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Rhinelander Brewing Company

Updated: Nov 18, 2022

Rhinelander, WI

 

Crusin’ rating: D+

Booze Rating: D+

 

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Brewery Wine Distillery Blogger- Rhinelander Brewery- Back Bar

What a curious, curious entry in our Northwoods edition of breweries. Perhaps the most well-known of northern breweries as far as Wisconsin goes, Rhinelander Brewing Company, and by extension the three white pine trees on a field of green logo was something I oft saw in the bars and fish fries I was brought to as youngster. Those of you who read our article on Second Salem Brewing Co. know that I am a sucker for Wisconsin cryptozoology. If you know a little about Rhinelander, you know it is the home of the dreaded Hodag. While I have been warned about going too far into the mystery surrounding said monster, and since I have not had personal experience with a Hodag, unlike the Beast of Bray Road, I will say this: the Hodag is a Wisco-monster through and through and I was quite excited to try the beer in it’s initial discovery location of Rhinelander, WI.



Part 1, the Descent

Boy, was the nostalgia I associated with this beer entirely unfounded. One of those teachable moments wherein just because it is nostalgic, does not mean it was good back in the day.


I will wrap up the first part of this review so succinctly; I will drink a cheap beer here and there.

I have a similar nostalgia for Regal Brau (future review!) which is not a great beer, but it’s a beer I use for cooking since I watched my grandfather ritually have a glass after a long day at work, enjoying every sip. I will drink a Busch Latte, a Miller Light, a Corona, or a Lonestar.

I know what I am getting into and cheap beer has its place, even to those who review the trendiest beers around.


Those commercialized, cheap beers are world-class compared to Rhinelander Beer. The flagship swill that Rhinelander was putting out I would not risk giving it to Cabin 8’s show pigs at The Wisconsin State Fair on a hot day, regardless of how cold it was. Never have I tasted beer that encapsulates ash tray, dirty water, wet dog, and swamp mud all in one neat little package. It’s really a shame. This brewery has a lot of history, and I mean a LOT of history. I initially thought I wasn’t going to point fingers here but I just can’t help but wonder.



Beer Related Conspiracy Incoming!

The Minhas siblings, Manjit and Ravinder, both venture capitalists originally from Calgary, Canada, purchased what is now Minhas Brewing in Monroe, Wisconsin. Minhas was formally the Joseph Huber Brewing Company, an old German brewery. These two siblings, Majit and Ravinder, come around and buy the brewery, rename it Minhas Brewing, and spoilers, the beer is now terrible quality.


Now, get this.


The Joseph Huber Brewing Company already owned Rhinelander Brands. Joseph Huber purchased Rhinelander Brands after Rhinelander ran into financial problems in 1967.


In 2006, Mountain Crest Brewing Company -the parent company for Minhas Brewing- purchased Joseph Huber Brewing Company and along with it- Rhinelander Brands.


Rhinelander was later acquired by Jyoti Auluck in 2009 and continued making the Rhinelander mass production brands out of Monroe, WI. Guess where she is from? Calgary. The same city where the Minhas siblings are from. Yes, I am just connecting some dots and not making huge leaps but here is my theory.

The Minhas business has been sued in Canada for copying a beer and was the subject of a police investigation at one point which is a little off in an of itself but what my theory leads to is that these two siblings and their acquaintances seem to be making it their goal in life to buy old German Breweries and start churning out the worst beer you’ve ever had just to make a quick dollar. Stay away.


Part 2, Glimmer of Hope?

Oddly, in the Rhinelander taproom, continuing the theme of not a lot of transparency on what is going on behind the scenes there are seemingly two separate entities listed of the taproom. Theories aside, Hannah and I were expecting a lot more than a church basement-esque space walking into the taproom of what is touted as the second-oldest brewery in Wisconsin. What appears to be a once-upon-a-time sporting goods or maybe clothing store now serves as the taproom and home of two distinct beer entities, or so it seems.



The front of the taproom is panes of glass - think an old-school, small town antique shop - and inside was so uninviting. Bright fluorescent lights that will take you right back into your classroom days, complete with an outdated dropped ceiling. The floors are the same material of my grade school cafeteria. There are a few long wooden tables with benches that seem forced given the rest of the elementary school decor. Immediately to your right is a small space with a few tanks, I’m guessing the size of a small bedroom, and I was thinking there’s no way they even make one commercial beer here (keep in mind, this was before I dug down the rabbit hole, Google lists this spot as the brewery, more sketchiness). There is a hefty amount of clothing with tons of branding but all of it seems cheap and haphazard. There’s a wall to your right as you walk in with pictures and plaques and a glass case with some items from the breweries history but all I could think of looking at it all was, this is it? This is how far it’s fallen?



Maybe I am spoiled by checking out Miller Brewery in Milwaukee, or Leinenkugel's in Chippewa Falls, but for this to be a brewery with so much history it was such a token sort of display. Looking back at it, the whole thing, in retrospect, seems like a surface-level hollow cash grab. Like a half-assed attempt to cash in on what was a rich history.

