Maxime Trijol Classic XO

Maxime Trijol XO

Score: 80/100

Origin: Cognac, France

Type: Brandy

ABV: 40%

The Maxime Trijol Grand Classic range consists a blend of eaux-de-vie made from mostly Ugni Blanc grapes that have been been grown in various Cognac “crus”, and then matured in French oak.  Information about which “crus” make up the Grand Classic range are particularly difficult to find, which gives me the impression that this information is not available from official sources. Make of it what you will, but as the below tasting notes show, the Maxime Trijol Classic XO seemed a somewhat slumber Cognac that may not appease serious Cognac drinkers.

Nose:

Minty toothpaste, peppery spice, papaya, dried dates, pitted prunes, brandied orange, lemon peel and soft black licorice emerge in what is quite a sugary bouquet, which is occasionally broken up by the occasional sting of alcohol and whiff of powdered milk.

Palate:

Fruit, dried figs, raisin, mild spice, oak and milk chocolate are soon overtaken by a minty freshness, and the palate then sweetens again with the faint flicker of spices.

Finish:

The finish is Sweet and syrupy with notes of cherry jubilee, chocolate sauce and toasted marshmallow.

Bottom line: 

Consider buying it, if you like Cognac with a sugary sweet edge. Maxime Trijol XO was a very enjoyable Cognac, though it did strike me as somewhat one dimensional with an over emphasis on fruit and sugars. That is by no means a bad thing, because it just comes down to taste. If you are after a fine sipping Cognac with sweet sugary notes, buy it. If you are looking for a Cognac with more rigid wood spice and adventurous rancio notes, stay away. It did not really strike a chord with me, and I doubt this Cognac will entertain the serious brandy aficionado. For most of the population, though, it seems to be a good XO cognac.

Match with: 

This Cognac serves as a great palate cleanser, and it matched particularly well with more bitter or tangy desserts – dark chocolate, citrus or fresh raspberry based desserts, for example.

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Malt Mileage Interviews Hellyers Road Chief Distiller Mark Littler

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Hellyers Road whisky bottles lined up, ready to drink!

1 – Why did Hellyer’s Road start production? Can you tell us a little bit about the distillery?

Hellyers Road Distillery is owned by parent company Betta Milk, Tasmania’s second largest branded milk processor. Following deregulation of the Milk Industry in 1994 the then Board of Directors investigated, and fortuitously considered the possibility of digressing into single malt production. There are synergies between milk and whisky production and after the required due diligence was conducted, an approval to proceed was granted. This was a very bold move at the time as single malt distilling in Tasmania was fledgling and the market narrow. A recent renaissance in whisky consumption combined with the excellent quality of Tasmanian whiskies has made the decision quite visionary.

2 - Is there a distinctive flavour profile that you aim to achieve when fermenting the wort and then distilling the wash? Do you also select casks to achieve this flavour profile? Do you tailor different products for different palettes?

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Getting whisky ready for market

Our core range of single malts are characterised by citrus tones of lemon and orange. We strive for consistency in this regard using pretty much the same Tasmanian barley strain and employing uniform distilling processes. To us, it’s very important that we maintain a consistency of product so our customers can purchase their favourite Hellyers Road single malt confident that the flavour characteristics they enjoy won’t differ. Outside of the core range which is matured in American Oak (ex-bourbon), we also have whiskies that have been finished or matured in casks formerly housing Pinot Noir and Port. We have also just taken stock of Spanish Sherry casks and will release a Sherry profile single malt down the track. We believe it is the quality of the timber and the time spent in maturation that is instrumental in the finish. Of course having a climate conducive to single malt production, high grade raw products and superb drinking water also contributes significantly to the end result.

3 – Speaking of distinctive products, I have tried the Hellyer’s Road 12 year old and it struck me as a challenging and quite unique whisky with bold floral notes. Are you targeting any particular sector of the market with this product?

First of all, allow us to congratulate you on your discerning choice in this regard!

We are very proud of the 12 Year which has really benefited from the extra time spent in timber. The fact that we mature our whiskies only in 200 litre casks enables us to develop fantastic aged statement whiskies, the 12 Year being our flagship. Having said that our 10 Year remains the Nation’s highest selling locally distilled single malt.

