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Germany’s oldest beer hall celebrates 20 years in Las Vegas

First a shot, then a spank.

At Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas, an outpost of Germany’s oldest beer hall, schnapps arrive on paddles, shallow pockets holding the glasses so they don’t spill. Folks do a shot and then, if they’re of a mind, bend over for a thwack on the tuches.

“We have 60-year-old ladies who want to be spanked, not just the younger people,” said Stefan Gastager, president and co-owner of Hofbräuhaus. But there’s no spank without schnapps. “People need to drink at least one,” Gastager continued. “We’re not doing it for free.”

The paddle paddling, perhaps unsurprising, is not a thing at the Hofbräuhaus mother ship in Munich (founded 1589). Die Spank is a Vegas signature, much like drag queens and exotic dancers helping to celebrate Oktoberfest and Siegfried & Roy dropping by for a bite while they were alive.

This spring, Hofbräuhaus marks 20 years on Paradise Road, 20 years of blending German tradition with Vegas vibe. Now, who wants a shot?

A rough start

Hofbräuhaus almost didn’t happen here.

In 1999, Gastager emigrated from Germany, around the time several new themed resorts were debuting on the Strip. An idea struck: ”If they can replicate Venice, why can’t we replicate the most famous beer hall in the world?” Gastager asked.

He approached Franz Krondorfer, now vice president and co-owner of Hofbräuhaus, with the idea. The duo applied to the government of Bavaria, which owns and licenses Hofbräuhaus. The expansion to Vegas was approved, the partners recruited investors, a site was chosen, and they paid their earnest money.

Then, 9/11.

The investors pulled out. New ones had to be found, and a new expansion agreement negotiated, before construction could begin. “The goal was to replicate the Hofbräuhaus in Munich, Germany,” Krondorfer said. “We got the original plans.” In January 2004, almost five years after that first inspiration, Hofbräuhaus opened.

Today, it’s a Vegas institution.

Soaring ceiling; beer purity

Hofbräuhaus ranks among the largest independent restaurants in the city, encompassing 19,000 square feet. Seventy-thousand beaver tail tiles — so-called because they resemble beaver tails — compose the red roof of Hofbräuhaus.

Inside, the barrel-vaulted ceiling soars to almost 30 feet, decorated with heraldic banners, flowers, pretzels, lobsters and cooking implements, all painted using photographs of the ceiling in Munich.

The restaurant seats 380 in the dining room at long communal white oak tables, 480 in the biergarden, where twinkling lights wrap artificial walnut trees with thousands of leaves sewn on by hand. Water streams from the mouth of a stone lion atop a fountain. Just beyond, lampposts glow.

Hofbräuhaus serves lager, Hefeweizen and Dunkel beers, as well as seasonal releases like Maibock and Oktoberfestbier, that were brewed according to the Purity Law of 1516, then imported directly from the brewery in Munich. A saying in German lies above the entrance to the biergarden. Translation:

“Thirst is worse than homesickness.”

Unusual setup

During busy times like conventions or Oktoberfest, Hofbräuhaus can serve 1,500 or 2,000 or even 2,500 covers a day. That capacity is made possible by the kitchen’s distinctive setup. Instead of a typical kitchen with cooking stations arranged in a line, Hofbräuhaus has a conveyor belt with stations on either side. An electronic eye guides dishes along the belt.

“It’s like a car factory,” Kronsdorfer joked, “but it’s still a Mercedes or a BMW factory.”

Traditional recipes

The menu has changed very little in 20 years, the owners said, anchored by recipes from Germany for a host of Hofbräuhaus standards.

A Riesenbrezen combo features a soft oversize pretzel, Obatzda beer cheese spread and Bavarian sweet mustard. A sausage tower is stocked with Bavarian sausages (custom made for the restaurant), sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and house potato salad. A Bavarian platter brings together pork three ways — loin, roast, sausage — with dark beer sauce, sauerkraut and mashed potatoes.

Jägerschnitzel features a plain cutlet draped with creamy mushroom sauce or a breaded cutlet, as in northern Germany. The latter style, Gastager said, is especially popular with guests who were stationed with the U.S. military in the region.

Leberkäse features beef, pork and veal ground very fine, baked in a loaf (like a terrine) to form a gently crisp crust, then sliced for serving.

“You like hamburgers?” Gastager asked. “Bavarians eat leberkäse on a Kaiser roll. They eat millions of them.”

In a nod to changing preferences, the menu at Hofbräuhaus now includes vegan schnitzel and a vegan frankfurter. “But we still stay traditional,” Krondorfer said.

Anniversary specials

Hofbräuhaus kicked off its 20th anniversary celebration on March 12 with Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman ceremonially tapping the keg before presenting the owners with the key to the city. Local worthies, including cast members of Chippendales and Fantasy, joined the party.

Throughout the year, Hofbräuhaus will continue to mark its anniversary with a different schnitzel offered for $20 on the 20th of each month, and with a special Prost to 20! cocktail made from Kinky vodka fruit punch, grenadine, Starry lemon-lime soda and pineapple juice, in a hurricane glass.

Kinky punch? Now that deserves a spanking.

Contact Johnathan L. Wright at jwright@reviewjournal.com. Follow @JLWTaste on Instagram and @ItsJLW on X.

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