Wednesday, July 28, 2010

New Brewery: House of Brews

***Disclaimer: I have been helping Page to start this brewery, but I have no financial or operational interest in it. Page gave me permission to write up this article, and my enthusiasm for this project is mostly unrelated to my work on the project (in fact, I became involved precisely because I was so enthusiastic for this excellent project). Nonetheless, fair warning that I do have some prior interest in this project.***

Conspicuously inconspicuous. Say that five times fast. But that's the perfect description for a new micro-brewery about to open its doors on Madison's Far Eastside. It is sliding under the radar, and it will make most of its money under the radar (though not under the table). But it will be there, as a gathering place, as a place of learning, as a perveyor of quality beer.

House of Brews is the imaginitive leap of Page Buchanan, a hard-working, gregarious, home brewer who has lived and worked in Madison by way of California many moons ago. He has this bizarre mix of laid back California Cool, and Midwest Union Work Ethic. When he left his job as a union representative the idea to start his own brewery was a natural, if expensive, one.

As a member of the Madison Homebrewer's And Taster's Guild ("MHTG"), Page's beer has been much-loved for years. If you haven't had it, it's only because you haven't looked. Conspicuous, yet inconspicuous. No MHTG meeting or social gathering would be complete without bombers or corny-kegs of Page's wonderful, flavorful, sessionable beers. MBR has served his beers at its yearly charity events(an "Ale-toberfest" last October, and a Rye Kolsch at the most recent event in mid-June). Bottles of his now-legendary Imperial Pumpkin are still popping up at events around town.

So, what is House of Brews. Like I mentioned, it's part brewery, it's part education, and it's part bar.

The brewery itself will be both traditional and non-traditional. Non-traditional in the sense, that one primary component of it will be the ability to subscribe to the brewery much like you would a CSA ("Community Supported Agriculture"). Indeed, Page refers to House of Brews as a "CSB" ("Community Supported Brewery"). It works like this: at the beginning of the year, you pre-pay for your beer for the year (or 6-months), to the tune of around $300 (though the exact price-point is still being worked out). Throughout the year, then, you get whatever beer Page makes.

Unlike more traditional breweries, there will be very few "regular" or "stable" beers - the focus is on new and interesting, thus there will be few "house" beers. You might get Rye Kolsch, you might get an Imperial Pumpkin, you might get a smoked lager. Who knows? The subscribers will have the opportunity to vote on what gets brewed. Throughout the year, you'll be given notice that your beer is ready, and you can pick it up at the brewery.

Like a more traditional brewery, House of Brews will also distribute its beer to bars, restaurants, and liquor stores around the state (mostly in the Madison area to start).

Because of the nature of the business, brewing so many beers in many small batches, brewing will almost always be going on. So, the education component of House of Brews will put an emphasis on de-mystifying the brewing processes. Want to see how the Rye Kolsch gets made? Just stop in and you'll have a front-row access to a chatty brewmaster. While there is some hope that this could eventually turn into a Brew-on-Premises site, due to legal issues (i.e., BOP is currently illegal in Wisconsin) this is, sadly, not a part of the current offerings.

Finally, as a bar, the location is ideal for stopping by on your way home or meeting someone out for a beer. Just off Hwy 51 near Buckeye Rd, it's tucked back into a wooded industrial park. It's probably on your way home from work if you live on the Eastside of Madison or Stoughton or Sun Prairie. The front bar area will be nice and big, with a small, tree-lined patio out front. There will be numerous areas where you'll be able to grab a beer and pull up a seat and watch the brewing going on with access to workers and the work (brewers and beer!) made paramount.

Much like Page, I assure you that his beer will be ubiquitous, yet under the radar. House of Brews will surely have the quality that we (beer drinkers) demand, the diversity that we (beer drinkers) enjoy, and fit perfectly into the culture of craft.

10 comments:

  1. Wow, very glad to have another brewery in town. Keep us updated on when it opens!
    That CSB thing is an interesting concept, but I don't think I'd ever want to participate in it. Not that I doubt Page will do good work, I just don't think I'd enjoy every beer that any brewery puts out enough to want to pre-order whatever they feel like brewing. For example, I generally like and often love the New Glarus Unplugged stuff, but I still try to buy a single bottle before grabbing a four pack, because sometimes that one bottle is plenty (Cheery Stout and Smoke on the Porter stand out as two where one was enough for me). Not that they are bad beers, just a personal preference. Call me an old timer, but I'd rather buy his beer the more traditional way.
    Anyway, just thought I'd thrown in my 2 cents on that, I'm excited to try the beer!

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  2. I've been keeping an eye on Page's progress through his facebook page. I'm excited to see his dream come to fruition (and to have regular access to his beer!).

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  3. Admittedly, I'll be curious to see how the CSB portion plays out. I think it's a curious way to sell beer. I'll definitely subscribe the first year to see how it works, I like the idea of not knowing what you'll be getting but having some faith in the brewer. Like a CSA - you have no idea if you're getting carrots or kohlrabi, but does it matter?

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  4. I can't wait for this to open, great concept!

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  5. First off, thanks for the very nice article, Jeff. Second, regarding the CSB, I'm hoping to have enough variety to allow subscribers to "mix 'n match". I'll also be in constant dialog with the subscribers to brew according to what sort of input/feedback they provide. While I be able to satisfy everyone 100% of the time I do hope to please as many as possible. Also, part of the idea of the CSB is to "SUPPORT" a particular brewer/brewery and the entire concept (a brewery where you have some input and an ongoing dialog with) and not only buying beer. I plan on having two educational events per year for subscribers - to learn about beer and get feedback on preferences, plus an annual appreciation dinner/party...just for fun. So, c'mon Matt, this is going to be an "exbeerience" or "exbeerament" you don't want to miss out on!

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  6. Sounds great - I love the "exbeerament"! Where do I sign up?

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  7. How do those who are interested get more info on when this project will come to fruition, or should I say fermentation?

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  8. Westside Kevin - He has a facebook page with constant updates on his progress.

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Madison-WI/House-of-Brews/118564684830407?ref=ts&__a=11&ajaxpipe=1

    As for the CSB, I'm definitely interested but might take a "wait-and-see" approach. I'll almost always buy a 4-pack of the NG Unplugged series, unless it's something that I'm doubtful I'll like (such as the Porter from last summer). However that really is the only brewery that I'll do that for, as I'm more selective with samplings from Ale Asylum, Capital and Tyranena. If the sampling sizes are small (4-packs? 6-packs?) and the price is reasonable, I might try it.

    Overall I'm just overjoyed at a brewery/tasting room / etc on the East side. It's only about 2 miles from my house, and will definitely be there often once it's open.

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  9. Tried the Full House IPA @ Dexter's last nite.. very nice... looking forward to investigating this more!

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