Hans “Hanzee” Lofgren
If you were lucky enough to know Hans Lofgren, you are no doubt feeling like a piece of you has been missing for the last week or so. Hans was revered by many and his sudden passing continues to send shockwaves through Saint Paul and beyond. Countless tributes in all forms have been showing up in my social media feed and with each comes a story, anecdote, and memory about this great man. With each story I read, a smile blooms on my face and tears well up in my eyes. I guess this piece is my small way of coping with his loss.
I first knew of Hans Lofgren back in my college days when I ordered pints from him at The Dubliner Pub in St. Paul. He always wore a Guinness hockey jersey. His epic beard and gravelly voice were unmistakable. Fast-forward a handful of years later and I remember sitting at the old Coffee Grounds (now Underground Music Cafe) in Saint Paul when a burly gentleman strolled in to buy a latté. He looked so familiar and I asked my wife where I knew him from. Then I heard him speak and it hit me like a two-by-four; it was the bartender from the Dubliner.
I came to learn that this gentle giant’s name was Hans, although everybody, and I am not exaggerating, everybody, called him Hanzee. Over the years, I would see him come into the coffee shop on his way to work and we began saying hi and making small talk. On the weekends, he would bring his family to the coffee shop. They would always seem to be up to something fun; a bike ride or a soccer game. Seeing him with his loving family juxtaposed his skeleton rings and epic beard persona.
As the years went by, I came to learn more about Hans and how much he loved people. I also learned that he was a thing of legend in the beer community, both locally and beyond. When I first started going to beer festivals, I would see him everywhere. Watching him interact with volunteers and pouring himself, he was always ready with a smile and a beer. What impressed me about Hans was his kindness. As a neighbor, he was quick to introduce you to someone. If you had a question about a place to go for anything in Saint Paul, he had a great recommendation. He introduced me to Conny’s Creamy Cone and Stasny’s Meats, both neighborhood gems.
When it came to the beer world, Hans Lofgren was like Prince because he only needed one name: Hanzee. Everyone knew and loved Hanzee. Hanzee was instrumental in running the craft beer division of Capitol Beverage, Original Gravity. He took immense pride in the brands he and his team represented. To Hanzee, beer was always about the people and relationships.
Before I became a beer writer, Hans introduced me to Ed Bremer at Heritage Liquors in Maplewood. Ed has helped me secure numerous kegs of craft beer for my kegerator and without Hanzee’s recommendation, I never would have found the place. As I became more interested in the local and regional beer industry, I began taking classes through the Better Beer Society to learn more about craft beer and fuel my passion for meeting people around beer. Several times, Hanszee was one of the presenters and his booming voice would have the audience raptly hanging on his every word. Hanszee was a great storyteller and people would just gravitate towards him. Despite the fact that I wasn’t in the industry, he would always introduce me to people who he thought I should meet. These introductions helped me build a network of people that would later come to be friends.
When I started blogging at Beerploma, Hanzee would ask what he could do to help me get my name out there. In the summer of 2015, I took a three-week beercation. Hanzee took time to meet with me before I went on the trip to figure out where I was going and to set me up with interviews and tours of several amazing breweries. One highlight of my young beer writing career was being shown around by Paul Kavulak, the owner of Nebraska Brewing Company. I also enjoyed some incredible treatment from Ben Matya, the Sales Manager at Empyrean Brewing Company. I remember a fantastic behind the scenes tour at Odell Brewing Company in Fort Collins, CO., in which I got to go on top of the brewery to take photographs. Hans had nothing to gain from helping me get such incredible access to these places, but he knew how passionate I was about craft beer and wanted to help. That is the generous and selfless man that he was. Last fall, I remember messaging him on Facebook about where I could find a sixer or two of Nebraska Brewing’s pumpkin ale. The following Saturday, he dropped off 2 6-packs at my side door.
So, Beerploma and I owe a lot to Hanzee’s generous nature. Beyond beer, Hans was an incredible husband and father. He was always posting pics to social media from a La Crosse game or a walk to Conny’s Creamy Cone with his family. My heart aches for his family because he always put them above all else. Hanzee loved Saint Paul and took pride in his neighborhood. I know that there were others who knew him way better than I did. I cannot imagine what they are going through. Hanzee mentored so many people in the beer world and beyond. Hans taught me so many lessons about generosity and paying it forward than he probably realized.
I know that someday Hanzee and I will meet again. We have to because that sucker would never let me buy him a beer to thank him for helping me along the way. Until that day, I can honor his memory and spirit by continuing to try to be an ambassador for great beer. If you are looking for a way to help support the Lofgren family, consider attending the Hundos For Hans, a fundraiser to help his family. If you are looking for a great podcast where some of the folks who knew him best share some stories and memories about him, check out the MN Beercast episode devoted to remembering Hans. Keep your eyes and ears open for other ways that many of the local breweries will be honoring the memory of Hans. He was such a great man who enjoyed laughing, smiling, and making everyone’s day a little bit better when they got to see him. Rest in peace, my friend.
For more information on services to celebrate and remember Hans, here is the Star Tribune link to his obituary.