Today nearly everyone is familiar with the term Oktoberfest. But where and when did this now international tradition start? Why Munich of course, and right at the footsteps of this month’s second featured brewery, Staatliches Hofbräuhaus, better known as Hofbräu München. Arguably the world’s most famous public house, this world renowned establishment has a truly rich brewing history, which we’ll delve into here. Pour yourself a pint and read on.
Once upon a time, the beers of Munich were deemed “less than satisfactory” for then Duke of Bavaria, Willhelm V. As a result, his demanding household ordered that beer be imported from the town of Einbeck in Lower Saxony. In order to reconcile cost and pleasure, Willhelm’s chamberlain and counselors suggested that a ducal brewery be built. The Duke was delighted, and on the very same day, recruited a monastic brewmaster to plan and supervise construction of the brewery that would be known as Hofbräuhaus.
Wilhelm’s son and heir, Maximilian I had different tastes in beer. Preferring Weissbier (wheat beer) to the then popular Braunbier, and possessing a savvy business sense, he forbade all other private breweries from brewing Weissbier, creating a regal monopoly that would not only support his court financially, but would ensure no less than 400 years of experience in Weissbier brewing for Hofbräu München.
But ducal tastes can be fickle, and in 1613, the court was complaining that Braunbier and Weissbier were not strong enough; they longed for the good old fortified beer from Einbeck. A rather concerned brewmaster (Elias Pichler) got to experimenting and produced the first Munich beer made with Einbeck methods. This “Maibock”, as it was called, would not only satisfy the court, it proved to be the salvation of the city when in 1632, during the Thirty Years’ War, the occupying Swedish army only abstained from plundering and burning the city when appeased with 344 pails of Maibock beer brewed in the Hofbräuhaus brewery.
Nearly 200 years later, when Ludwig, son of King Maximilian I Joseph of Bavaria married Theresa of Saxony-Hildburghausen, a massive soiree was held. The date was October 17th, 1810, and the highlight was a climactic horserace held in a meadow outside the town. A raging success, the king agreed to a request to name the site “Theresienwiese” (Theresa’s Meadow) in honor of the bride, and to repeat the festival every year. Thus, the Oktoberbest was born. But what about Oktoberfest beer? Well, two years after the original festival, the royal brewers decided to offer His Majesty a truly special brew, bolder in flavor and higher in alcoholic content than beers served at the previous two festivals. The beer was none other than the world-famous Oktoberfestbier from Hofbräu München.
For more information about the brewery, check out their website—which has tons of pictures and heaps of info about this historically significant brewery: www.hofbraeuhaus.de/. And do plan a visit if you can, you won’t be disappointed!