Monday, December 21, 2009

For the Love of Lilly

In the spring of 1915, the family of 75 year old Horscht (Hoss) Haff gathered around what was to be his death bed just 2 days later. Horscht had been sick for quite some time and it was all his wife of 54 years could do to keep him healthy enough for this day. It had taken his family several weeks to be able to assemble all in one place which was important because it was obvious Horscht only had days to live and his family meant everything to him. Horscht had just enough energy to tell his assembled family one last story, the story of his life and unbeknownst to him at the time, a small slice of American history as well.

And the story goes...Time was 1860 and Horscht and his best friend Adolph were swinging German bachelors in America. One night while out by the riverside, Horscht and Adolph met a girl named Lilly. Lilly was a stunning lady with a sunny and bright disposition. Both boys fell for Lilly immediately and a problem was born, which one was going to get to court her.

They came up with an ingenious plan, both guys had their own family beer recipe from the old country. They would do a blind taste test for Lilly and whichever beer she chose as her favorite would bring the brewer to her courting door. Adolph's brew was light, crisp and easy to drink. Horscht's brew was slightly spicy with a rich malty sweetness.

On his way to Adolph's with a jug of his best brew there was a carriage accident blocking the main road. Horscht went down an alley way and onto the next street where he saw the most stunning creature he'd ever seen walk into the saloon. He couldn't believe her beauty and he couldn't resist following her into the saloon. Once inside he sat down at the table with her and asked if she wanted to try some of his brew. It was love at first taste for the future Mrs. Haff, Marianne.

Two blocks away Adolph was doing the same thing with Lilly. Adolph won her heart nearly immediately and won the taste test by default. Over the next couple of months, it was confirmed that Lilly liked Horscht's beer better, but the contest was long forgotten by that time. Besides, Horscht was very happy to be with Marianne.

The following spring both couples were married. Lilly's father had acquired a brewery and decided to partner up with Adolph and his beer recipe and began to sell it. The beer was well received and the brewery quickly expanded. Horscht and Marianne moved west to be in the mountains, raising 5 children.

Horscht died the next day after telling the story of meeting Marianne and falling in love. Something about the story, besides the obvious love his father had for his mother, stuck with Joseph Haff, the youngest of the Haff children. He had never known his father to brew his own beer, though he had loved to drink beer. After several months had passed Joseph asked his mother about the beer that Horscht had brewed. She told him it was the most wonderful beer she had ever drank and she was so very thankful that her friend Lilly hadn't got to try it first for that would have meant that Horscht would have won the contest for the right to date Lilly. But, if Horscht would have won the contest, it's very likely that his beer would still be brewed and Horscht would have lived a very different, very wealthy life, because Lilly's father's brewery was very successful.

Joseph remained curious about this brew that his father brewed. Shortly after his mother died in 1920, Joseph found some scribblings in a book that looked to his untrained eye like a beer recipe. He was very excited by this find and determined that he would try to brew his father's beloved brew. Unfortunately, a new law had been passed in the United States that forbid alcohol called Prohibition. The Haff family was very much a law abiding family and Joseph just could not bring himself to break the law. He kept the recipe, but never brewed the beer that brought his mother and father together.

Following Joseph's death in 1979, his son George found the beer recipe tucked into some of Joseph's papers. He had heard his father tell the story of his grandparent's meeting several times and like his father was intrigued about the beer. As George dug through more of his father's papers he found a letter written by his grandfather's friend Adolph announcing the birth of a son, August Anheuser Busch. This was the first time that George realized that his grandfather's friend Adolph was Adolphus Busch and Lilly was Lilly Anheuser. George couldn't stop thinking about the fact that, but for a simple twist of fate, his grandfather could have brewed the most popular beer in America, as his friend Aldophus' brew had become under the name Budweiser.

Earlier in the year, Jimmy Carter had signed a bill allowing people to brew their own beer at home. George and his son Peter decided to give Horscht's brew a shot. They got the help of a friend of George's, Mark Dunn, to translate the recipe and the methods into the modern age. What they brewed was a wonderfully rich, malty beer with little hints of cherry. The beer was also made with rye, which Mark Dunn hadn't seen before, though he had drank and brewed hundreds of different beers. The beer quickly became a Haff family and Dunn family favorite.

In 1994, Mark Dunn's son, Brian, opened a brewery and started brewing some of the most inventive and wonderful beers in the United States. Mark and Brian Dunn were constantly asking George and Peter Haff for permission to brew Horscht's beer so they could share it with the world. Finally, following George's death in 2007, Peter decided to allow Brian to brew the family beer on one condition, that it's named after his great grandfather, Hoss.

So, today, the beer that was one carriage accident away from becoming Budweiser and the standard for American beers is being made by Great Divide under the name of Hoss* and is available seasonally.


*Not a single word of the Haff family history is true.

3 comments:

  1. Wonderfully done. You had me hooked all the way to the end. Please tell me you emailed this to Great Divide.

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  2. Where's the pun? I was waiting for a pun!

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  3. This is actually going to be available year round now.

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