Robert Makein grew up 4,000 miles from Columbus in Dusseldorf, Germany, where breweries and beer gardens are institutions comparable to churches and city halls. As the Hofbrauhaus Columbus brewmaster puts it: "You don't really need to explain to anyone what Hofbrauhaus is in Germany."
Robert Makein grew up 4,000 miles from Columbus in Dusseldorf, Germany, where breweries and beer gardens are institutions comparable to churches and city halls. As the Hofbrauhaus Columbus brewmaster puts it: "You don't really need to explain to anyone what Hofbrauhaus is in Germany." Makein has been brewing since he was 16, eventually enrolling at Doemens school and brewery in Munich, where his work caught the attention of Hofbrauhaus. He's been in the States since 2012, formerly at Hofbrauhaus' Pittsburgh and Newport, Kentucky, outposts before taking the reins at the Grandview brewpub, whose 300-seat outdoor beer garden will open in April. hofbrauhauscolumbus.com
In Germany, you had to go to school for three years to brew on a commercial level. Do you think this process sets German brewers apart? Unfortunately, I have to say yes. Sometimes it pushes people forward. They have much more passion, I would say. Three years is a long time. I may be a little bit old-fashioned; I like the German education. Sometimes you have beer you don't like, but it's still good. What happens here is you have a beer that has, say, an infection (subpar experimental beers kegged and sold for novelty). And that happens more than once, and you think, "Eh, so sad." Maybe that's because they experiment with pumpkin, [that] kind of stuff. That's interesting, absolutely-but sometimes you think, "No, maybe you should not do this."
On the flip side, what do you enjoy about American beer culture? What I really like is a peanut butter porter-something really, really outstanding. "Wow, you can do this with beer, and it tastes good?" There's just so much variety of what you can do. It is an open field.
In contrast to Germany, with the national purity law? Yes. Starting in 1516, [beer] was just water, malt, hops. And in 1516 they had no idea about yeast, so they added yeast later to the law. These are the four ingredients we can use, the only ingredients you'll find in [Hofbrauhaus] beer.
As a brewer, does this make you feel as if your hands are tied? I'd say no. I think it protects the customer from a bad beer. You just get four natural ingredients. We don't add any chemicals to get the pH better, to get the flavor more flavorful or a quicker fermentation. And that's what I like. You cannot get a fresher beer than this.
The traditionally tall head on Hofbrauhaus beers-that's meant to be a sign of freshness? That's the reason why sometimes we get complaints. "The glass is not full." That's true. It's not full because you want to have this head in your glass-you then know it's fresh. Because bacteria eats the protein in the foam, and that would destroy the foam.
And Hofbrauhaus also serves its beer at one consistent temperature? We serve our beer at 42 degrees, so it's still cold, but you'll never find a frozen mug. The reason why you cannot find it here is we still want to taste the beer. That's what I don't understand about that commercial-"triple filtered and ice cold." Ice cold? I don't get why you should do this. But they're selling a lot of beer, so they're doing something right.
You moved to Columbus last August. Since then, have any local breweries caught your eye? I had the opportunity before we opened to see almost all breweries in Columbus. There are a lot of interesting breweries that make a lot of good beer. I was surprised by Zauber Brewing. They have a German-trained brewmaster making really good beer-all of the beers are really drinkable, really easy, nothing off-flavor. The other cool brewery here-that I think, "Wow, that's a great idea"-is Seventh Son. For me, it's a very American craft brewery, in a garage, getting bigger and bigger.