5 More Beer Brands Brought Back From the Dead by Craft Brewers

NEW YORK (MainStreet) – No old beer brand stays dead for long during the craft beer boom.

Last month, we took a look at some of the beer brands that have returned to life in recent years and asked if you folks knew of others. Not only did you respond, but it turns out we missed a whole slew of revived legacy beers during our last go-round.

That isn't incredibly surprising. Before beer industry consolidation whittled the nation's brewery count to 89 in 1978 – a post-Prohibition low that saw six of the nation's largest breweries make 96% of the beer Americans consumed – there were a whole lot of breweries that called this nation home. Not counting the more than 3,000 breweries in the U.S. in the mid-1880s before Prohibition, the nation's grandparents had a broad spectrum of options for their local beer.

In 1941, post-Prohibition brewery numbers peaked at 857. Brewers at the time made porter, bock and some of the first India Pale Ale in the U.S. Within the past decade, however, beer brewing has experienced an unparalleled boom. Since 2009 alone, the Brewers Association craft beer industry group says the number of breweries in the U.S. has grown from roughly 1,640 to more than 3,000. That’s the most breweries the nation has had since 1873, when there were more than 4,100.

Some of those brewers are coming around for a second or third time. With some help from our readers and the brewers themselves, here's another bunch of brewers that found its way back from the dead:

Berghoff Beer

Can you revive a beer brand that's never really been dead?

Just as Schlitz, Narragansett and Ballantine IPA spent time in malt-beverage purgatory and saw their logos splashed across the nastiest concoctions contract brewers have ever created, Berghoff spent more than its share of time in beer purgatory. Founded in Fort Wayne, Ind., by the four Berghoff brothers — Herman, Henry, Hubert and Gustav — Berghoff sold its beer at the Chicago World's Fair in 1892 and grew popular enough to open its now-landmark cafe and restaurant on West Adams Street in Chicago six years later. After surviving Prohibition with the help of its root beer and other sodas, Berghoff hit financial trouble in the 1950s and was sold to Falstaff Brewing in 1954. The brewery would change hands numerous times after that and would have increasingly watered-down beer placed behind its label each step of the way.

In 1994, General Beverage Distributors bought the Berghoff brand and watched it wither into a dollar-a-bottle discount brand. In 2011, General Beverage's Ben Minkoff took control of the brand and began reworking it into a craft label with the help of the brewers at Stevens Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wis. Last year, the label was relaunched with a craft take on traditional styles including hefeweizen, Dortmunder lager, dunkelweis and Oktoberfest Marzen.

Not only has it worked, but Berghoff is expanding its distribution from four states — Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Illinois — into parts of Florida and Ohio next year. Berghoff plans to open a 20,000-square-foot Berghoff German Beer Hall with a 5,000-square-foot outdoor beer garden early next year at a new shopping center in Orlando.

Berghoff's Winter Ale, Germaniac Pale Ale, witbier, red ale and other releases have remained faithful to traditional recipes and have used the Stevens Point brewers' expertise and creativity to tremendous effect. Nowhere is that more evident than in Berghoff's barrel-aged Stock Ale, which uses lager, caramel and black malts, Belgian brewer's brown sugar and a blend of Cluster, East Kent Golding and Hallertau Hersbrucker hops to make a museum-quality original ale that's then fermented with ale yeast in a toasted oak barrel. At 10% ABV and 80 IBUs, this amber beauty is way more beastly than it appears. Its vanilla notes and wine-like finish separate it from Berghoff's far more traditional lineup.

Berghoff relies heavily on its crest and scripted name to appeal to drinkers' nostalgia and still has a tight connection to the Chicago restaurant and cafe that bears its name. But the brand's owners have an IPA in the works and realize the complex palates of modern craft beer drinkers hold the key to the brand's future.

Baderbrau

A beer doesn't have to survive prohibition or even remember the '80s to get a revival.

In Baderbrau's case, its history dates back only 25 years to 1989, when former Chicago cop and oil man Ken Pavichevich came back from a trip to Europe determined to make a real-deal, old-world pilsener and sell it. Poured into the brewery's distinctive, almost tulip-style Pilsner glasses, Baderbrau Pilsener had a foamy head and distinct hop flavor that author and beer expert Michael Jackson once called the “best pilsener I've ever tasted in America.”

It was a fixture at beer festivals, it was on tap at 200 bars in the Chicagoland area, it rolled out nearly 14,000 barrels a year and it was the only U.S. beer served at the German Consulate in Chicago. It was not cheap to produce or distribute, however, and soaring costs led to the brewery's demise in 1997. Goose Island briefly resurrected Baderbrau at the end of the '90s, but eventually moved on without it.

By that time, it had made an impression. Businessman Rob Sama drank Baderbrau during his undergraduate years at the University of Chicago and, after graduation, teamed up with fellow businessman Joseph Berwanger in 2012 to resurrect the brand. They consulted with Baderbrau recipe creator Douglas Babcock, secured the original yeast strain used in 1989 and teamed with Chicago contract brewer Argus Brewery to bring the first bottled Chicago beer since Meister Brau back to life.

