I was driving down Chester Avenue last Thursday and noticed that workmen were putting up letters on the side of the new Hofbräuhaus Cleveland. Billed as a German microbrewery, beer hall, restaurant and beer garden, it's clear this will be a suds-centric establishment. Although we have no shortage of fine, locally brewed beers and drinking establishments, this spot fills a real lack on this side of the CSU campus neighborhood. It's scheduled to open quietly Oct. 9, and with some fanfare Oct. 22.
Management promises great food and live music. I'm not sure if the sounds will all be of the oompah-pah variety tradition (and if they are, just how popular they will be with Northeast Ohioans). But those with an appetite for hearty Old World fare will definitely find the menu appealing. Among the offerings are schnitzel, sauerbraten, smoked pork chops, potato pancakes and bread dumplings.
Once a distinctive place, Hofbräuhaus is now a brand. The structure they've put up here replicates the design of the one in Munich, Germany, built in 1897 — albeit with numerous modern amenities — and there are duplicate outposts in other cities around the country. The American establishments may look similar to the massive German tavern, but I lived in Bavaria in the 1960s and went to the original Hofbräuhaus on the Platzl, and it had a character that only time and the particularities of location can create. But authenticity is the buzzword for the enterprise and no doubt at least the beer, brewed to exacting and long established standards, will deliver on the promise.
But there is one thing I wonder: Will the servers resemble the fraus and frauleins from the iconic taproom? These sizable ladies with muscled arms who really filled a dirndl could carry three full steins in each hand. That sight is among my most enduring memories and it would add significantly to the general gemutlichkeit if such women were on the scene. The other lingering memory — and one I hope not to see here — is men with bad legs and big bellies in short leather pants.