The craft brewing boom isn’t just for new brewers and brands. Some of the industry’s old favorites are getting re-inspired, revamping their focus, branding and re-entering the market (to get technical, they are Hulking Up, brother). The latest example is Midwestern staple Berghoff Brewing.
First, a little history. The first batch of Berghoff beer was brewed in 1887 by Herman Berghoff and his three brothers, Henry, Hubert and Gustav. Demand for their beer grew with astonishing speed, and by 1890, the brothers were producing 90,000 barrels (bbls) of lager annually. A showcase at the 1892 Chicago World’s Fair put Berghoff on the national map, expanding its reach into new markets and introducing hundreds of thousands of new drinkers to their authentic German-style beers.
During World War I, the brothers cemented their brewing company’s place in American history, changing their slogan from “a real German brew” to “a real honest brew” in honor of their adopted homeland. In a bold show of American ingenuity, Berghoff produced soft drinks, including a root beer and a malt tonic, throughout Prohibition, and was the first to return to production and sale of alcoholic beers when the Volstead Act was repealed, pouring at The Berghoff, the first liquor license to be re-granted in Chicago.
This summer, Berghoff Brewing will revive its famed beers, breathing new life into this classic brand. Thanks to updated branding, new recipes and a move to the Stevens Point Brewery, Berghoff aims to capture a larger audience of beer lovers with its revamped product brought forth by the same work ethic that has driven the company for more than 120 years. Berghoff’s new brews will be available beginning this June in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and Indiana.
“Berghoff is a true Midwestern beer,” said owner Ben Minkoff, whose family has owned General Beverage Distributors for the past 80 years and purchased the Berghoff brand in 1994. “It was the first beer brewed and served in Chicago after the repeal of Prohibition; then, in 1960, Berghoff began brewing their beers in Wisconsin, where it will continue to be brewed today. We want to bring back a sense of pride in drinking a hometown beer that is such a critical part of this region’s brewery history.”
Minkoff consulted with brewing experts Randy Mosher and John Hannfan to create the recipes for the German-style beers that will be brewed at the production facility in Stevens Point. Mosher is an acknowledged craft beer expert, whose books include Tasting Beer (Storey, 2009) and Radical Brewing (Brewers Publications, 2003.) An accomplished designer, he also contributed to Berhgoff’s new packaging and brand messaging. Hannafan is owner of John Hannafan & Assoc., a brewery and brewing consultancy firm located in Chicago.
Minkoff and his sales team have put together an aggressive marketing plan to introduce Berghoff to new consumers, which will include: street teams; extensive samplings and promotions at targeted bars, restaurants and beer stores; and a smart social media outreach, largely centered in Chicago; Milwaukee; and Madison, Wisc., to start.
Berghoff will launch seven new brews, led by the seasonal Solstice Wit Beer (5.2 percent ABV). Made with Calamansi juice, an Asian citrus fruit, and spices, Solstice Wit is a refreshing summery beer from a long tradition of unfiltered wheat beers.
Solstice Wit joins Berghoff’s other major year-round labels:
- Straight Up Hefeweizen (5.2 percent ABV), a Bavarian hefe-weizen, with the creamy goodness of wheat, plus a fruity and spicy nose;
- Dortwunder Lager (5.5 percent ABV), a classic and evenly balanced pale lager in the Dortmunder tradition;
- Reppin’ Red Ale, Malt & Rye (6.2 percent ABV), a serious red ale that mixes tangy rye and crisp toasted malts with plenty of American hop character;
- Sir Dunkle Crispy Dark Lager (5.5 percent ABV), smooth and malty, with a bright crispness, making a drinkable and very satisfying beer.
Berghoff will also introduce the first beer in its Überbier Series, Germaniac Extra Pale Ale (6.3 percent ABV), brewed with honey and molasses, it will be a briskly hopped extra pale ale patterned after the old “outlaw” beer style, Kottbüsser.
“These beers are what Berghoff is all about: well-made, interesting beers that are easy to drink and suitable for any occasion all year round,” Minkoff said. “We’re proud of our updated portfolio, and we look forward to sharing them with old fans and a whole lot of new consumers who have never tried Berghoff before.”