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By Andrew Hildebrand
River News Staff

It was standing room only at the Claridge by 5 p.m. last Wednesday. Nostalgia was thick in the air as the crowd sat, talked and ate. Baseball was on the televisions above the bar, but Duke Snider or Mickey Mantle would have fit the scene better than Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. It may be 2011, but for one night it felt like 1961, all thanks to the little 7-ounce bottle.

The Rhinelander Brewery, which was founded in partnership by Oto Hilgermann and Henry Danner in 1882, aggressively advertised their miniature "Shorty" bottle and the brand became a local staple. But in 1967, the brewery on Ocala Street shut its doors for good. The Joseph Huber Brewing Company bought the rights to Rhinelander beer, changed the recipe, and the Shorty was gone. But as it turns out, it wasn't gone for good.

In 2009, Jyoti Auluck purchased the rights to Rhinelander beer and began taking steps to reintroduce the Shorty with an emphasis on the Rhinelander area. After extensive planning and small technical delays, the 7-ouncer is back and Auluck is happy with the results so far. "I've had people call and tell me how fantastic it tastes," she said. "Someone told me that when they had their first sip it was the same taste he still remembered."

That was certainly the consensus at the Claridge Wednesday night when the Rhinelander Brewing Company hosted the "Welcome Back Shorty" open house. But remembering the old Shorty isn't a requirement to enjoy the new one. Recent college graduate John Zenk, 22, attended the open house. "I love it," he said. "I think the taste is great. It's light and refreshing. It's already one of my favorite beers."

The "Shorty" is now available everywhere in Rhinelander and sales are starting to pick up. The House of Spirits said they were selling a good number of Shortys and at the open house, the Claridge sold close to 600. In fact, they're selling so well that many places are already experiencing a shortage. General Manager of Rhinelander Brewing Company, Dennis Rego described the shortage as a "good problem." "We are selling the Shortys faster than we ever though we would," he said.

Auluck isn't stopping there, however. She plans to market the brand aggressively and aims to make them available in Minnesota and Illinois soon. She also wants to export the beer to her home country of Canada and is working on selling them in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba in the near future.

A brand new brewery based in Rhinelander is in her future plans as well, but she needs to see the brand take off first. "I'm looking at about five years," she said. "I need to sell about 30,000 barrels a year to see the kind of profit I would need to build the brewery."
She also owns the rights to the Rhinelander Light brand, but says she has no plans to recreate it. 

"Just the export," she said. "It's light enough."


 Comments »

Dear Rhinelander Brewery,

Last week I noticed the Rhinelander 7 oz. Shorty on the beer menu at The Old Fashioned Restaurant here in Madison.  I had never heard of the thing, and being a beer enthusiast and an amateur home-brewer myself, I decided to give ol' Shorty a shot.  

Let me tell you I AM IN LOVE WITH THIS BEER!

Not just the taste, but also the look and feel:  that quaint little bottle and antique label represent everything that I've come to love about Wisconsin.  It's one fine brew.

Thanks for bringing back the Shorty!


Ian Welsh
Madison, WI

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