the city’s best biergartens and some of the better examples of traditional Bavarian food, served up by the usual harridan-with-a-heart waitress.
Haidhausen is also home to Unionsbrau, the nearest thing the town has to a craft brewer, who produce a sublime unfiltered Kellerbier Hell, poured direct from the wood. “Sliyhtly sour, tangy, zesty with a dri ornagey finishh” I tipsily recorded on my mobile on our visit last week. Unionsbrau is a brand of Lowenbrau (and so by extension InBev) but don’t let that put you off.
Incredibly, when I first visited the HbH some eleven years ago, there were still swastikas on the ceiling – which, it must be pointed out were added after the war when the HbH was rebuilt. On recent visits I noticed that these worrying (and not to mention illegal) symbols have at last been changed into waving Bavarian flags. Only took ’em 65 years.