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The Return Of Baderbräu

By Chuck Sudo in Food on May 21, 2012 7:45PM

2012_5_21_baderbrau.jpg Chicago Craft Beer Week serves as a celebration of the depth and continued growth of Chicago's brewing community. But it wasn't that long ago that finding a good beer in town required some investigation and hoofing to a bar that wasn't around the corner from one's home.

Older beer aficionados speak of Baderbräu with the reverence fans of classic Chicago television look at Creature Features and Harry Schmerler, your singing Ford dealer. In a sea of Old Style, Milwaukee's Best and Hamm's, Baderbräu was the local beer of choice for discerning palates.

The story behind Baderbräu goes like this: Chicago policeman Ken Pavichevich, after being shot and stabbed in the line of duty, decided to turn in his shield for safer employment as an oil salesman. Pavichevich fell in love with beer during a trip to Europe and decided to make one in Chicago in accordance with the German Beer Purity law.

What Pavichevich created was an amber pilsner with a spicy hop-forward flavor, heavy malt body and, poured into the proper glass, created an irresistible creamy head. At its peak, Baderbräu brewed 14,000 barrels annually, was available in 200 taverns across the city, was the only American beer served at the German consulate in Chicago. The late beer expert Michael Jackson called Baderbräu the best American pilsner he ever tasted.

Pavichevich closed his brewery in 1997, but the Baderbräu brand lived on for another six years with Goose Island Beer Company. Eventually Goose Island stopped brewing Baderbräu to focus on its own brands, although they did tweak the recipe a bit and tried to market it under the name "Golden Goose Pilsner."

Rob Sama remembered Baderbräu when he was an undergrad student at the University of Chicago; it was his favorite beer. Sama did some research and found that Goose Island let the trademark to Baderbräu lapse. So he locked it up and reached out to his friend Joe Berwanger to see if it could be possible there was still a market for Baderbräu in the 21st century.

Berwanger conducted a small survey of local beer drinkers and discovered that 20 percent the respondents remembered the brand. A larger survey found that 40 percent of respondents remembered the brand.

Meanwhile, Sama continued his research into the history of Baderbräu and came upon the email address of Douglas Babcook, who helped Ken Pavichevich develop the recipe for the beer. Babcook also pointed Sama in the direction of Baderbräu's original yeast strain, which dated back to the 1800s and was preserved in a university laboratory.

Once Sama and Berwanger decided to resurrect Baderbräu, they decided to reach out to Argus Brewing in Pullman to brew the beer on contract. To ensure Argus can keep up with the expected demand, Sama and Berwanger have invested in the brewery to expand its size.

Baderbräu will re-launch in Chicago during Chicago Craft Beer Week with its first public tasting 5;30 p.m. Thursday night at Binny's South Loop (1132 S. Jefferson St.). That launch will be followed with launch parties May 25 at Stocks and Blondes (40 N. Wells St.) from 3:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m. and Maria's Packaged Goods and Community Bar (960 W. 31st St.) from6-10 p.m., and May 26 at Hackney's Printers Row (733 S. Dearborn St.) starting at 6 p.m.