While we didn’t specifically target a sector for this varietal, we are finding that many traditional single malt drinkers are providing very positive feedback, which is most gratifying. Overseas travellers shopping at duty free outlets have also taken a very strong shine to the 12 Year, possibly because the canister presents so well. Once they try what’s inside however, the aesthetics of the presentation become secondary.

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Malt Mileage finds that Hellyers Road pairs nicely with food

4 – While Hellyer’s road 12 year old is pretty challenging on its own, it is one of my favourite whiskies to match with either a cigar (with a Sumatra wrapper which seems to offer complimentary floral notes, for the cigar snobs among us), or a blue cheese/goats cheese. In one sitting and without much notice I finished four drams of Hellyer’s Road 12 year old and a Rocky Patel Decades, and went to bed with a big smile on my face. Would you agree that Hellyer’s Road is particularly well matched with food? What foods would you recommend Malt Mileage readers try with particular Hellyer’s Road expressions?

Any of our single malts can be matched up with complimentary food types. Recently we held a five – course degustation dinner at our Visitor Centre in Burnie with each dish being paired to a Hellyers Road single malt. The Hon Jeff Kennett AC was our guest on the night and proclaimed that our distillery is “on the verge of greatness”, which was most humbling. On that occasion our 12 Year was matched with hot smoked Ocean Trout, baby potatoes, celeriac remoulade, crisp green leaves, horse radish cream and citrus oil while our Pinot Noir Finish varietal was teamed with a seared duck breast and orange marmalade, creamy carrot puree, sautéed spinach, tea soaked currents with pinot jus. We intend doing more food and whisky events in 2015.

5 – Why do you think people choose to buy Australian whisky, including Hellyer’s Road?

Australians are generally a pretty patriotic lot so if an Australian made product is worthy of their hard-earned then they will lean towards it, as long as the quality matches the price point. Tasmanian single malts have certainly grabbed the attention of whisky drinkers in recent times with a number of major awards from around the world going to our distilleries. That has driven the reputation of Tasmanian single malts to great heights and deservedly so. Tasmania has some of the best drinking water in the world, a pristine environment and a climate that is not unlike parts of Scotland. Add to these things our high quality, locally grown grain and you can see why people are gravitating to our whisky.

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Bottling line

6 – As a whisky blogger sometimes I need to ask some hard questions. I notice that the Hellyer’s Road 12 year old currently sells for $99.50 and the “Original” for $80.50. I see the 10 year old is $88.99. That is very good value, because most Australian whiskies sell for over $100 and usually much more – and in some cases they are no age statement whiskies! What is the idea behind the Hellyer’s Road price point and how can you afford to sell whisky at that price, given the high taxes on alcohol production in Australia?

It may look like we are the martyrs of our industry by sacrificing margin to drive sales but really this is not our intent. We are happy to proclaim that we over deliver on value and are happy to sacrifice margin knowing that the Hellyers Road range is price friendly and therefore attainable to a wider market. We can do this primarily because we are the Nation’s largest single malt distillery with a sizeable inventory and guaranteed continuity of supply. We presently hold over 2000 casks at Bond  and while we consider our single malt range to be premium, the price point doesn’t necessarily reflect this. We believe our market situation is very healthy and most of the Nation’s major liquor wholesalers would agree.

7 – What three words do you want people to associate with Hellyer’s Road (not including “bloody”, “good”, “value”!)?

Well apart from those three, which typify our whisky nicely, I would have to say that, classy, smooth and consistent are attributes people could definitely relate to when enjoying a Hellyers Road single malt.

8 – Do you have a favourite whisky?

Not that I’m biased of course but I sincerely love our 12 Year and I’m very proud of it. Outside of Hellyers Road I really enjoy the Glenlivet range which I find very light and consistent. Most of the Tasmanian whiskies are very easy to consume too.

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Mark Littler looking proud at Hellyers Road

9 – What made you become a distiller? Have you noticed Australian whisky change over the last few years? If so, how?

My employer, Betta Milk actually steered me to distilling!

