Great Lakes Brewing News Archive
Wisconsin Beer News
Originally Published: 10/97
By Bob "Now go have a Beer" Paolino
October in Wisconsin means two things for beer: the Oktoberfests just came out in late September, and so have the Green Bay Packers-inspired beer names.
Northeastern Wisconsin/Fox Valley
From the heart of Packers country, Green Bay Brewing (actually in Denmark) is selling Packerland Pilsener along with its other Hinterland brand beers.
In Green Bay, Titletown Brewing Company has a new brewer. Bob "Barley" Bultman returns to his hometown after apprenticing at Pilgrim Brewery in Hudson, Massachusetts. Bultman commented that his return to Green Bay is especially sweet because the former Chicago & Northwestern depot that houses Titletown was the workplace of his grandfather Frank Sands, a railroad foreman. Bultman replaces Jim Olen, who left Green Bay to return home to Milwaukee where he is in charge of brewing operations at Milwaukee Ale House, which will open this autumn.
Titletown hosted Green Bay's Oktoberfest on September 20, along with the German-American Society of Green Bay, and three local breweries‹Titletown, Green Bay Brewing, and Slab City‹ collaborated on the Oktoberfest brew served at the 12-hour festival.
Elsewhere in the Green Bay area, DePere's Egan Brewing Company will be losing its talented head brewer Greg Nash. Nash, who used to work for DME Brewing Services of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, will be returning home to Nova Scotia, where he will consult at a brewpub in Yarmouth before moving on to Moncton, New Brunswick, to open a new brewery. Best of luck to Greg as he continues his brewing career, and to Egan as they search for a new head brewer.
Egan is behind schedule on construction of the kitchen, but be sure to stop in to try Nash's very hoppy American Pale Ale or a creamy stout even if you can't have dinner with your beer. Indeed, be sure to try all the beers, including a nut brown ale, an ordinary bitter, and a Belgian-style witbier, which wasn't quite ready the last time I stopped in. Don't overlook the honey ale if you have room for another (or take some bottle home). Honey ales are often easily dismissed as merely a concession to those who would otherwise drink industrial lagers, but Egan's "Chuck's Honey Ale"‹when served at proper ale temperatures rather than palate-numbing industrial lager temperatures‹displays a subtle honey flavour and a very pleasant, but mild, hop flavour (probably a noble hop variety or a domestic Hallertau clone).
Visitors to Door County now have a choice of two places to enjoy beer brewed on the premises. In addition to Sturgeon Bay's Cherryland Brewery, located in Del Santos restaurant, Door County now has a second brewpub, Shipwrecked, in Egg Harbor. Shipwrecked opened in May and offers a selection of five beers. Most readers of this publication will probably be most interested in the very flavourful porter and the Copper. They also offer a blonde ale, cherry wheat, and a seasonal shandy‹lemon and the blonde ale rather than the usual lemon and lager. If you're in Door County for the fall colours season or for cross-country skiing this winter, be sure to visit both of the county's brewers.
While riding in the Annual Door County Century bicycle ride, my bicycling companions spotted a tavern across from one of the DCC's famed food stops and urged that we stop in to check the Packers game. I was a little sceptical because of the alternating Packers and "Lite" banners strung outside, but agreed to go in anyway. To my (pleasant) surprise, I found Appleton Brewing Company's Tailgate Amber and seasonal Pumpkin Spice both on draught at the Tundra House. With a couple of good beers in front of me, that dropped Packers touchdown attempt didn't seem to bother me very much.
Elsewhere in northeastern Wisconsin, Rail House in Marinette hopes to be burning down the house this winter. No, they haven't hired an arsonist. Instead, having outgrown their present 2,200 square foot location, they will be moving to a new 9,000 square foot facility and hope to offer the old building to the fire department as a training exercise. Proprietor Paul Monnette explains that both Peshtigo (Monnette's hometown) and Chicago (brewmaster Rick Sauer's hometown) both had disastrous fires on the same day, and invites beer-lovers to join them for a hot seat at the celebration (with shuttle transportation provided to nearby lodgings in Marinette, Peshtigo, and Menominee (MI)). Stay tuned! If you want to visit the old place before the move, the current seasonal is an Oktoberfest.
