Pour some out for Theodore Haffenreffer

The Boston brewer who created the legendary Haffenreffer Private Stock malt liquor has passed away at the age of 91.

Theodore Haffenreffer grew up in the beverage business: his house shared water pipes with the family brewery next door.

He ultimately became a European-trained expert in the ways of boozedom, and created one of the most enduring brands of hard-hitting brew that the United States has ever seen.

His obituary in the GLOBE tells a fascinating tale:

Raised next door to the family brewery in Jamaica Plain and trained in Copenhagen as a brewer, Theodore C. Haffenreffer Jr. had far more discerning tastes than most who raise a mug to their lips.

“When my father tasted any new beer, the first thing he would comment on was how it was hopped,” Hatsy Shields of Hamilton said, referring to how well the hop plants had flavored a brew. “He would taste it, he would swirl it around his mouth, and he would say, ‘Well hopped’ or it needed work.”

Mr. Haffenreffer, who took over his family business, Haffenreffer & Co., and ran it until it was shuttered in 1964, died Dec. 27 in his home in the Chestnut Hill section of Newton after a period of failing health. He was 91.

“The brewery meant a lot to him,” his daughter said. “It was a vibrant place, and I think it was a great part of the life of that neighborhood.”

Haffenreffer & Co. also was, for many decades, part of Boston’s storied history. In the late 1880s, after the Civil War, Mr. Haffenreffer’s grandfather launched the family business, using water from Stony Brook.

The brewery became a sprawling complex with more than a dozen buildings, including some that housed workers. Legend has it that an outside spigot at one building offered free beer day and night and that Red Sox players – including Babe Ruth – stopped after home games to quench their thirst.


Mr. Haffenreffer graduated from the Rivers School, which then was in Brookline, and studied chemistry at the University of Birmingham in England. From there, he went to Copenhagen to train at the Tuborg Brewery.


Tall and athletic, Mr. Haffenreffer played squash at Union Boat Club on Beacon Hill and was an accomplished sailor, a talent he passed on to some of his children, one of whom competed internationally. With his family, he spent decades of summers on Prouts Neck in Scarborough, Maine.

When Mr. Haffenreffer closed the family’s brewery, he sold its brands of beer, including Haffenreffer Private Stock, to his cousins, who at the time ran Narragansett Brewing Co. in Rhode Island.


In the gardens, she said, “Dad was really the designer. He organized the shape of the pond while it was being dredged, and he was also the arborist. He loved to prune and he had an eclectic taste for very unusual trees. He loved to shape them; his design sense was strong and right.”

So, too, was his approach to welcoming in visitors to view the beauty he and his wife had coaxed from the earth.

“What gave them the greatest pleasure was that they opened their gardens on Sundays, always, to the neighborhood in the summer,” their daughter said.

“He was a great gentleman, and that is something all his friends recognize. He was courteous and attentive to people in the way a gentleman is. It wasn’t just his manners, it was his heart that made him a gentleman.”

Although Haffenreffer’s heyday was quite a while ago, the malt liquor that bears his name still remains culturally relevant.

Len Bias famously bought a gang of Private Stock on his last night alive. Tragically, its healthful effects were not enough to counteract the cocaine that killed him.

Notorious B.I.G. immortalized the brand in his signature hit, “Juicy“:

I let my tape rock ’til my tape popped
Smokin’ weed and Bambu, sippin’ on Private Stock
Way back, when I had the red and black lumberjack
With the hat to match.

Clearly, Private Stock is a legendary liquid creation.

But is it tasty?

For the definitive answer on that, we turn to our designated malt liquor guru, Bruz of 40OunceMaltLiquor.com….

The “imported taste” is amazing. This is one of my favorite 40s ever. I love it… goes down smooth… doesn’t taste like all the rest… makes you feel good inside… puts a smile on your face… Private Stock is awesome. It’s often compared to Ballantine Ale for reasons I’m not certain of – they don’t taste alike. Ballantine has a basic ale flavor, this has a sorta spicy malt flavor, yet not overly strong. Hooks you up with a slight buzz too. Easy 10/10 swills, it’s delicious. It’s available in NJ but not within easy grasp for me… I wish it was though, this brew should be part of a balanced diet. That’s right – I’d drink it every day.

bruz ps

Bruz has spoken, and gesticulated.

Even better, many bottles of Private Stock have rebuses under the bottlecap. So you can stimulate your mindbrain and your booze nerve simultaneously!

rebus cap

Private Stock is clearly a superb malt liquor selection.

So please join us in celebrating Mr. Haffenreffer…

A true gentleman who brewed a delicious, nutritious taste sensation that won fans across cultures and generations.

Now let’s raise our frosty bottles of Private Stock and pour some out for our homey who is no longer with us, Theodore C. Haffenreffer, Jr.

Mourn ya till we join ya.

Update 8/30/10: ROTI also mourns the passing of August Haffenreffer, another member of the brewing clan who played a vital role in the creation of “Green Death” Private Stock. Read his obituary here.

%d bloggers like this: