The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company put summer in a bottle when it mixed wheat ale and lemonade to make the ubiquitous Summer Shandy a few years ago. Now, the Wisconsin-based company has created another celebration beer. But this time, the drink isn’t an ode to a season: it’s to commemorate 150 years of business.
Dick Leinenkugel, company president and great-great grandson to founder Jacob Leinenkugel, knew the brewery had to do something special to celebrate its May 1867 start in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. “Jacob was only three when his family moved here from Germany, but his father was a brewer and trained him and his brothers,” Dick told Midwest Living. “As we got ready to celebrate our anniversary, we thought ‘Wouldn’t it be cool to actually brew beer in Germany again?’”
So Leinenkugel’s partnered with Hofbräu, the famous Munich brewery. The Mӓrzen-style lager incorporates imported German malts with distinctly American hops to make a drink Dick calls rich, creamy and bold. ‘We’ve included a mosaic hop, which gives the beer a blueberry or apricot note to both the aroma and taste,” he says. “Personally, I think this Anniversary Lager is one of the best beers we have ever brewed.”
Of course, Dick admits he loves whichever Leinenkugel’s variety happens to be in his hand at the time. That’s why he’s excited for the 150th Anniversary Celebration, which will be held at Leinie Lodge and Northern Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in Chippewa Falls on August 11 and 12.
The Anniversary Lager will be sold, as will some vintage brews, like Leinie Ice. The Ice variety initially was only available for 18 months in 1994 and 1995, but now fans can get another taste while listening to live country, reggae, rock and blues music. And Summer Shandy, the beer that launched Leinenkugel’s from regional brewery to nationwide supplier in 2013, will be available (Dick says nine out of 10 shandy-style beers consumed in the U.S. have Leinenkugel’s on the label).
The party continues in September, when the brewery will continue selling the Anniversary Lager at Oktoberfest events. Leinenkugel’s lovers who can’t make it to Wisconsin can buy a six-pack of the celebratory beer at select stores nationwide until February.
Dick is in the fifth generation of Leinenkugels to run the brewery, and members of the sixth generation take part in the family business as well. After 150 years, Dick says the family dedication has been the cornerstone of the brand’s success. “We’ve been lucky to have five, now six generations of Leinenkugels working with the best brewers around and putting money back into our brewery,” he says. “That’s let us consistently make some of the best quality beer you can have—if you don’t have that, you don’t have anything.”