The Pittsburgh Hofbräuhaus opening continues to be the most common search term that leads people to STAG, after my own name, and I've been trying to keep up to date on it. That led me to call Nick Ellison, managing member of the franchise team at Pittsbugh HB, and talk to him today. It turned out to be a fortuitous choice of schedule: Today marked the first brew at Pittsburgh HB! (That's brewer Eckhart Kurbjuhn starting things up.)
I did a short interview with him, but I'll tell you the important thing right now: Nick said they're now setting March 3rd as the soft opening date. Here's the rest of what we talked about.
When are you opening?
We’re doing our soft opening on March 3rd, unless something bad happens. Last week we had a control box burn out on the boiler, or as the Germans put it, the steam generator. That soft opening’s just opening the doors, turning on the lights. We’ll have an invitational grand opening celebration, which will also be the keg-tapping of our Maibock, on April 29th.
Why all the delays?
It took a long time for the developer to work out arrangements with the City of Pittsburgh. We also had problems with the ability of HB to issue us a franchise – the franchise rules had changed, that kind of stuff, paperwork. I tend to forget that kind of stuff happened, now I’m worried about control boxes burning out!
Why did you decide to build there?
It’s got a lot going on around it. It’s a first-class development, great tenants: Cheesecake Factory, McCormick & Schmick's, Ann Taylor. That’s where we wanted to be. We’re in walking distance of eight universities, too, and we sell beer, you know.
When does brewing actually start?
We started today, our first beer. We’re brewing the Lager. (See more about the beers here.) That won’t be finished for the opening, of course, we’re bringing in beer from Germany.
How much of the beer will be brewed on-site?
Most of the beer will be brewed on site. We will have four beers all the time: Lager, Hefeweizen, Light, and Dunkel. We will import the Maibock and Oktoberfest. The Oktoberfest will be the same beer served in the Hofbräuhaus tent at Oktoberfest. There are regulations that the Oktoberfest can only be brewed in Munich. Of course, the rules don’t really apply here, but we wanted to do it right, so we’re bringing that in. We’ll have twelve seasonals all together.
I saw you’re going to do a tapping of the seasonal on the first Wednesday of every month, is that right?
Yes, and the Oktoberfest won’t be in October. You tap Oktoberfest in September.
Outstanding! I’ve heard a number of different numbers on seating: how many can you seat?
About 1,100 seating, about half of it inside. The beer garden seats 376, and a vorgarten that seats 46. That’s where you go for vorplay!
It’s all very much outside, the gartens, if it rains you get wet?
Oh, yeah! An indoor beer garden wouldn’t be right.
Your menu’s online, right?
Menu’s up online (PDF warning), there may be a few changes. We’ll have pretzels served tableside by pretzel girls, the rest of the food will be waitress-order. It’s pretty traditional Bavarian. We’ve strived to make about a third of the menu traditional Bavarian food: schweinshaxe, sauerbraten, those kind of things. One-third German-American stuff: bratwurst, mettwurst, schnitzel. And about one-third is right out of Applebee’s, American food. You can get what you want; just because it’s German, you don’t have to eat German. We want everyone to feel comfortable.
Thanks to Bob Batz of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for graciously providing Nick's contact info. First beer's on me, Bob...I think I owe you a couple!