29 September 2009

KOTBR #86 - Berghoff at Mo'Joe Coffeehouse

A beer review in a coffeehouse? Perhaps that's not as weird as you might think. Certainly, beer at $1.25 a pop is an enticing prospect (this is the price for which Mo'Joe Coffeehouse -- 222 W. Michigan St., Indianapolis, 317.822.MOJO -- offers all Berghoff beers on Wednesdays). What's more, I think you'll find some pretty significant overlap between those who like good beer and those who like good coffee, though the caffeine might not be so good for you if you're a hardcore coffee drinker. Just ask RZA, who's a budding physician and knows his stuff (caffeine is "worse than anything"; "it'll give you the sh*ts").

So how was the beer? Here's the low-down two of Berghoff's offerings--

Berghoff Prairie Lager

A German Pilsner. Poured with a white, fizzy head, but was slightly darker in color than the straw hue that typically characterizes a Pilsner. Nose was fruity with white wine notes. A nice crisp mouthfeel, and a fruity, dry, and fairly hoppy flavor. Pretty much what you'd expect out of a classic Pilsner. 2.50 Mugs.

Berghoff Prarie Lager
Jim: 2.5 Mugs | Mike: 2.99 Mugs | Gina: 2.1 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 2.56 Mugs

Berghoff Sundown Dark

A Vienna Lager, which is one of my favorite beer styles. That meant that Sundown Dark had to be impressive to really make an impression on me. Poured a medium dark brown with an off-white head. Aroma was marked by yeast, caramel, and a bit of red grape (oddly enough). Didn't get any butterscotch out of the nose, which is what I typically pick up from a Vienna Lager. Thin mouthfeel with a flavor that carried faint caramel notes and a slight hop bite. A fair but not great representation of the style. 2.30 Mugs.

Berghoff Sundown Dark
Jim: 2.30 Mugs | Mike: 2.2 Mugs | Gina: 2.0 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 2.16 Mugs

Cheers to Mo'Joe barista Dave, who set us up with the beers we reviewed.

Having no previous experience with Berghoff, it would be hard to say any of us were excited by the prospects of this roundtable. It's not that I had high or low expectations - it's more that Berghoff as a brewery has no personality. Is Berghoff a old family brewery from Milwaukee? A division of Coors? A bad beer hiding behind marketing? Google turns up three entries before finding anything about beer (and the entry says that the site in under construction).

Part of the enjoyment of craft beer is knowing that there are faces both behind what you're drinking and in the people who enjoy the beer. So who are Mister and Missus Berghoff? And who's drinking their beer?

If wikipedia is to be believed, Berghoff was originally brewed by The Joseph Huber Brewing Company of Monroe, Wisconsin, the second oldest continually operating brewery in the United States. In 2006, an agreement was reached in which the Mountain Crest Brewing Company (a Canadian company) purchased the brewery and split up the various Huber produced beers under two brands, Minhas and Berghoff - although beer under the Berghoff brand was to still be contract brewed at the Monroe plant.

Without digging deeper (and to be honest, I don't think the beer deserves that sort of attention), what we now can gather is that Minhas is brewing beers with old Wisconsin ties (and names like Huber, Wisconsin Club, Rhinelander Original, and Rockhead Malt Liquor) in hopes of cashing in on the lucrative (I guess?) Wisconsin beer market. Berghoff is probably brewed by the same folks, but they're not exactly advertising that fact.

So that's who might be brewing the beer, but who's drinking it?

The world may never know.

Berghoff Oktoberfest - A cloudy golden/copper color reveals that this is indeed beer. The nose is light, sweetly malty, and perhaps even Nestle Crunchy? It's entirely possible that the coffee smell in the air is having an effect.

On the front the beer is light and then a sweeter malty element comes through. This beer is watery, but also agreeable - somewhere between Bud Light and something with actual flavor. My first thought was that this was a beer you could drink all day, maybe at a tailgate or something along those lines, but at 5.2% ABV it might be just a little heavy for that sort of use. Nevertheless... it's ok.

But really, why bother? I think the reason you reach for this one over others comes down to ignorance or price. It's hard to argue with that price.. 2.79 Mugs

Berghoff Oktoberfest
Mike: 2.99 Mugs | Gina: 2.3 Mugs | Jim: 2.25 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 2.51 Mugs

Gina decided early on that the best way to review these beers would be to go the acronym route. Here it goes..

Berghoff Rock River Red Ale

B - Bready
E - Easy-drinking
R - Reddish brown
G - Grainy
H - Head is thin
O - Ok, but nothing spectacular
F - Fruit, like raisins or figs
F - Funny that this is eerily similar to the other Berghoff beers we've tried so far.

Berghoff Rock River Red Ale
Gina: 2.5 Mugs | Jim: 2.2 Mugs | Mike: 2.4 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 2.36 Mugs

Berghoff Traditional Bock

B - Brown with a tan head
E - Exceptionally similar to the Red
R - Raisins
G - Grape Bubblegum
H - Hint of toast
O - Off-putting nose of sweet and burnt flavors
F - Factory nose
F - For serious? Have we been drinking the same beer?

Berghoff Traditional Bock
Gina: 2.0 Mugs | Mike: 1.8 Mugs | Jim: 2.0 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 1.93 Mugs

Berghoff Pale Ale - By the time we made it to our last Berghoff choice, our expectations were raised. Why? Because we had used Mo'Joe's free wifi to discover that Beer Advocate rated it the highest of all the Berghoff beers. We hoped that here, finally, we'd find a beer that didn't taste exactly like all the others. My hopes were that Berghoff's joke would finally be over. Guess not.

My notes say "You *ssholes."

Berghoff Pale Ale
Mike: 1.0 Mugs | Jim: 1.9 Mugs | Gina: 2.3 Mugs
KOTBR Score: 1.76 Mugs


  1. Hey Hoosier Beer Geek Knights,

    A little more background on Huber brewery, the folks who, as you thought, make the Berghoff brand beers.

    The history of the Berghoff brand of beers is inseperable from the history of the historic Berghoff restaurant, which had for years stood on Adams Street in downtown Chicago. Herman Joseph Berghoff founded that restaurant (then the Berghoff Cafe) in 1898 to showcase his dortmunder-style Berghoff Beer, which he had been brewing for years in your back yard, Fort Wayne, IN. Aound 1960, Herman tired of making his own beer and contracted the Huber brewery to make it for him.

    The Huber brewery had been operating since just before Prohibition and producing beers for, as you suggested, the lucrative Wisconsin market. Of course, during Prohibition, the Huber brewery, like other breweries, turned to sodas and root beers to survive. For years following Prohibition and before being acquired by Minhas, the Huber brewery produced a very attractive lineup of beers under the Berghoff name, and a few under its own name, distributed regionally in the sourthern parts of Wisconsin and northern parts of Illinois. (Do some Googling for Huber Bock and you'll find scads of people singing that beer's praises, up until roughly the Minhas acquisition.) One seasonal brew, Berghoff Hazelnut Winter Ale, was annually drooled over here in Wisconsin.

    Since the Minhas acquisition of the Huber brewery, the Berghoff brand has been tarnished by quality issues. My understanding is that a great deal of the production capacity of the Huber location now goes over to the making of the Minhas flagship brand of beer, Mountain Creek. The Huber brewery is, however, under contract with the newly-created Berghoff Brewing COmpany to make the Berghoff brand of beer.



  2. Thanks for your help, Paul.

  3. That's great information, Paul. Thanks!