My training was in Food Science having attained a Bachelor of Food Science degree from the University of Melbourne. I would never have dreamt back then that I would one day become a distiller of single malt whisky, let alone for the Nation’s largest single malt distillery!

As mentioned earlier in this interview, there are definite synergies between dairy production and whisky distilling so the transition, while complex, was not as daunting as I first imagined. These days I wear two hats managing both the milk and whisky operations.

The biggest change I’ve seen during my time in the industry is the re-emergence of single malt whisky as a drink of choice. We are seeing a whole new demographic enjoying and appreciating whisky right around the world. These are exciting times for us!

10 – Any chance of reviewing the Hellyers Road Hellyers Legacy The Gorge Single Malt and the Pinot finish?

Of course, we will be only too happy to provide samples of these two whiskies. The Gorge which is a limited edition release was adjudged Australia’s second best single malt earlier this year in the MWSOA Awards while the Pinot Noir Finish was recognised as Best New World Whisky in blind tastings conducted at last year’s Whisky Live – Paris. I’ll be surprised if both of these don’t hit the spot!

11 – Do you have anything else you would like our readers to know about you or Hellyer’s Road?

Whisky lovers can enjoy a visit to our Visitor Centre in Burnie which currently attracts over 20,000 people each year. We have a delightful café, cellar door sales, a tasting counter and guided distillery tour (Whisky Walk). A unique aspect of the Whisky Walk is the opportunity for visitors to pour and wax-seal their very own bottle of cask strength Hellyers Road Distillers Choice whisky.

The centre is open daily from 10am to 4.30pm. Perhaps we can entice you to visit us and experience our journey, first hand?

Check out the website by visiting: www hellyersroaddistilery.com.au

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Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve (Nicaragua)

Name:  Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve
Score:  85/100
Origin: Nicaragua  
Cigar details: The Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve line is comprised on Nicaraguan and Honduran long fillers encased in a dark Nicaraguan wrapper. They are hand made in the Flor de Copan factory in Honduras.
Draw: Excellent
Burn: Excellent
Construction: Excellent
Strength: Medium, gradually becoming fuller as the cigar is smoked
Flavours: The first few puffs are hugely disappointing – burning paper and bonfire burn the back palate with rigid embers, though notes of cedar, wood, citrus and pepper come through the smoky haze of harshness.Without warning, the harshness mellows about two centimeters or so into the stick. The bonfire taste mellows, to the point where it fades completely. Magic happens. The cigar becomes extremely integrated and smooth, with pronounced citrus, cocoa, ground coffee, mild creaminess, hints of honey, cedar, edamame, dried parsley and a sweet peppery heart – capsicum, crisp fresh peppers and bull horn chilies, not cracked pepper. The tobacco smoke is moderately dense, but no means overbearing. It is very puff-able. This is the sweet spot, and the cigar smokes impeccably from a few centimeters to around the half way point.  Just this part of the cigar would easily score into the 90’s – superb. The sharp contrast from the harsh beginning makes this part of the cigar especially pleasant, because the taste buds seem so relieved to finally sit back and enjoy the party.At half way, the harshness returns. Bonfire embers burn the back palate, and sit in the upper throat with the nagging taste of burning paper.

Two thirds into the cigar, the bonfire harshness recedes and the cigar now becomes much more noticeably fuller – find hazelnuts, coal fire, wood, dark cocoa and perfumed soap infused in the dense tobacco smoke. The cigar quickly becomes hot to draw, however, and the revival is short lived.

Format:  Toro
Match with: Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve is a medium to full cigar with lots of varying temperaments. Try it with something that can douse those occasional harsh embers, but which will compliment the impeccable “sweet spot” – a Corona with lemon and similar style crisp lager is recommended.
Bottom line: Seriously consider buying it.  Romeo y Julieta Habana Reserve took me on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs – a harsh start was followed by a sensationally smooth and flavourful experience which lasted until the cigar’s half way point, at which some harshness re-emerged until the cigar regained some full flavoured magic only to stumble again towards the nub of the cigar and become a tad too hot to handle. The cigar’s “sweet spot” and subsequent stint of full flavoured magic is, in my opinion, well worth buying this cigar and the long filler tobacco leaf tells quite an entertaining story of ups and downs.*Thank you to cigarscity.com for the stick! 
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Smokehead