Also expanding is Fox River Brewing Company in Oshkosh, which will be opening a second location in Appleton's Fox River Mall.
Madison and Southern Wisconsin
1997 proved to be the year of the glass for Madison's 11th Annual Great Taste of the Midwest. Glass selection always makes for heated discussion for the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild's festival organisers, but this year the public also put in its two cents' worth on the glassware. (Disclaimer: the author is one of the organisers.) Unlike some festivals for which the tasting glass is the same boring thing every year, the Great Taste offers a different style of tasting glass each year. The glass design to receive the most votes this year was intended to resemble a miniature version of an English pint glass. When the glasses were delivered, my first reaction was "university food service milk glass." A Milwaukee-area beer advertising tabloid made repeated references to the milk glass, and even coverage in the Madison Sunday newspaper included a picture of a festival patron examining the glass upon entering the festival and the reporter referred to it as a "diner-style" glass. The "milk" theme proved much more popular when implemented as a design element of the T-shirt, the front of which depicted a beer-mustached farmer in "O.M'Gosh" overalls asking, "Got Beer?". Rumour has it (but I don't believe it) that festival chair Bob Drousth intended all along for the glass to continue the "milk" theme. Milk, after all is the other wholesome beverage besides beer that is produced in Wisconsin. In any event, none of the 4,000+ patrons appeared to be complaining about the vast selection of beers from 75 breweries, served in a spacious and festive lakeside park setting.
Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co is now serving Rob's Important Ale, which brewmaster Rob LoBreglio describes as one of a series of experiments to nail down his perfect ESB. A pink strawberry ale is also being offered, along with the Oktoberfest, just out in late September. Great Dane will be offering free shuttle service to the Quivey's Grove beer festival October on 4.
The next specialty brew at Angelic Brewing Co will be a Belgian wit. A porter will be in the works later in the season. Readers and other visiting beer lovers continue to comment to me about Angelic's reputation for brewing on the conservative side. It's hard to argue with that assessment, but I would urge people not to dismiss Angelic on that basis. Although the blonde, amber, and nut brown ales are definitely low-key brews, Dean Coffey's excellent bitter is well worth repeated visits to the pub. The stout and the hefeweizen, when available, are also among the area's great beers, and the quality of the food is typically worth the wait. Visitors to Madison (and locals, too) should take advantage of the great beers offered by all of the local breweries.
J.T. Whitney's head brewer Rich Becker turns 40 next month and will be serving an Oktoberfest-style Over the Hill lager. The celebration is November 14, and if the brewer has anything to say about it, the 18º Plato brew will be served in litre mugs. Also on tap at J.T. Whitney's (throughout the Packers season) will be this season's version of the Frozen Tundra Championship Ale, not quite as sweet as last year's. The stout will be back soon, a little stronger and drier, and served with 70% nitrogen through a Guinness-style faucet. Also coming are a pumpkin ale for Halloween, the Weizenbock for November, and a nut brown ale for U.S. Thanksgiving. Also look for a variation on the bitter, this one highly-hopped using Challenger and Target.
The biggest news at J.T. Whitney's may be the beer that just ran out‹that is the most recent batch of India Pale Ale. Becker commented that the beer ended up much bigger than expected (about 19.5º P). To his‹and owner David Bookstaff's‹surprise, it disappeared in record time. I know I'm going to get into trouble for this good-natured East-Sider comment, but it appears that Madison's West Siders are finally starting to grow out of their "yuppie" stereotype and are forsaking their Corona and Heineken to enjoy real beer at last!
Guess where else people are enjoying good beer? I was recently a homebrew judge at a local Gemütlichkeit Days festival at the Jefferson County fairgrounds. While we were judging homebrew, the majority of the crowd was engaged in polkas and card tournaments. And their beer of choice? New Glarus Brewing Co's Staghorn Oktoberfest. Festival organisers apparently were wary about the salability of anything other than industrial lager products, and offered only one craft beer. But the crowd proved them wrong by voting with their purchases for the fine New Glarus seasonal lager. Jefferson will be offering festgoers a larger selection of beer at the Fair View Inn on October 19 at a benefit beer tasting for the Humane Society of Jefferson County (see calendar listing).
