By Joe VanDeLaarschot Managing Editor
SHORTY'S RETURN DRAWS NEARER
Beer that made 7-ounce bottles famous will bring them back
If you are thirsty for the return of the old Rhinelander Beer "Shorty" you'll just have to hang on a little bit longer.
The president of the Rhinelander Brewing Company, which had acquired the Rhinelander and Rhinelander Light Beer brands in October 2009, had hoped to have the "Shorty" bottles of the Rhinelander beer rushing off the assembly line by now, but technical problems in the bottling system have caused a delay.
"We've got the beer, we've got the Shorty bottles, but we have to work out the kinks in the bottling and assembly line system," said Rhinelander Brewing Company President Jyoti Auluck. "The 7-ounce Shorty bottles are much different than the typical other bottles that are used for other beers so we have to adapt equipment and technology to fill, cap and move the bottles down the assembly line. It's just taking us a little more time than we had expected."
The beer will be initially brewed and packaged at the Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe, but it's hoped once sales for the return of the Rhinelander brand increase that a brewing operation will be built again in Rhinelander.
Auluck said it's been her dream to launch a successful comeback of the long-time local favorite beer.
Before the comeback could be launched many actions had to be completed behind the scenes. That included developing packaging, the labeling for the bottles and the creation of thousands of the 7-ounce Shorty bottles that had disappeared long ago and needed to be recreated.
Rhinelander Lager and Rhinelander Light brands were long produced at the famous and historic Rhinelander Brewery on Ocala Street in Rhinelander, which opened under the business partnership of Otto Hilgermann and Henry Danner in 1882.
Financial difficulties finally led to the brewery's closing in 1967.
That same year, the Joseph Huber Brewing Company purchased the Rhinelander brands as well as their recipes and other assets and immediately started producing them in Monroe, where they have been brewed for the last 42 years.
Auluck, who has an accounting background and extensive experience in the retail beverage industry, feels the historic Rhinelander brand has a lot of untapped potential.
She plans to actively promote and market the Rhinelander brand and hopes to increase sales volume back to what it was in its heyday.
At its peak, the Rhinelander Brewery had an annual capacity of 40,000 barrels.
"For a beer that isn't even marketed, it still has market share," Auluck said of the Rhinelander brand. "It has history and it still has legs of its own. It is just working on its own, and I like that about it."
When Rhinelander was still brewed in its hometown, it enjoyed a loyal following among local drinkers in much the same way local sports teams enjoy the loyalty of hometown fans. Auluck said re-establishing the brand in its namesake city will be a key component of its future success.
"It's important to start it here because it has history here. It's a home brand," she said. "I want to get it back in the hometown."
The Rhinelander Brewery was once among the most prominent local breweries in the country. At a time when small breweries dotted the landscape, Rhinelander stood out with its aggressive marketing and inventiveness. The company patented the 7-ounce "Shorty" bottle and advertised the product heavily, with great success.
Rhinelander Brewing Company has an office located at 59 South Brown Street in downtown Rhinelander. The offices are empty at this time, but the location is expected to see plenty of activity once Rhinelander Beer returns to the market. Currently all business related to the reintroduction of the beer is being conducted out of the brewery in Monroe.