Having passed by this restaurant nearly every visit I’ve ever made to Chicago I finally discovered that they brew their own root beer! The Berghoff has been around Chicago nearly as long as anything else has been around Chicago. The Berghoff family opened the establishment in 1898 as a bar following successful sales of their beer at the Chicago World’s Fair. They used to offer a free sandwich with your nickle beer and eventually opened a restaurant in addition to the bar.
My root beer did not come with a free sandwich (although the sandwiches looked good). The root beer came about the same way a lot of soft drinks came about…prohibition. The Berghoff’s sold a near-beer as well as a Bergo line of sodas. The root beer continues today. Interestingly enough, once prohibition was lifted the city of Chicago issued the Berghoff liquor license number 1. That license sits behind the bar to this day.
I really enjoyed this root beer. I ordered my glass from the downstairs bar and was very pleased with my frosted mug. That’s always a great start. The carbonation was visible to the naked eye. It was super dark. I felt like an old-timey badass in the wood-paneled historic room.
Beyond being an approachable (drinker friendly) root beer, there was some interesting and unexpected flavor notes. The flavors evolved the more I drank ranging from a deep sassafras to a warm cinnamon with a hint of clove. There might have been some wintergreen but I wouldn’t bet my life on it. The root beer finishes on your palate with a balanced caramely sweetness. But not too sweet. This was terrific.
I have no problem awarding an 8.5 out of 10 for this house brewed root beer. That’s impressively high on my rating scale, and on future tastings I might be persuaded to bump it up a bit. I went out of my way for this root beer, and I’m happy I did.
Sampled on July 17, 2017
Note, I lifted most of the historical information from Wikipedia. Check there for original sources.