The Legend of Berghoff Beer
We were recently invited to sample the latest in beer and food pairings at Berghoff Chicago. We were not financially compensated and all opinions expressed are our own.
When you arrive at Berghoff’s the first conundrum is which door to enter. There’s Berghoff Cafe, Berghoff Bar, Berghoff Restaurant…it’s a huge establishment. When we found the right door (Berghoff Bar) we were transported back in time by the murals over the bar and the antique light fixtures that still use the original style light bulbs today as they did in 1898 when the Berghoff first opened.
It’s more than ironic that The Berghoff which started as a men-only saloon should now be owned by a woman – Carlyn Berghoff, the fourth generation to run one of the oldest family-owned businesses in the United States. Under her watchful eye, Berghoff’s is now the Berghoff Catering & Restaurant Group.
The saloon which started out serving free corned beef sandwiches with the purchase of a stein of Berghoff beer grew its menu with many German-American classics. The restaurant is full of rich Berghoff history. The Berghoff bar still operated during the Prohibition but sold near-beer and soda pop and became a full-service restaurant.
In 1933 when the Prohibition was lifted the City of Chicago issued liquor license No. 1 to The Berghoff and they have kept that No. 1 license ever since.
Not Your Grandpa’s Berghoff Beer
Founder Herman Joseph Berghoff hailed from Dortmund, Germany and arrived in Chicago after stops in NYC, and Fort Wayne, Indiana where the Berghoff brewery was first located. The beer was so popular that he decided to open a cafe in Chicago. He sold a glass of beer for a nickel and a stein of beer with a free corned beef sandwich for a dime. Many a young Chicago lad had their very first beer at the Berghoff Bar. Now the beer is brewed in Stevens Point, Wisconsin and with the help of Chicago beer expert, Randy Mosher has recrafted the beers. The Stevens Point Brewery allows Berghoff to be produced in small batches of 100 barrels for a fresh clean beer. It also provides more flexibility for innovation.
Flights & Bites
We visited during Chicago Craft Beer Week and sampled their Flights & Bites, consisting of five Berghoff beers accompanied by tasty food designed to complement each beer. We started with the Berghoff Dortwunder Lager paired with the Beet Bruschetta. The crisp beet and peppery arrugula in the bruschetta paired well with the light lager. Then the Berghoff Straight-Up Hefe-Weizen with Mussels in Hefe-Weizen proved tasty as well, providing a nice creamy pairing with depth but not heaviness of flavors. We then sampled the Berghoff Summer Solstice paired with the Bavarian Pretzel – a fantastic pairing with the citrusy tang of the Solstice working perfectly with their fantastic house-made pretzels and a dollop of beer grain mustard! Next we tried the Berghoff Reppin’ Red Ale with Beer Braised Onion Brat. This red ale has a blend of seven malts topped off with a mix of selected Pacific Northwest hops. The grilled meat complement was just right. We wrapped up the formal parings with the Berghoff Sir Dunkle Dark and the unique and delicious Beeramisu, a rich and satisfying pairing.
As good as this was, there was one final surprise, a taste of the new “Stock Ale” that Berghoff Brewery will be offering very soon. This smooth amber beer is aged in oak barrels and infused with Belgian brewer’s brown sugar the brew is mellow with molasses, vanilla, toffee and brown sugary notes that make it taste like the tawny port of beers. And with a hearty 10.4% alcohol content, it was an absolutely delicious way to finish it all off. Look for it when it becomes available in the weeks ahead.
The low price of just $10 for the 5 beer tasting during Chicago Craft Beer Week makes this a killer value. It’s available through May 20th.
The atmosphere was fun and noisy on the Thursday night that we dropped in but it instantly reminded us of our days in Germany surrounded by beer drinking friends all looking for a good time, good story, good beer and great food. We’d say at Berghoff Chicago you can find all that and more!
THE QUICK B ITE: The Berghoff Bar in Chicago is a classic establishment that has been around since 1898. They’ve kept the history but also kept up with the times making this a wonderfully fun and amiable place to grab a beer and some delicious German style food.