After years of construction and multiple delays, the Hofbräuhaus German restaurant and brewery in Belleville quietly opened its doors to the public at 11 a.m. Tuesday.
Like a lot of metro-east residents, Steve Crowe of Freeburg has driven by the Hofbräuhaus construction site for years and watched the building rise.
On Tuesday, he spotted a Facebook message saying the Hofbräuhaus was opening at 11 a.m. He stopped by on his way home from work, since he was getting off early.
Crowe tried two beers: the dunkel and the seasonal Märzen.
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“The beer was good, as I expected it to be,” Crowe said. “I already recommended them to my brother-in-law, who is a home brewer.”
Ben Zollenkopf, who is the Hofbräuhaus brewmaster in Belleville, previously worked for the Hofbräuhaus corporate headquarters in Germany as technical director for international brewing.
“I’m satisfied,” Zollenkopf said of the Belleville beers.
Zollenkopf said a specialty beer will be produced each month. After the Märzen for March and April, a Maibock will be available in May. And in September and October, there will be two types of beer to celebrate Oktoberfest.
The brewmaster noted the St. Louis area is populated with home brewers and professional brewers, and he looks forward to beer aficionados trying the Hofbräuhaus beers.
“I hope we make everybody happy,” he said.
The Hofbräuhaus announced its opening with a Facebook post Tuesday morning.
“Many have been asking when our soft opening phase is going to start. How does today sound?” the Hofbräuhaus owners said on Facebook Tuesday morning. “We are open to the public starting at 11 a.m. today. These next couple weeks will be an opportunity to experience everything we have to offer ahead of our grand opening on April 18!”
Construction on the $12 million building began in 2015, and it was originally targeted to be open on June 1, 2016. Since then, the developers, Chuck Keller of Effingham and his son Chane Keller, had missed seven other targeted opening dates to open the restaurant and brewery off Illinois 15 across from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows.
Paulo Pacheco believes it was worth the wait to get the Hofbräuhaus open.
Pacheco, who previously was the executive chef and owner of Paulo’s at the Mansion restaurant in O’Fallon, is the vice president of operations for Oak Tree Management, the company overseeing the Hofbräuhaus for the Keller family.
“It’s more of a sense of accomplishment,” Pacheco said. “This was an amazing undertaking for a 30,000-square-foot building.
“The good news is we’re open. We employ over 150 people. This is great for the economic growth of the city, and I’m sure we are going to have a great revenue flow for the city," he said.
“While it had its challenges, I like to stay focused on the fact that we’ve achieved it, we’re here. We’re helping the economy of Belleville.”
Pacheco hopes to draw customers not just to the Hofbräuhaus but also to the Shrine and other businesses in the area.
The restaurant’s website states the hours will be 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday. Bands playing German music along with some pop songs are scheduled to play every night
The Hofbräuhaus hosted its first event last Wednesday, when the Young Professionals group of the Greater Belleville Chamber of Commerce was invited to get a taste of the Hofbräuhaus beer and food.
The Kellers have said they have the exclusive franchise rights for the Hofbräuhaus in the St. Louis metropolitan area. Their marketing plan calls for seeking customers not only from the metro-east but also from throughout the St. Louis region and the Midwest. Billboards have already gone up in the St. Louis area.
The Hofbräuhaus is modeled after the Munich, Germany-based Hofbräuhaus, which traces its roots to 1589.
The Belleville City Council in 2015 granted the Kellers tax incentives worth up to $32.36 million based on revenue generated at the site. The Kellers have proposed building hotels and other restaurants on the site, but construction on these projects has not begun.