SmokeheadScore: 93/100

Origin: Islay, Scotland

Type: Single malt whisky

ABV: 43%

Price: $A58 (Aus), US$44-$60 (USA)

Ian MacLeod distillers, the makers of the peat free Glengoyne, have decided to share with the world its take on peat and release Smokehead. There are no stories of pristine streams and impressive peat bogs to tell you about. Ian MacLeod distillers seem to skip all that and instead let the whisky speak for itself. Smokehead is a single malt from Islay and while the distillery from which it is taken may be top secret, one thing is clear: this smoky delight is seriously good whisky. The whisky told me so.

Nose:

Vanilla, raisin, caramel, watermelon and cantaloupe are interwoven with peat, and a mild maritime note – imagine a vodka rinsed oyster with sour cream and chives, coriander and a slither of ginger – gently shines in the foreground with sea salt, lemon, zingy brown vinegar, earthy pear and the dusty cocoa from a cappuccino. Rich layers of oiliness and creaminess seem to define the bouquet of this whisky, along with the curious notes of crinkle cut crisps/chips – sour cream and chives, balsamic vinegar and sea salt, and, lemon and cracked pepper especially. It might be because of, one thinks, the oily undertones in this whisky. Lovely stuff!

Palate:

On the entry the peat explodes on the palate with notes of honey, citrus and passion fruit, but then it softens momentarily allowing toffee apple, chocolate, vanilla and salty maritime notes to shine though. The peace is short-lived, and a surge of peat returns only to fade slowly into the finish.

Finish:

On the finish the increasingly softening peat intermingles with fudge, lemon drops, cracked pepper and warming chili.

Bottom line:

Buy it! At its price, Smokehead is probably the best value peaty single malt on the market – its big, bold, fiery and is happy to give you a solid Scottish punch in the mouth just in case you’re not paying attention. This is a whisky for the peat lovers, as the name suggests, but don’t expect any labyrinthine oaky complexity – this is mostly supercharged peat, pure and simple but so delicious it hurts thinking how much I’ve paid for other peaty pleasures.

Match with:

This whisky was delicious with medium bodied oily cigars. Try it dashed over oysters or with some smoked salmon. Liven it all up with some sprigs of coriander and red chili. Even better, lobby your local Chinese restaurant to get a bottle of Smokehead and try it with steamed XO oysters.   

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Reisetbauer 7 year old

reisetbauer 7

Score: 88/100

Origin: Austria

Type: Whisky

ABV: 43%

Price: $US85 (USA)

Reisetbauer is a distillery in Austria that produces brandy and whisky.  In 1995 Reisetbauer started distilling malt whisky that was designed to be (and is) distinctly Austrian. The barley used to make the wash is grown on the distillery owner’s four hectares of land and once the wash is distilled the new make spirit is matured in Chardonnay and Trockenbeerenauslese casks sourced exclusively from Austrian vineyards and used by Austrian winemakers Alois Kracher and Heinz Velich. Just in case you are wondering how on Earth to pronounce Trockenbeerenauslese, it is TROCK-en-BEHR-en-OWS-lay-zeh.

Reisetbauer’s use of Austrian Chardonnay and Trockenbeerenauslese casks to mature their whisky is a breath of fresh air in an industry dominated by whisky aged in the bourbon casks, sherry casks or port casks. Wine casks are certainly becoming increasingly popular for ageing or finishing whisky, but the use of Trockenbeerenauslese casks by Reisetbauer is something particularly special. This is because Trockenbeerenauslese is a notoriously expensive dessert wine that is made from grapes that, once affected by a form of fungus known as “noble rot”, are individually selected and handpicked one by one. Shriveled and raisin-like from the “noble rot”, the grapes produce a wine with an intensely sweet and rich flavour.

In this review Malt Mileage tastes the Reisetbauer 7 year old.