Capital Brewery's malt-monster Kirby Nelson has come out with his second-year version of Autumnal Fire. Nelson calls the beer, with an original gavity of 19.7º Plato, "inviting yet devastating," and urges that people treat it as a beer to sip from a brandy snifter. "You can slam it if you have a death wish," he added. The brewery is looking at the possibility of bottling Autumnal Fire next year. The Oktoberfest is now available, and a limited batch of Wild Rice will follow. Nelson remarked that some people really love the Wild Rice and others think it's absolutely horrible, and adds that he sees those strong feelings in both directions as a sign of a good specialty beer. If you want to decide for yourself, don't delay because it sells out quickly.
As an ale brewery, Gray's doesn't have an Oktoberfest, but the Autumn Ale is back for another season. When Autumn Ale first came out it was an extraordinary beer. Last year's batch was a disappointment because it was merely good, but this year's version is a winner once again.
Randy's Fun Hunters brewpub in Whitewater has the pale ale back on tap, along with the seasonal Oktoberfest. If you stop in for a beer or for dinner, also try the classic oatmeal stout.
Work continues on Brewery Creek, in Mineral Point, and Jeff Donaghue hopes for a 1997 opening despite delays in the plumbing work.
Milwaukee and Southeastern Wisconsin
Lakefront has gotten on the Packers bandwagon as well, with its new Broke Spoke pilsener. The traditional straw coloured European-style lager is named for the Broke Spoke tavern in Kiln, Mississippi, hometown of Packers' quarterback Brett Favre. Brett's brother Jeff, owner of a new tavern (also named Broke Spoke) in Muskego approached Lakefront about making a beer for his tavern and to send back home to Mississippi. The beer is available on tap at both Broke Spokes and just released in bottles.
Lakefront has been aging its Beer Line Barley Wine for release around Thanksgiving to celebrate the brewery's tenth anniversary. The beer is named for the railway line that used to deliver Milwaukee's beer to the rest of the world. The annual pumpkin lager is once again on the shelves in Milwaukee and Madison area stores.
The Wisconsin Legislature recently defeated in committee a proposed .08% blood alcohol level as the measure of drunk driving. Lakefront's Jim Klisch, not known to be shy about expressing his opinion, praised the what he called the wise action of defeating what he called "foolish, feel-good legislation [of the] neo-prohibitionist movement" that would make criminals of everyone who drinks a few beers at the corner bar and would do nothing about the repeat offenders who are the real problem. Klisch was a Milwaukee Police officer before resigning to devote full-time to the brewery as sales grew, and made his share of drunk driving arrests; "In not one instance," he said, "was the impaired driver's BAC even close to .10%, much less .08%." In Klisch's opinion, a lower standard will do nothing to save lives, but it will waste police officers' time and create a huge backlog in the judicial system. Klisch urges that we "[keep] the prohibitionists in the history books."
Sprecher continued its Labour Day weekend tradition of beer, food, and music with Sprecherfest. The brewery's current seasonal is Oktoberfest.
Water Street Brewery has begun bottling one of its best selling beers, Honey Lager Light, for sale in six packs in southeastern Wisconsin. The crisp, balanced beer is made with a considerable amount of light clover honey, with some wheat and caramel malts for added flavour and body. The light malt character is delicately balanced with Perle, Hallertau, and Saaz hops. Head brewer George Bluvas also crafts a dry Irish stout and a dry hopped red ale.
Wisconsin Brewing is releasing its fifth beer in November. Silver Fox, a Vienna/Maerzen style, is the Wauwatosa brewery's first lager for general release. Look for a humourous point-of-sale promotion in your local stores. Even after a massive flood earlier this year, the brewery is expanding distribution into Minnesota Chisago Lakes Distributing will have the beer in the Saint-Paul area market in October.
In the unusual beer category, Jeff Hotson, of western Wisconsin's Bodega Brew Pub (LaCrosse), plans to have a hibiscus beer on draught soon.
Wisconsin has a lot of breweries and thirsty beer lovers. Writers can't possibly visit every establishment for every issue, but if your favourite brewery isn't mentioned here, send a timely note to GreatLakeWI@juno.com or through the USPS and I'll follow up on the tip.