Meet Our Brewmaster, Rob Hunter
By Ed Jacobi
When you get our Brewmaster Rob Hunter to talk about what he does (which is not easy to do), he will tell you there are three ingredients that make Hofbräuhaus Chicago authentic. They are the food, music, and bier, and he would say it in that order because of the modest person he is. However this writer will put the bier at the top of this list. In Germany, a Bräuhaus is a brewing house, or a brewery. While the culinary and musical components of the Hofbräuhaus evolved, it is, and always will be, first and foremost, a brewery, and it is our signature bier that defines us. In order for us to carry the Hofbräuhaus name, we are obligated to serve the authentic Hofbräuhaus brews.
The original Hofbräuhaus in Munich opened in 1589, but the law that governs the ingredients dates back to 1516. This doctrine is called the Reinheitsgebot and is known as the Bavarian Bier Purity Law. This law mandates that only four ingredients can be in authentic German bier consisting of water, hops, barley, and yeast. There are no preservatives in our bier, and the bier you drink in our Hofbräuhaus is the exact same recipe as you would drink at the original Hofbräuhaus in Munich, and Rob Hunter is its keeper!
However things are different today than they were over 400 years ago. Today you will see Rob with his computer determining how long the brews need to cook, set, and when and how much of each ingredient is to be added. Hops and barley are imported from Germany, but the water comes from here, and our water is perhaps the best in the world. I have tasted the bier in Munich and the bier in our haus and if given a blindfold test, I could not tell a difference! The Hofbräuhaus bier in Munich is considered by many to be the best in the world, which gives credence to, “The world’s best bier, is brewed right here.”
Being the Brewmaster of perhaps the world’s most famous bier carries an awesome responsibility, and Rob has to check his supplies, monitor production and consumption, and ensure that the bier that is served is always fresh and up to Hofbräuhaus standards. However Rob feels that his role is to be as invisible as possible. He enjoys working behind the scenes and if you don’t notice him, that’s fine with him. Rob is a respectful unassuming person who loves his job and wants to see everyone in the Hofbräuhaus loving the bier and having a fun time. However, I was able to corner him, and this is what he shared with me for this blog:
Rob served his country as a member of the United States Air Force. He enlisted right out of high school in the 80s, and visited Germany where he fell in love with the bier. In the Frankfurt area of Germany he was served the local lager biers and he was blown away by what he tasted, and in his words, was “hooked” from that moment on. When he got out of the Air Force in the early 90s the craft beer movement was in its infancy, so Rob, who hailed from Arkansas, started brewing his own beer, trying to replicate what he tasted in Germany.
When Rob left the Air Force he enrolled at the University of Arkansas and graduated with a degree in Psychology. He then moved to Nashville in search of a job in his chosen field of study. While looking for jobs, he and a friend drank the local brews. When job opportunities proved to be scarce, he literally turned the 6-pack of beer upside down, found the phone number of the brewery, called them, and was hired by the now defunct Bohannon Brewery where he was specifically told he was the official “keg washer”. He then moved up to cleaning tanks and running the filter in the cellar, and then started working in the brew house where he was an apprentice to the Brewmaster.
In 1995 when the Prairie Rock Brewery opened, the Bohannon Brewmaster, who was hired as a consultant for Prairie Rock, recommended Rob to be their Brewmaster. The Prairie Rock Brewery was located in Elgin and they took the suggestion and Rob moved here. During his time at Prairie Rock he helped open a second location in Schaumburg in 1999. Rob left Prairie Rock in 2004 and became Brewmaster for Emmett’s Brewing Company, which at the time was experiencing rapid growth. He remained with Emmett’s until 2013 when he got his dream job, Brewmaster at Hofbräuhaus Chicago in Rosemont.
Rob’s love is brewing lager bier, and to be able to do it for Hofbräuhaus Chicago is, “A dream come true.” A real thrill for Rob is using all the equipment coming from Germany. He says this aspect makes it all the more special. Working for an enterprise with so many people has put Rob’s Psychology degree to good use. There are many personalities who work for Hofbräuhaus Chicago and Rob has a way of putting everyone at ease while carrying out his awesome responsibilities as Brewmaster.
As a team player with Rob, I can testify to Rob’s easy going, but very professional nature with everyone. Whether you’re the CEO of the company, the General Manager, a server, cook, runner, or musician, Rob treats everyone the same. If you’re lucky enough to get to know him, you will walk away impressed with his brilliance and knowledge of his trade as well as the feeling he really does care about you as a person. Rob continues to live his dream at the place he loves. If you ever see him checking the tanks behind the bar, be sure to give him a shout out. For sure he will turn, smile, wave, and if he has a bier in hand, will give you a Prost. This is our Prost to you:
Rob Hunter, Brewmaster of Hofbräuhaus Chicago in Rosemont Dankeschön!
Ed Jacobi has served as Master of Ceremonies at Hofbräuhaus Chicago since it opened and is a contributing writer to the Good Times.