I was in Chicago for the 2010 World Beer Cup and decided—as is my tradition—to stop into the legendary Berghoff for lunch. For those unfamiliar, the Berghoff is a downtown Chicago institution, serving house beer, German fare, and famous deli sandwiches. Born just before the turn of the century after the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, the bar, restaurant and brewery attracted a long and loyal following, surviving Prohibition with a bustling restaurant serving near beer and soda pop. The place is huge, with four floors, full butcher, bakery, modern kitchen, banquet facilities and space for nearly a thousand guests.
A couple years ago, however, a word got out that the legendary locale was about to close. Apparently, the family’s older generation wanted to retire and none among the younger generation were interested in keeping the fire burning, aside from a daughter running the catering business. A friend and I took the train into town in 2006 for a final visit and tribute—OK, it was more like a seven hour bender—but, still, it was in honor of the Berghoff’s final days. We weren’t alone, for lines stretched around the block for weeks leading to the scheduled final hour.
Delightfully, whether due to the tremendous response those final weeks or just a change of heart, the aforementioned daughter decided to carry on after a brief closure. The Berghoff lived again.
As for the beer, well …they’re “based” on the original recipes, for the most part German-style brews that are contracted through Minhas Brewing (nee Joseph Huber Brewing Company) in Monroe, Wisconsin. While they never used to be very good in the old days, often suffering from diacetyl or poor handling, they were all much better on this visit.
The “lightest” is their Berghoff Lager, which is the training wheels beer for most, I’m sure. It’s probably all malt, as it had a nice full body for an American lager and was very clean, with nary a hint of hoppy balance.
While better than expected, it’s still a pretty average effort for a “craft” brew.