Today, Baderbrau Chicago Pilsener is once again a fixture in the Chicagoland area, but it's by no means the only Baderbrau on tap. In the spirit of the season, a dark IPA called Naked Selfie joins the traditional pilsener on shelves and taps. Baderbrau and Berghoff are generations apart, but their new brewers realize their common bond: Their nostalgic followings are nice, but it's going to take some fresh new ideas and beers to keep them out of the grave.

Duquesne Beer

Duquesne Brewing spent it's entire life fighting. Why not fight for its existence?

Founded in 1899 primarily to counter the giant Pittsburgh Brewing, Duquesne believed in better brewing through technology. It used advances including heat pasteurization, refrigeration, steam heat and electric trucks to make its bottles of Duquesne Lager and Silver Top.

Still, it wasn't enough to compete with Pittsburgh Brewing on its own. Duquesne merged with 16 other breweries in 1905 to form Independent Brewing and carve out its share of the rich Western Pennsylvania beer market. That approach only lasted for 15 year, as Prohibition shut down Independent Brewing.

After repeal in 1933, Duquesne Brewing and its Duquesne Pilsener were all that remained of Independent Brewing. By 1940, Duquesne had nearly 700,000 barrels of production that would put it on par with contemporaries including New Belgium Brewing in Fort Collins, Colo., or the Craft Brew Alliance and its Widmer Brothers, Redhook and Kona brands. That was about Duquesne's peak, however, as consolidation among large brewers put pressure on its brands. Despite building a brewery in 1950, Duquesne nearly sold to rival Pittsburgh Brewing in 1965. Though an antitrust ruling blocked that deal, it also led to the demise of Duquesne in 1972, when its brands were sold off and its more than 400 employees were turned away.

But in 2010, Pittsburgh Area attorney Mark J. Dudash and his wife, Maria, brought back Duquesne Brewing and Duquesne Pilsener with the help of City Brewing and the Latrobe Brewing Plant — which made Rolling Rock before that brand was bought by Anheuser-Busch.

The pilsener and its light versions, Duquesne LT, bear little resemblance to their ancestors. Superior two-row malt replaces the four-row U.S. grain that forced many pre-Prohibition brewers to bulk up their recipes with corn for extra sugar content. Using added malt and a mix of German Hallertau, Czech Saaz and Yakima-grown Magnum hops, Duquesne now produces a smooth, lightly hoppy pilsener that holds on to the Prince of Pilsener label but gives drinkers something to talk about other than the beer's history.

Robert Portner Brewing

Prohibition? Robert Portner Brewing wishes it lived to see capital-P Prohibition.

Keep in mind that 1920 was only when national prohibition went into effect. Temperance movements were so successful in Virginia that the state's own prohibition law took hold in 1916, much to the chagrin of brewery owner Robert Portner.

After emigrating from Germany, Portner opened his brewery in Alexandria, Va., in 1869 — 43 years after the founding of the American Temperance Society, but the same year the national Prohibition Party embarked on its crusade. Just four years later, the Women's Christian Temperance Union would increase pressure on the states and, in 1881, force Kansas into becoming the first state to impose prohibition.

Against that backdrop, Portner was building the largest pre-Prohibition brewery in the Southeast. His Tivoli Hofbrau Pilsener was distributed as far south as Florida and Portner himself gained so much influence that he was named head of the United States Brewers Association in 1879. Less than 40 years later, his brewery would be gone.

Robert Portner Brewing has been dead for nearly a century, but Portner's great-great grandaughters Catherine and Margret Portner have big plans to bring it back. Not only do the plan on reviving the Hofbrau pilsener, opening a German-American brewpub stocked with Portner antiques and brewing year-round, they're opening a Craft Beer Test Kitchen that would allow aspiring brewers to get some experience on commercial equipment.

Though the brewpub won't be open until 2015, early versions of its Hofbrau Pilsner, Portner Porter and Vienna Cabinet Lager have already made the rounds at Northern Virginia tastings. How do they stack up? Considering the closest point of reference is nearly a century removed, the newest generation of brewing Portners basically will be starting its brewing legacy from scratch.

Heurich's Lager

Sometimes, reviving a beer doesn't involve reviving the brand at all. In the case of Heurich's Lager, the recipe was all Washington, D.C.-area brewer DC Brau needed to bring back of bit of its city's history.

Christian Heurich Brewing was founded in 1872 and incorporated in 1890, but was closed in 1956 and torn down in 1961 to make way for what would become the Kennedy Center For The Performing Arts. There wouldn't be another production brewery in the District until DC Brau opened its doors in 2011. That brewery decided to bridge that gap in history not only by recreating Heurich's Lager with the help of beer historians, home brewers and the National Archives, which kept Heurich's records of ingredients including the Palmer Seedling hop (no longer available), "fancy malt" (also defunct) and "Saazer Hops" from the Czech Republic. Using that recipe and some modern additions to fill in the blanks, DC Brau produced 1,000 gallons of Heurich's Lager and sold the balanced, golden beer to benefit the Heurich House Museum — Christian Heurich's old digs just off of DuPont Circle.

Heurich's Lager isn't in DC Brau's regular rotation and isn't on its list of upcoming batches. But with the recipe in hand, DC Brau represents the District's best chance for making Heurich's Lager a staple in the nation's capital again.

— By Jason Notte for MainStreet 

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Jason Notte.

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