For example, there was an option to take a tour. Cool. I always eat up tours, especially of historical spots. Another group came in while Hannah and I were tasting beer, the “tour” from what we saw was a 20 minute video played in the taproom that had less history in it than was displayed on the wall and read like a 90’s infomercial for the president, Jyoti Auluck.

Of all the breweries we’ve been to, there was only one other tour wherein the main source of information was on a video. Minhas. Is your tinfoil hat on yet?!


Anyway, we dodged a 12-dollar bullet there.


I mentioned there are two beer entities. Well, within the tasting room, are several Rhinelander Taps and oddly though, there were some taps that said Hodag Beers and Ales on them. Okay, really quick.

Another sketchy thing about Rhinelander and Minhas is that both of these breweries have like two dozen different branded beers all under their umbrella. For instance, for sale at Rhinelander are: Rhinelander Beers, Rhinelander Craftbeers, Braumeister Beers, Thirsty Miner Beers, Goodass Beer and Hammer Beers. If you read the fine print they say “distributed by Rhinelander” but let me tell you, you’ve got to REALLY look. The branding is different, the logos aren’t remotely the same, all vaguely mention Wisconsin. I’m just saying, it’s anything but transparent and it’s just all so damned sketchy. Minhas is exactly the same way but I will save the rest for their review. The point is, I saw other taps with a different name and wasn’t going to try them at all because I assumed it was just swill with a different label. I overheard a bartender mention that they were craft brews made in house (but then where are the Rhinelander Crafts made? I digress).

I decided to try them to fill out my flight. All the beers reviewed below are under the Hodag label.


Cruisn' For Booze- Wisconsin Wine Beer Distillery Blogger- Rhinelander Brewing Co- Beer Flight

Limey Bastard Key Lime Wheat Ale (6% ABV) - I always heard the phrase “limey bastard” used by my Navy-veteran grandfather in a way which I assumed was a slur which tracks because that man had a cursing vocabulary that would shame most dictionaries.

I have since learned it's more of a slang phrase? Maybe? I don’t know. Either way, a bold strategy for a beer name.

Hannah loves limes, she loves Key limes, she doesn't love wheat beers but I thought this might be a compromise. There was some citrus on the nose of this beer but Hannah picked up clove and limes. There was light, vague citrus when tasting and this turned out to be a little refreshing, if a little on the sweet side. Surprisingly, not a bad beer for a hot day.


Don Ho Dag Pineapple Habanero Ale (7.2% ABV) - What they were going with here for the name I can only guess. Mobster + Hodag = Spicy Pineapple?

This beer was the color of dried leaves and smelled of pineapple, malty sweetness, caramel and cereal grain. This puppy had spice start to finish, a kick of spice really that hit right in the back of your throat after the initial sweet taste. There wasn’t really any pineapple so that sweetness may be coming from the malt or even the peppers right at the start. This one, for both of us, had the heat stick around after swallowing just a little too long.


The Bog Cranberry Wheat Ale (4.6% ABV) - My second attempt not only in one day, but in the same flight of trying to get Hannah to like a wheat ale. This one has cranberries, again a fruit she loves and a fruit that pairs well with cloves any day. This beer was pinkish-orange, like a slightly more orange grapefruit juice with medium clarity. It was slight tart to start and rather bright tasting and finished hoppy and dry. It smelled of a general berry fruitiness and cereal grains again with almost no clove or banana to be found, Hannah didn’t mind this one, but she thought it lacked some depth of flavor.


Cow Dag Cream Ale (5.2% ABV) - Ah yes, a little more acceptable play on Hodag than the earlier attempt, who doesn’t enjoy a nice lawnmower beer? This beer was yellow-gold with high clarity and a creamy head. It smelled of corn and whipped malt, sweet cream, vanilla extract and even a little powdered sugar. There wasn’t an overabundance of hoppy bitterness here and it had a nice and bubbly feeling in the mouth. There was a sweetness to the finish and it was pretty well-attenuated. Hannah definitely picked up on a corn-flavor and neither of us really found that smooth mouthfeel. Pleasant.


There was just so much weirdness going on here. Clearly, someone in there cares about making some craft beers and I really wish them the best. Someone making these Hodag beers has some talent and I hope that someday that they can either branch out on their own or find somewhere that is a little clearer in their messaging and branding. The Hodag beers had some promise but I would not by any means travel there for the beer. If I lived in town, I would most likely go in, fill my growlers from the Hodag Tap and leave- maybe. There is not enough here to even warrant a stop if you’re passing through Rhinelander. Regardless of the Hodag beers, this was just not a stop that was worth it.


Keep on Crusin’, don’t stop boozin!


To learn more about Rhinelander Brewing Comany please visit their website at: www.rhinelanderbrewery.com or on Facebook: @RhinelanderBrewery


Dig deeper into the history of Rhinelander Brewing Company:

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