Nose:

Immediately floral notes appear, with in particular potpourri and wilted rose petals, intermingling with chili dark hot chocolate and a foamy scented soap alongside a burning wax candle and undertones of vanilla. In typical Reisetbauer fashion, this whisky delivers such a unique bouquet that shifts its form as it rests in the glass. The floral and soapy notes soften as the whisky rests, and out comes fabric, gym socks and leather boxing mitts with sweet brandied orange segments dusted in cocoa and green peppercorns. Then a nuttiness develops, almost roasted chestnuts but not quite, as the chocolate theme continues but in the form of milk chocolate coated hazelnuts. The spritz of lime sits in the background, flickering gently but never really competing with the other aromas. With some more time, cherry ripe appears – coconut, dark chocolate and dried cherries – with notes of white wine that become more pronounced with each sniff.  

Palate:

Find chocolate, vanilla, honey, caramel, mars bar and mixed berries on the entry, and then coconut, hints of wood and a quick shimmer of floral scented soap at mid-palate, which quickly fades into the finish. Also mid way through the berries become darker and slightly sour for a moment, but then a sweetness takes over.

Finish:

On the finish the whisky sweetens with syrupy and sappy sugars, cherry chocolate liqueur and ice cream sticks with a powdery note similar to vanilla and strawberry protein powder and nutmeg.  That would make Arnie happy, no doubt!  

Bottom line:

Consider it! Reisetbauer 7 year old struck me as a whisky with a nice balance that took me on an interesting roller coaster ride of flavours. It is less herbal than the Reisetbauer 12 year old, but an enjoyable whisky that showcases the unique way whisky can develop in Austrian wine casks to produce some delicious flavours – especially honey, floral, caramel, powdery and berry notes. It may, as a result, have some flavours that whisky drinkers are not commonly used to… but that isn’t a reason to snub this excellent Austrian whisky. Give it a go. 

Match with:

This whisky matched nicely with a mild to medium cigar made with a Sumatran wrapper cigar, to bring out its floral notes. It also went particularly well with an ACID Blondie to draw out the honey and caramels. In terms of food, try it with a berry cheesecake to really accentuate the berry and sugary notes.

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Croizet XO Gold

Croizet XOScore: 92/100

Origin: Cognac, France

Type: Brandy

ABV: 40%

Price: A$179 (Aus), $US100 (USA)

Croizet XO Gold is made up of eaux-de-vie made from grapes that have been grown in the Grande Champagne region of Cognac in France, which is probably the most sought after Cognac “cru” because the chalky soil in Grande Champagne is known to help produce grapes that can be made into brandy with qualities for which Cognac is famous – finesse is among them. Once the grapes are made into wine and the wine is distilled into brandy, Croizet place the brandy in French oak barrels for a minimum of 10 years so that it can mellow and draw out flavours from the oak.

Nose: 

Soft fig, dates, brandied cherries and almond sit beneath wood notes that waft up with spices – at first pine and cedar is most noticeable, and then varnished wood hits the nostrils as it tingles with a teasing sweetness and lashes of dryness that is almost Oloroso or Fino cask in character. As the brandy rests, mint notes develop with licorice – quite toothpasty, if that’s a word, but delightful all the same. The fruit then sweetens, and it morphs into raspberry confectionery as hints of cocoa, vanilla, ground coffee and cigarette tobacco liven up the bouquet. The spice is the star of the show, so subtle and yet so vivid with its fiery pepper undertones carrying cardamom, cloves and dried chilli. Something savory then flickers, similar to Worcestershire sauce but for the Mexican aficionados among you also resembling Chipotle sauce. Just when the aroma dims from an overtired nose, mushrooms sautéed in butter and some pepper leap out.

Palate:

On the palate the brandy is initially smooth with the crystalline sugary sweetness of marmalade, dried dates and glazed cherries, and then the oak hits at mid-palate with lots of spice. The ethanol progressively becomes more aggressive in-tandem with the increasingly prominent oak notes, with anise seed from the eaux-de-vie brightening up the palate with mint – this is a distiller’s dream, the alcohol itself is really interesting even without the oak influence.

Finish:

The finish is drying and bitter, with notes of vinegar and saffron intermingling with a mildly sweet pear salad with balsamic and salt.

