Brothers Hofbrau, 1960
Continuing my Michelob series, which started with Part I, below is a striking advertisement/menu for Brothers Hofbrau in Phoenix, Arizona. It was placed in the Phoenix Jewish News in October 1960 (via Chronicling America).
Author and journalist Jon Talton recalled Phoenix’ Central Avenue of this period in a blogpost, with evocative photos. He notes the street was home to many restaurants and bars.
Today the block looks very different, glossy block towers rule.
By the tenor of the ad, it appears Hofbrau was the latest addition to a restaurant group in the city owned by the Brothers.
Draught Michelob was featured, the only draught mentioned, still all-malt in 1960 and considered perhaps America’s best beer. 55 bottled beers are also offered, all imported. The selection likely varied over time.
We saw recently how imported beer was gaining ground in this period, bettering the growth of domestic beer.
The menu is surprisingly diverse, a pot pourri of Jewish, Central European, Irish, and American cuisine.
Jewish deli with a difference, one might say.
Michelob does not feature, here, to highlight any Jewish connections to beer. Beer is not an element of Jewish foodways, and has no specific resonance in Jewish culture. There are many connections between Jews and brewing, as I have often discussed, but in other areas: science and business, notably.
The term Hofbrau evidently was used in just a general way, underpinning a focus on world beers.
In the schema I’ve discussed, the correct inference is American beer bar, or beer specialty house. For its time and in a different way Hank’s Tavern of 1930s Hudson Valley, New York was comparable.
The year, 1960, is quite early to offer 55 imported beers. The now-defunct Brickskeller in Georgetown, D.C., inaugurated in 1957, was more famously a postwar beer bar.
The Ghosts of D.C. site in 2012 reproduced a Brickskeller ad in the Washington Post from 1957. Three draught beers were offered, type not stated, and 46 bottled beers.
(In later decades Brickskeller sold only bottled beer, but in great number. It finally brought draft back: see in the Washington Post again, Fritz Hahn’s 2005 article).
Brickskeller also offered a diverse food selection, Continental European judging by its early ad. Brothers Hofbrau seems to have been a kind of Western equivalent.
Had the Brothers named their restaurant PhoenixBrau – not a bad name when you think about it – the analogy to a Brickskeller, or say, Tommy’s Joynt in San Francisco, becomes clearer.
All were of the same type, deracinated or American beer bar. Note how the Brickskeller ad of 1957 disavowed being a “Rathskeller”.
A quality beer at such places denoted a top example of the brewer’s art, meant for the true beer fan; gourmet beer here did not function (primarily) as cultural touchstone, status symbol, or tribal totem.
One wishes these early beer lists were available. The Brickskeller became in time an international beer destination. So did Tommy’s Joynt, in its way.
Perhaps because of its location, this did not happen with Brothers Hofbrau.
According to the site Malls of America, the Thomas Mall in Phoenix, built in 1963 at 44th St. and Thomas Road, featured a Brothers Hofbrau. A contributor to the Phoenix forum of the City-Data site wrote in 2008:
… [Thomas Mall’s] Brothers Hofbrau Deli, with its famously cranky staff [had] amazing round honey crisps and succulent, kraut-drenched hot dogs.
Beer was not mentioned; perhaps the writer was not a maven. This branch lasted until about 1985, according to these discussions.
It was common at the time for established mid-town restaurants to open in the malls then spreading across suburban America. They were following their customers, many of whom had departed the city centre.
Such a location for Brothers Hofbrau reinforces the inference of undifferentiated American beer bar.
As all early malls in Phoenix, Thomas Mall was torn down years ago, as explained in this page. It and Brothers Hofbrau are now of history.
Much American beer and restaurant history remains surprisingly occult, by which I mean, concealed, unknown. Here is a small corner, deconstructed at any rate, à la Beer et Seq.