As a longtime Lincoln Square resident and having spent a considerable amount of my time in the Brauhaus and Huettenbar, I am a noted lover of German beer in all its forms. We’ve also willed away an hour or two in Milwaukee’s Hofbrau-centric Old German Beer Hall, which features communal seating and plenty of German beer as well. Now, a Hofbrauhaus and all their beer is a little closer to home – the Rosemont location is now open, according to Crain’s.
The restaurant encompasses 20,000 square feet and seats 700, with another 350 in a beer garden, says Mike Matuschka, president of Windy City Group, the Chicago-based management firm that holds the license for the restaurant. It’s an exact replica of the Munich restaurant, down to the ceiling paintings and communal seating, Mr. Matuschka says.
The menu is a replica, too, from a signature crisp pork shank (available Saturdays after 4 p.m.) to spaetzle, sausages and burgers. Pretzels are imported from a European bakery, and the sauerkraut is flown in from Germany. Chicago native Klaus Lotter, a former sous chef at the Peninsula Chicago, is executive chef.
Most interesting (to us, anyways) – they’re making their own beer:
The brewmaster is Ben Zollenkopf, technical director of international brewing for Hofbrau Munchen. The restaurant began brewing the beer — a lager, light, dark and hefeweizen, plus seasonal brews — in November on equipment imported from Germany.
If you’ve been to a summer festival in Lincoln Square, chances are you’ve swilled Hofbrau without giving it a second thought – the beer selection during Maifest and the German American Fest regularly includes Hofbrau, and used to include their Maibock until recently (we assume people weren’t quite prepared for the…”effects” of beer stronger than PBR) . To be perfectly frank, Hofbrau has never been our first choice when it comes to German beers, but the opportunity to raise a boot of the stuff when it’s as fresh as it gets is quite compelling.
Beyond that, 20,000 square feet is an absolute monster of a building; a space that size is equivalent to just under half a football field worth of space. Easily viewable from the expressway (hard to miss, really, with the gleaming tanks outside), the space is parked in front of other cultural attractions like a Muvico movie theater and…ahem…Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar + Grill.
Visions of battles between Lite-drunken, jorts-clad country fans and lederhosen-sporting Germanophiles in the parking lot are quite fun to picture.
Crain’s also notes the attention to authenticity the space offers – a full German menu, oompah bands, communal seating – a closer, more authentic experience to true Oktoberfest would be hard to imagine. They’ll need to keep filling those thousand seats regularly in order to make it there, though, or chalk up another battle won by Toby Keith’s ‘Murica.