BERLIN -- It took a semitrailer from Munich to get it all here the little white and blue flags, the right napkins and cotton print fabric and decorative garlands, lederhosen of course, and last but not least, pictures of Aloisius, the iconic Hofbräu angel. In short, everything needed to make the place gemütlich, welcoming.
With 20 tons of "traditional Bavarian decorations now in place, the moment many Berliners have been waiting for is finally here: the grand opening of what is supposedly the biggest beer hall in all of Europe. (And the world?) The larger-than-life drinking establishment, which opens its doors Friday, Nov. 4, was originally going to be called the Hofbräuhaus. But the famous Munich original threw a legal spanner in the works. The sign over the door instead reads: Hofbräu Berlin.
"Servus" general manager Björn Schwarz, 38, gives us a Bavarian greeting followed by the typical Moin, moin of his place of origin: the northern German city of Hamburg. His words echo in the huge 6,000-square-meter space on three floors.
For those with an intimate knowledge of Germany and its regional customs, Schwarzs origins and new venture may seem a little mixed up. What is a Hamburger doing importing Munich drinking culture to Berlin? Schwarz says he doesnt attach much meaning to such concerns. He worked for the Jever beer brand for a long time so hes always been brewery-oriented, and anyway, he thinks in terms of numbers, not regions. What the numbers are telling him is that there are enough Berliners all too happy to consume 120 tons of pork shank, 25 tons of the white sausage called Weißwurst, and a million liters of beer per year.
And given the location, what they dont eat and drink, tourists will, says the Hofbräu Berlin head.
Swaying in true Bavarian style
The new beer hall is located in the heart of Alexanderplatz, often referred to by locals as the Alex. One of Germanys best-known squares, Alexanderplatz is also one of its bleakest. With its chaotic traffic, piddly World Time Clock, blood-red shopping bunkers, sterile prefab buildings, mobile sausage sellers, and freezing winter gusts of wind, it somehow manages to look and feel even bleaker with every attempt made to infuse some soul into it. And yet tourists come here in droves. As Schwarz sees it, now theyll have an even better excuse to visit since Hofbräu Berlin will provide not only good food and drink but some folklore as well.
Its no secret that southern German folksiness has always been a big hit with Berliners as well. Every open-late store carries Munich Helles Lager prominently displayed. Gendarmenmarkt square looks as if its been transplanted from Munich. And nearly every Berlin neighborhood organizes its own Oktoberfest.
But Schwarzs new venture on Alexanderplatz brings another whole dimension to the Bavarian colonization of the city: 2 km of benches with room for 2,500 guests. And thats not counting garden space. Theres a stage on each of the three floors, where starting at noon yodelers, alphorn performers and glockenspiel players will entertain customers who, says Schwarz are encouraged to link arms and sway in true Bavarian style.
Alfons Schuhbeck, one of Germanys top chefs, is going to be pulling the first beer at the opening after which there is going to be a world championship in "Weißwurstzuzeln" the practice of cutting the little sausages open on the ends and sucking the filling out of the skin.
One person whos not particularly enthusiastic about the new beer hall is the owner of a restaurant called "Der alte Fritz" located just across the street. The restaurateur wonders who will want his meatballs in sauce when over there its all flash and noise. His regulars have done their best to be reassuring. Anyone who doesnt fit in over there can come join us over here, they say.
Read the original story in German
Photo - Blyzz