An old Scottish prayer begs for deliverance from “long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night.” At Hofbräuhaus Las Vegas, modeled after a 423-year-old Bavarian institution, the beasties are corseted barmaids slinging shots, the bumps are spankings, and nobody wants to be delivered. If you buy a T-shirt the spankers will sign it, though I know a guy who convinced one to jot “Olga was here” above his crack instead.
But Hofbräu’s promise of “Oktoberfest every day” goes way beyond Olga. She’s there primarily to serve beer in steins so enormous that hoisting one qualifies as a workout. There is a half-liter option, but tourists love tackling the two-liter boot—the equivalent of nearly six American beers.
On a recent Saturday I split the difference with a liter of seasonal brew ($15.95). It was dark without being thick and strong without being bitter, and my comrades attested to the tastiness of Hofbräu original lager, dunkel and hefeweizen ($14.95). All are imported from Munich, where beer is crafted with the same finesse as a BMW. Hoping to avoid utter drunkenness before it was fully dark outside, we ordered a Jumbo Complete soft pretzel. It’s meal-priced at $13.50, but one hot, fluffy, salty knot feeds a foursome and comes with two mustard dips and a spread of brie, butter and spices devilish enough to deserve its own love tap from Olga’s paddle.
The featured band, Trio Musischwung, whipped the main hall into a frenzy of singing and swinging steins. They played “Sweet Caroline” and oompah classics, the U.S. national anthem and the Ricola commercial’s three-note ditty. Hearing the Star Wars theme on the alpenhorn was almost as surprising as the trumpet solo played between the legs of the accordionist, who didn’t even flinch. But the biggest shock of the night was the Canadian grandma who almost pulled an upset in the stein-holding contest. A full liter weighs 3 pounds, and she held it at arm’s length longer than most of the men, ultimately losing to a hipster in a plunging V-neck (if the Vancouver Olympics taught us anything, it’s that Canada can’t quite get there in the clutch).
My arm, admittedly about as buff as a Q-tip, ached just holding the empty glass, so I decided to change it up at Pete’s Dueling Piano Bar. A Texas brand, Pete’s calls for a gunslinger-friendly drink that makes up in potency what it lacks in girth. In short, whiskey. I favor a little smoke on the finish, but the vinegar aftertaste of Hofbräu cabbage called for something sweeter. Crown on the rocks melts just right (way to redeem yourself, Canada!), and Pete’s didn’t add any unnecessary water.
Neither did it water down the entertainment for faint-of-hearts in the audience. Three musicians played the hell out of two pianos, mixing in some raunchy sit-down, stand-up comedy. We’re talking LMFAO, Kenny Rogers and a very dirty version of the Hokey Pokey. Their “Sweet Caroline” got a better response from the crowd than Musischwung got at Hofbräu, but to be fair, there were more Texans in the house.
They dominated the classic country tearjerker “Lucille” and the supplemental chorus of “you bitch, you slut, you whore,” directed at one lucky spectator (in this case, a bald guy who was not amused). But the musicians flipped the mood completely by spotlighting a young man on his last night out before deploying to Afghanistan. Other men and women in the service joined him onstage for “God Bless the U.S.A.,” and for a moment, a bunch of hammered strangers were part of something bigger, something powerful.
The bachelorette sucking booze out of a fishbowl brought me back to Earth, to the cigarette smoke and the Texans exuberantly spanking each other (at least they weren’t charging). My group waited and waited for the pianist who looks like Meat Loaf to play some Meat Loaf, but apparently, a $5 tip is low priority—even more disappointing when we realized we could have gotten a third of a Hofbräu pretzel instead. Sometimes, punishment is just punishment.