Strange brew: Local couple selling pizza beer
By Mike Danahey Sun-Times Media December 23, 2012 7:44PM
Samples of the Seefurths’ pizza beer and their original crust. | Submitted
Updated: January 25, 2013 6:21AM
Necessity may be the mother of invention, but sometimes what needs to be picked ASAP in the backyard garden will do just as well — and can get you on store shelves and on TV in England.
Tom Seefurth wanted to use some tomatoes and herbs he and his wife, Athena, had grown during the summer of 2006 in Kane County, and he ended up making the first batch of the strange brew that became Mamma Mia! Pizza Beer.
The ale — a mix of typical beer ingredients, plus real tomato, garlic, basil and oregano — has become a calling for the couple . While they might not be rolling in the dough just yet, the beer and accompanying product line — available at www.mammamiapizzabeer.com — have become a steadily growing business for the Seefurths.
This fall, the couple worked out a deal to have some of their items stocked in Jewel-Osco stores in South Elgin and St. Charles by 2013. It’s part of the grocer’s new hyperlocal program, which allows budding local businesses to sell their products directly to the chain without having to go through a distributor.
Earlier this month, the Seefurths and their entrepreneurial endeavor were featured on CNBC.
“CNBC contacted us after our New Jersey distributor, Hunterdon, posted on Twitter. It was nice to have an article about the business end of things,” Seefurth said.
As that story pointed out, the Seefurths continue to put in very long hours, and their efforts in part have been spurred by the sagging economy, particularly the housing market, because Tom was a real estate agent and Athena a mortgage specialist.
“Now I do referral [real estate] service only, and no, the market is not improving, unless you have the ability to purchase and rent out your investment,” Seefurth said.
The hard work on Mamma Mia! includes lots of in-store appearances, particularly at Woodman’s and Whole Foods locations. Nine Whole Foods stores carry the Seefurth’s products, mostly in the Chicago market, but also in Ann Arbor, Mich.
“Illinois is our top market for foodie products, and since we spent literally every Friday, Saturday, Sunday in Woodman’s Markets the first year, the food products in that chain are in overdrive,” Tom Seefurth said.
Their unusual beer has garnished considerable media attention.
It has been mentioned on CBS News; by Jay Leno twice on “The Tonight Show”; on “The Today Show” twice; by radio personality Mancow Mueller; on WLS-TV’s “190 North”; Fox 32 Chicago; WGN, and stations in Michigan, Wisconsin and the United Kingdom, including Gordon Ramsay shows and the Christmas Eve episode of the celebrity quiz show “8 Out of 10 Cats.”