Leeds bier keller memories

Two of the young women whose job it was to keep the steins topped up at the Hofbrauhaus.
Two of the young women whose job it was to keep the steins topped up at the Hofbrauhaus.
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Hidden away in the heart of the city, walking into one of Leeds’s newest hostelries is like stepping back in time.

The Bierkeller, which is nestled inside the old Bank of England building on the corner of Park Row and South Parade is uncannily similar to the Hofbrauhaus in the Merrion Centre which was a revellers favourite back in the 1970s.

The interior is far shinier but the true flavour of Bavaria - to drink and be merry - whilst foot stomping to the original Hofbrauhaus Oompah band lives on.

Leeds made history when the Hofbrauhaus first opened its doors in February 1972 because it was the first of its kind in Britain.

Hofbrau, the true Bavarian beer, flowed freely at the beer cellar which was expertly modelled on the world-famous Hofbrauhaus in Platzi Square, Munich.

Owned by Leeds family the Eckharts, it was the kind of place where fun-loving folk made friends and friends became even friendlier.

John Jose, 83, who lives in Bramley, was at the Hofbrauhaus on the opening night: “It was quite an event,” he said. “Digniatries from across Leeds were invited. People were dancing on the tables and the place was heaving.

“Leeds had never known anything like this before and it was a merry-go round of fun.

“The beer was free that night and the more it flowed, the livelier the place became.”

The size of the Hofbrauhaus was impressive and was made up of two areas - the more intimate Stubli Bar and the large baronial Stein Halle with enough room for 800 people.

From Monday to Saturday, around 30 Bavarian-costumed girls waited on long bench tables and their friendly, efficient service added to the buzzing atmosphere.

“The glitterati of Leeds, many of then unaccustomed to even mundane, noisy nightspots were open-mouthed as the rauscous music began and the drink started to flow at the Hofbrauhaus,” says Tony Lloyd, 63, a regular at the Hofbrauhaus.

“Drinkers were completely unused to the strength of the hofbrau beer and even less used to the small, innocent looking pot jugs appearing in their shadow containing lethal Schnapps.

“Barely an hour had gone by and normally sane people were stomping and stamping up and down the tables to the German music, encouraged by the bar owners to make as much noise as possible.

“The night flew by in a haze and Leeds taxis were in big demand.

From then on the venue was a must for Leeds people who enjoyed the demon drink and a very noisy night.

“My head aches just thinking about it.”

Draped awnings provided a splendid surround to the black wrought-iron light fittings, each carrying nine torches and deer heads added to the decor.

In 1976, the Yorkshire Evening Post teamed up with the Hofbrahaus to stage the annual Miss Hofbrau contest and many a talent contest took place there.

Disco fever often took over as aspiring John Travoltas and Olivia Newton Johns were seen strutting their stuff for the top prizes.

Evenings welcomed that age-old Bavarian delicacy bockwurst, served with sauerkraut or potato salad and washed down with a stein - or three.

The cellar boasted some of the most sophisticated refrigeration equipment in the country at that time to keep the beer at the crisp temperature it was accustomed to.

It was carried 800 miles in 40ft-long refrigerated vehicles from Munich to Leeds, each load consisting of 300, 50-litre barrels.

Tim Marshall has travelled the world covering foreign affairs for Sky News.

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