Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Pale Ale

Monroe, WI

Style: American Pale Ale
ABV: 5.8%

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Sometimes in life we do crazy things for no apparent reason, knowing full well that we’re gonna regret it later. Perhaps it was a night at the local pub when you thought it’d be fun to do a bunch of shots on top of copious quantities of beer or mixers. Sure enough, in walks a gorgeous girl with a friend who looks like a cross between Rosie O’Donnell and a poorly crafted Muppet. Too drunk to take on the challenge of impressing the hot chick, your not-quite-as-drunk buddy convinces you to play the role of wingman. You know its crazy, but it seems like a good idea at the time—until you wake up in the morning and the “pillow” you’re sleeping on isn’t filled with feathers. (Please note: this has, uh, never happened to Nigel, but I did spend just shy of 8 years in college, so I did witness it on a few occasions). Perhaps it was on the golf course, when you hit a bad shot and decided to use your very expensive Callaway driver or Ping iron as a discus, knowing full well you’re risking hundreds of dollars worth of equipment over one stupid shot (this has happened to Nigel on countless occasions). Perhaps it was that time you voted Republican, thinking that this Governor Bush had interesting new ideas that would surely lead this country to brave new heights, despite knowing full well that he was a fucking moron (I promise you, Nigel did not do this). Way to go, dipshit—look what you’ve gotten us into.

So what does all this have to do with Nigel’s review of Berghoff’s attempt at an American pale ale? Well, as a resident of Wisconsin, Nigel is fully aware that Berghoff brews suck worse than my Brewers, who are in the midst of a historic late season collapse that would make the I-35W Bridge jealous, but I tried some anyways. Berghoff has become the “craft” portion of the former Joseph Huber Brewing Co. (now called Minhas Craft Brewery) in Monroe, Wisconsin, makers of extremely cheap shit beers like Huber, Huber Bock, and a Wisconsin shit classic, Rhinelander. Any alumnus of the University of Wisconsin in the past half century has likely had numerous encounters with Huber, and very few will have anything positive to say … at least about the beer. Berghoff isn’t new by any means; it traces back to the 1960s when the Berghoff Restaurant in Chicago contracted Huber brewery to make a brew for its establishment. Berghoff Beer became popular among upper-class Chicagoans (long-time connoisseurs of shit beer), and when the craft beer movement exploded in the 1990s, Huber used the Berghoff name for its line of “craft” brews.

I will say, you could do worse than Berghoff, but not much worse. Wisconsin is home to numerous pseudo-craft brewers that are actually century-plus old large breweries that for many decades produced the typical swill that dominated the American beer market until the past quarter century. Leinenkugel’s, located in Chippewa Falls, is the best known of these. Point Brewery in Stevens Point is another, along with Minhas (which began in the 1840s as the Monroe Brewing Co., then Blumer Brewing Co., and until recently, Huber) in Monroe and City Brewery in La Crosse (the old G. Heilman Brewery, which made Old Style, Stroh’s, La Crosse Lager, and others). I would say that Berghoff is a slight step above Point, but not up to the level of Leinie’s, as sad as that is. God only knows what the hell they’re doing at City Brewery, besides making Monster Energy drinks and whoring themselves out to any brewer who pays them enough to contract brew.

While Nigel figured he’d most likely regret his purchase of a sixer of Berghoff Pale Ale, at least it would make for a change of pace. I’ve been fortunate to sample a number of phenomenal brews in the past year while reviewing for this site, so I need to experience a few duds on occasion. I did go into this with an open mind, hoping that Berghoff would pull off a shocking upset, crafting a superior pale ale that would make such notable underdogs as the 1985 Villanova Wildcats, the 2001 New England Patriots, the 2006 St. Louis Cardinals, and Buster Douglas circa 1989 pale in comparison. Not to be, my friends. While Berghoff Pale Ale is drinkable, it’s a timid, lifeless, and flat-out lame attempt at the APA.

Berghoff Pale Ale pours decent for the style—a good amount of foam on the pour that slowly dissipates, leaving a fairly abundant white trace throughout the drink. The color is a bit lighter than you’d like for the style: a golden brown color, slightly darker than an American macro, but lighter than a good craft Pale should be. It’s crystal clear, a sure sign that it’s been filtered to death, typical of a beer that’s brewed in a giant brewery. The aroma is somewhat strong, but not overly pleasant. Not much for hops, though it does have some noticeable citrus tones and a slight bit of pale malt. It’s a bit stale in the aroma department, again typical of a “craft” brew that’s made in large batches. The flavor is not awful, but certainly not up to par when compared to other APAs. Like the aroma, the flavor is severely lacking in the hops department. Some floral bitterness is detectable in very small doses, but nothing even close to what you should expect for the style. Very citusy, with light malt undertones, this is by no means the worst APA you’ll ever have, but it does lack many of the characteristics that should define the style. It’s far too watered down and far too low in the hops department to consider it even an average attempt. Berghoff goes down smooth, has only a mild aftertaste, and appears to be towards the low end of the spectrum when it comes to ABV (I couldn’t find a definitive ABV, but I’m guessing around 5.5%).

All in all, this could be a brew to fall back on should you be stuck in Monroe during a period of xenophobia, when the New Glarus trucks are prohibited from entering. Otherwise, Beghoff’s Pale Ale, like most other Berghoff brews, should be avoided at all costs.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on August 27, 2007.
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