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Minhas brings back Rhinelander lager in smaller bottle

MONROE - Monroe is getting re-acquainted with Shorty, a stubby, 7-ounce bottle of Rhinelander Export Beer. Minhas Craft Brewery re-released the American lager June 1, after a two-year hiatus since last offering the brew. Sales of the beer have been doing "pretty well" at Monroe Beverage Mart, thanks to customers buying it partly for its taste and partly for the reminiscence of an by-gone era, said Scott Klarer, salesman.

"We sampled it on Friday, and (people) liked it really well," he said. "And the price is right." 

Twenty to 30 cases, selling at $11.49 per case or $3.49 a 6-pack, have gone out the Beverage Mart's door in the past three weeks, according to Klarer. Rhinelander Brewing Company, for which Minhas is producing the beer, notes on its website that the beer is also available locally at Pancho and Lefty's, the French Quarter, and the Jailhouse Tap in Monroe.

Minhas President Gary Olson said production is entering its third run this week. The first two runs each produced 4,000 cases. Today, 5,000 cases were expected to come off the line. "This is an experiment in acceptance," Olson said Tuesday. "It got its best reception in (the city of) Rhinelander. It's selling like hotcakes up there."

Shorty is being distributed only in Wisconsin right now, but Olson said he has had inquiries from Minnesota and Pennsylvania distributors. The beer actually has a long history. Rhinelander Brewery produced Rhinelander Export Lager at its brewery on Ocala Street in Rhinelander from 1882 until 1967, when the company closed. 

The Joseph Huber Brewery Company of Monroe (now Minhas) acquired the brands and bought the rights to Rhinelander beer. Rhinelander beer continued to be made, though the shorty bottle disappeared in the late 1970s. Minhas sold the brew in returnable 12-ounce bottles until 2003 and then in 12-ounce cans until 2009. 

Jyoti Auluck, president and owner of Rhinelander Brewing Company, purchased the Rhinelander family of beers from Minhas in 2009. Minhas recently contracted with Auluck, a native of Calgary, Alberta, to bring back Rhinelander Export Shorty. Bottling the beer in its smaller bottles presented Minhas with some challenges. Minhas had to install a different filler and capper and modify the labeler to package the unusually short bottle. 

After more than two years of work, acquiring the needed capital, finding the right bottles, designing a retro label, and perfecting the recipe to create the taste of the original Rhinelander Shorty beer, the new Rhinelander Export Lager Shorty is similar to the original 1940s beer.

Olson has described the flavor as crisp and light-bodied, with a light hoppiness. The beer takes about three weeks to make, and its alcohol content is about 5 percent alcohol by volume.

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Times photo: Anthony Wahl — Double stacked in the coolers at Monroe Beverage Mart, Shorty bottles of Rhinelander Export Beer take their place among other brews produced at Minhas Craft Brewery, Monroe.

Times photo: Anthony Wahl — Scott Klarer, salesman at Monroe Beverage Mart in Monroe, stacks a display of Rhinelander Export Beer in its new 7-ounce bottles, affectionately named Shorty. Minhas Craft Brewery now produces and bottles the beer for Rhinelander Brewing Company.

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