Updated: July 14, 2012 6:05AM
Fresh out of college I worked as a bartender, and at the end of my shift I would retire to a barstool to swill a few bottles of watery beer. It had to be cold and easy to drink, but beyond that I did not much care.
I didn’t want some funky tasting bottled import — although some Canadian lagers made it into my rotation — and I certainly did not want some upstart microbrew overwhelming my mouth and gut. I wasn’t ready for that kind of measured, conscientious beer drinking. For the most part I wanted something innocuous, and I wanted to drink it in gulps, making that whispery Ahhh sound after it went down.
And then Baderbrau arrived.
I was suspicious. It sounded imported, it looked imported and I was convinced it would taste imported, not in a good way. I mean, it had umlauts. But the company that owned it was from Elmhurst so it was a domestic in import clothing, a craft beer before the term existed. Everyone in the bar raved about it so soon and so passionately, I gave in and tried it.
It was a lager, a pilsner, so it was easy to drink. But damn, it was so much more. This was long before I started paying attention to beer flavor but I do recall that despite being easy to drink, Baderbrau also was rich and had a lot of other stuff going on. That is about as specific as I can get.
In my extensive research, 20 years later, I have learned that Baderbrau had an almost floral, hoppy aroma followed by flavor that ends all caramely. Back in those days I was as likely to smell a beer as I was to walk up and smell a tree trunk, but today floral, hoppy aromas in beer are some of my favorites. This I now know. And caramel has been a staple in my diet for as long as I have had teeth. So no wonder I liked it.
Baderbrau consumed the hearts and minds of the bar’s customers and employees. One bartender even mentioned it, not in so many words, as the highlight of her upcoming wedding reception. It was going to be a backyard affair and they would be tapping a keg of Baderbrau. I have to admit, I was impressed. But the marriage did not last, and neither did Baderbrau. In the late 1990s that Elmhurst company went out of business. Goose Island stepped in briefly but a few years later Baderbrau vanished. A decade later, it is back.
All of the above should serve as an endorsement for anyone who enjoys beer on the lighter side of the spectrum but with some interesting flavor thrown into the mix. I had no problem drinking beer from plastic pitchers when I discovered and instantly appreciated Baderbrau. So do with that what you will.
Argus Brewery is making the beer for the new owners at its South Side facility (www.baderbrau.com), and Binny’s is selling it in bottles. For draft Baderbrau, head to Stocks & Blondes (40 N. Wells, 312-372-3725), Hackney’s Printer’s Row (733 S. Dearborn, 312-461-1116), or Maria’s Packaged Goods & Community Bar (960 W. 31st, 773-890-0588)
Baderbrau is possibly the first beer with a little extra flavor that I ever really liked. Obviously it was not overwhelming. It was a transition beer for me, and I am looking forward to a reunion with it. It could be the same for you. Or if you are a beer fanatic, perhaps you will find yet another pilsner to keep in your folder of favorites, another Chicago craft beer at that.
And who knows. Maybe now that Baderbrau is flowing again that couple might just find each other and rekindle the old flame. It’s highly unlikely but then again who ever thought Baderbrau would return?
Michael Austin is a Chicago free-lance writer. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.