Bottom line:

Buy it. Croizet XO Gold is an interesting, complex and entertaining brandy that offers a variety of flavours that marry together nicely. The oak is big and bold, but the fruity heart of eaux-de-vie softens it at the right times to make for a cognac that is extremely drinkable. This is not a boring Cognac. Far from it. This is a Cognac that kept me sniffing and tasting with interest, and with each sniff and taste new aromas and flavours would emerge. It is a bit steeply priced for an XO Cognac, but its price is not overly excessive and I think it offers decent – though by no means excellent – value for what you are getting.

Match with:

A mild to medium cigar, such as a Macanudo or a Romeo y Julieta compliment the Cognac nicely. As for food, this struck me as a versatile Cognac that went well with a variety of foods.

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Munich Brauhaus, Docklands

Munich Brauhaus Munich Brauhaus on Urbanspoon

A few minutes walk west of Crown casino lies of a strip of restaurants by the Yarra river, and among them is the very spacious Munich Brauhaus – an oasis of flowing beer, sauerkraut and wiener schnitzel all served by mostly young Germanesque looking men and women.  The sound of German music fills the air, and after a stein or two and some schnapps you will want to be dancing in some Lederhosen in no time!

Malt Mileage has had the opportunity to visit Munich Brauhaus several times, and this post is intended to take you through our boozy beer filled journey of crackling and schnapps. Here we go!

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Schweinshaxe (Pork Knuckle)

Schweinshaxe (Pork Knuckle) is our usual choice each time we visit Munich. The dish costs $34 and with a two sides (sauerkraut ($6) and red cabbage ($6)) it filled up two of us – though, admittedly, I did glug down a litre of beer.  The pork knuckle had a lot of lean meat under the skin, and the crackling was super über crispy though it was too salty. As I write this review, I have already drank four glasses and water.

wpid-10836499_10152581584064372_279612777_n.jpgThe beer at Munich Brauhaus was good. Not great. Good. Without getting too into it, the beers I have tried on tap at Munich have been enjoyable but I was not blown away by them. The range was impressive, and there were plenty of German style beers on tap which were offered in 300ml, 500ml and 1 litre glasses. The beer itself was served warmer than what we are used to in Australia, which I understand is the way beer is served in Germany – room temperature, not ice cold. That is a real shame, because while Munich Brauhaus should rightly be a little German escape my Australian palate was screaming out for a cold beer to compliment the salty pork crackling. My fault, I should order bottles from now on from the fridge (but drinking from those big German glasses is perfect to set the mood for the night!).

The dessert was delicious, and we tried the black forest cake and apple strudel. They were, without exaggerating, among the best German desserts I have had in Melbourne – big, made with care, nicely presented and packed with high quality ingredients. They were good value too, at $10 for the apple strudel and $11 for the black forest cake. 

Of course, no night at a German restaurant is complete without schnapps. Greta did not want any, so I happily had two – one for me and one for her. The first, Friesengeist (Frozen Ghost), is bottled at 56%abv and it is the clear liquid pictured above – find heavy anise seed notes with fresh bursts of mint. The second, Gletschereis (Glacier Ice), is bottled at 50%abv and it is the blue liquid pictured – find menthol undertones beneath a blanket of crystalline sugar, mild citrus rind and herbs in this refreshing schnapps. 

Overall, the food at Munich was good and the atmosphere was fun and energetic. Perfect for a fun night on the town. There is, however, an unspoken dark side of Munich Brauhaus that may appease some of the men that frequent the restaurant but which is clearly degrading and uncomfortable for the female staff who work there. The female staff wear a uniform that consists of a shirt and the shortest shorts you have ever seen, which seems to attract ogling from lots of men and some of the poor girls were freezing on one of the colder nights we visited Munich. I do hope the owners of Munich Brauhaus change this uniform, or at least give the girls the option to wear long pants or tights… at least on colder days. I’m sure they care about their staff, but perhaps no one ever brought it to their attention. We will see if it changes after this post. Otherwise, apart from the overly salty pork and the fact that it is sometimes very crowded and noisy, Munich Brauhaus is an enjoyable and fun place to guzzle down beer and and try out a few classic German dishes.  I will definitely be back!

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

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