Hofbräuhaus is by far the smallest brewery at the Oktoberfest.

The by far smallest brewery, you can find at the Munich Oktoberfest, is also the one with the shortest Oktoberfest history. Hofbräu beer wasn’t sold before 1950 at the Oktoberfest and not before 1952 in its own tent, although the brewery has been around since 1589. Its founding history, however, isn’t on a par with the self-esteem, Bavarian beer brewers have today. For a long time, Munich’s court society wasn’t a big fan of the local brews at all, which lead to regular imports of beer from North Germany, especially from Einbeck, where brewers would produce an extraordinarily strong beer for special occasions to make it exportable. Not everyone in Munich loved this circumstance, though, as the imported beer was expensive, North German and Protestant.

This lead Duke Wilhelm V of Bavaria (1548-1626) to founding an own brewery at Burg Trausnitz in Landshut, where he grew up. After moving to Munich, he also wanted to have his court supplied with local beer there and opened the ducal court brewery (Herzogliches Hofbräuhaus) at the Alter Hof (old court) on September 27 1589. Soon, its brown beer (Braunbier) was also sold publicly. The desire for the good beer from Einbeck, however, was at least as strong as the beer itself. Consequently, in 1612 a brew master from Einbeck, Elias Pichler, was recruited to produce “Ainpöckisch Bier” in Munich. Its name was bavarified to “Oanbock” in Munich and later abbreviated to Bock. This seasonal Starkbier (strong beer) is still brewed today by Hofbräuhaus and sold as “Maibock” in May.

Today, Hofbräu isn’t specifically known for its Weißbier, although the history of Weißbier in Bavaria is closely tied to the Hofbräuhaus. The production of this beer style, which originates in Bohemia, was prohibited in Bavaria after the purity law of 1516, as wheat was exclusively reserved to be used for making bread. Only two noble families from Lower Bavaria kept the right to brew Weißbier. Duke Maximilian I transformed the ban into a profitable state monopoly and recruited the first Weißbier master for the Hofbräuhaus in 1602. At first, both brown and white beer were produced in the brewery of Alter Hof, but only five years later, the production of the popular Weißbier moved into the new “Weißes Hofbräuhaus” (White Court Brewery) at Platzl. The old brown brewery merged with the white one in 1808.

The Hofbräuhaus is today mainly known for the legendary restaurant at Platzl, which was established by King Ludwig I in 1828. Before that, only the Maibock was served to the public there in May. In 1896, the brewery had to move a second time, as it became larger and larger, without having sufficient space for expansion at Platzl. Its new location at Wiener Platz, which already had a storage cellar at that time, remained the home of the brewery until April 6 1987, when a fire destroyed it. Today, the brewery resides in the outskirts, in Riem, while the restaurant Hofbräukeller is still present at Wiener Platz.

The first time, Hofbräu beer has been served at Oktoberfest, was in 1950 in the Schottenhamel-Festhalle. This was only due to a dispute, in which the Schottenhamels didn’t agree on a bee price with Spaten. Since 1952, Hofbräu has its own tent.