Bavaria’s Hofbrau, a brewery with over 400 years of history, has opened a Hofbrauhaus just across the river from Cincinnati, in Newport, Kentucky. It re-creates the original Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany, in many ways: a huge beer hall atmosphere with communal tables and sing-alongs, an outdoor beer garden and, most importantly, beer made with the original recipes and techniques. But in one element, the operators of this Hofbrauhaus hope their lack of faithfulness to the original will be an improvement. As the Cincinnati Enquirer notes, they have changed the food. Basically, they needed beer that was just as good and food that was better than the original. Bistro Management Inc. of Cincinnati, the company that is operating the Hofbrauhaus here, brought over a German beer master to oversee the brewery operations so Americans could drink good German helles, dunkles, and weissbier. But the German food, well, it wasn’t as good. Kind of bland, says Bob Conway Jr., Bistro Management vice president. The challenge in creating the restaurant, he says, was “developing a menu with traditional German dishes that are quality-controlled for Americans.”
The process started with trips to Munich. Jim Combs, Bistro’s president, and Scott Elsaesser, director of operations, visited the Hofbrauhaus in Munich and many other beer gardens, large and small, that Bavarians love so much. Elsaesser spent time working in a small place outside Munich to understand Bavarian cuisine. About half of the menu they came up with is German specialties that Americans will like. The other half is familiar American dishes that you can order if you just want the German atmosphere, but without traditional schnitzel and sausages. For those with a desire for hearty German food, the team has taken pains to create authentic specialties, starting with the sausages. Those are being made especially for Hofbrauhaus by a master German butcher. Stefan Neumann is owner of German Cuisine, a little German deli in nearby Erlanger, Kentucky. He’s from Saarbruecken in southwestern Germany and comes from a long line of butchers and restaurateurs. His Erlanger shop is being expanded to produce five kinds of sausages daily. He’s making the specialty of Munich and southern Bavaria, the white, green-flecked weisswurst, made with veal, pork, and parsley, “and other things I can’t reveal,” says Neumann. “This is a breakfast sausage in Germany. Traditionally, it should be eaten before the church bells ring at noon.” He’s also making a chunky, coarse bierwurst; little Nurnberg bratwurstl; grillwurst, and the finely ground wienerwurst. “We’re doing them all the old-fashioned way – fresh every day, not in a big factory,” according to Norman. German Cuisine also will provide the Kasseler Rippchen, or smoked pork chops, for Hofbrauhaus.
Elsaesser says Munchener Schweinhaxe will be a signature dish. This shank of pork is cooked with its skin on so that it becomes like a tender pork roast with cracklings on the outside. Sauerbraten, a marinated beef pot roast, also is on the menu. “It’s got a sort of puckery taste that goes good with beer. In fact, everything in German cuisine complements beer,” says Elsaesser. There also will be several kinds of schnitzels, potato soup, beer cheese with pretzels imported from Bavaria, and sauerkraut, also imported from Germany. Rounding out the menu: chicken wings, steak, barbecued chicken, pasta, roast chicken, and that German-Cincinnati hybrid – goetta links.