Nick Ellison knows how to appeal to the masses in Columbus: Put a scarlet “Block O” on the wall.
The new Hofbrauhaus at Grandview Yard will open on Tuesday, and much of it is like any other Hofbrauhaus restaurant in the chain, which now numbers eight: wooden-bench seating for hundreds in its soaring beer hall, German food by the plateful, a huge wooden bar and only house-brewed beers on tap.
Bavarian charm is everywhere, from the metal chandeliers and antique furniture upstairs, to the dimpled steins and exposed-beam ceilings. A bit of Bavaria even creeps into a tribute to the Buckeyes arranged by Ellison, managing partner for this Hofbrauhaus and two others. He said the Block O on the wall in the beer hall was handmade by a craftsman in the German Alps, but instead of a Buckeye leaf, hop bines crawl across its lower edge.
The 18,000-square-foot restaurant was nearly complete on the inside during a tour this week, but it needs some finishing work on its exterior.
One thing finished for sure is the on-site brewery. Brewmaster Robert Makein, from Dusseldorf, Germany, brought out several glasses of beer — dunkel, hefeweizen and lager — and deemed them fit for consumption.
“All of our beers are very drinkable,” Makein said.
One thing Americans might find odd is the higher temperature of German beer. Hofbrauhaus serves its brews at 41 or 42 degrees, Makein said. It’s not room temperature by any means, but it’s also not the frosty mug of ice-cold beer many are used to.
“We serve our beers warm,” Makein said, “because we want to taste our beers.”
The higher temperature opens up flavors that lower ones tend to tamp down.
Unlike most craft breweries, Hofbrauhaus won’t let patrons take any of the beer home. Any Hofbrauhaus beer found in area stores is imported from Germany.
“We don’t do growlers,” Makein said. “I think that is an American thing, so we don’t do that.”
The one way to take home some of the beer is to buy some beer cheese. Executive chef Vincent Quinzio said the bier cheese the place is known for can be purchased in large quantities if guests are interested. The cheese dip is the most popular thing on the menu, Ellison said.
“We go through 30 to 35 gallons a day,” Quinzio said.
When asked which beer goes into the cheese, he shrugged: “I’m not supposed to talk about that.”
The food is mostly German, like at other Hofbrauhauses, but the Columbus restaurant’s menu will see eight or nine items not available in other locations, such as lager-battered onion rings and beer-battered chicken with country gravy, Quinzio said.
“Those aren’t German,” he said, “but I think people will like them.”
All of the German-style sausage on the menu — mettwurst, bratwurst and frankfurters — comes from Wassler Meats in Cincinnati.
The Hofbrauhaus will employ about 200 people once the outdoor beer garden is open in the spring. There is also a second-floor dining room with American-style tables and chairs, as opposed to the bench seating at long tables in the beer hall.
In addition to the lager, dunkel and hefeweizen brews, Makein will concoct seasonal beers as well. The first seasonal will be a Christmas beer, he said. The only beers that will come from Hofbrauhaus headquarters in Munich are Maibock and Oktoberfest varieties.
The location at Grandview Yard gives the restaurant flexibility that doesn’t exist at other locations, spokesman Matt Plapp said. A two-story garage across the street likely will host an Oktoberfest party next year and also could serve as a tailgating center for Ohio State fans.
Area residents already have made their mark on the new Hofbrauhaus through its Stein Masters membership program, which, for a first-year fee of $125, gives members a stein, a locker, drink and food specials, and even provides a fancy copper sink in which to wash their steins. The Columbus location offered 150 such memberships online. It took the Pittsburgh Hofbrauhaus two years to reach 150 Stein Masters. It took Columbus two hours, Plapp said.
“Obviously,” he said, “we’re ordering more lockers.”
by JD Malone, The Columbus Dispatch