Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beer Sommeliers and Groupthink and Getting A Decent Recommendation

Slate, the online magazine, (you all know what Slate is? I don't really have to qualify that do I?) recently wrote an article about craft beer. More precisely, Slate wrote about Beer Sommeliers

One kind of beer sommelier is called a Cicerone, and we've written about them before here at MBR (here and here). The Cicerone Program has multiple levels of certification, much like the Wine Sommelier program. 

Ah! But sommeliers are so damned snooty! Snooty! I tell you. The petite bourgeoisie, you, have no knowledge of the complexity of wine. The dozens of varietals, the years on French oak (years!), the complexity imparted by aging sur lees.

The great thing about beer? It's made for the petite bourgeoisie. (Can you tell I like using the phrase "petite bourgeoisie"?). It's complex. The processes, ingredients, aging, and souring mechanisms, let alone philosophies that go into producing a fine beer are certainly on par with that weird "biodynamic" shit the wine hippies want to lure you into. But without the damned wine hippies. At the end of the day it's beer.

On the other hand, a good recommendation from someone who knows their stuff can make the difference between a good meal with beer, and a phenomenal food experience. I can tell you that I regularly ask around for beer recommendations. Some places are great (Brian and the folks at The Mason Lounge, for example), some are not so great (if you see me, ask me and I'll be happy to rail against some not-so-great local establishments - and one's with "good" beer lists, too). I've had a lot beer that I would have never tried without a recommendation and a lot of places that I'll never go again because of a bad beer recommendation.

One of the problems, as I see it, with the beer universe (and I point my fingers at the most well-traveled of beer recommendation engines BeerAdvocate and RateBeer) is that the results are so damned boring. And, the result is always Russian Imperial Stout, Imperial IPA, or La Folie. The groupthink that creates those reviews and recommendations would never recommend the perfect crisp Helles Lager, a subtle Belgian Blonde, or a rough and tumble Porter, let alone the Zwickelbier that the Slate journalist experienced. Many bars hire fans of beer, those that read and participate on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer and get drawn into the groupthink there; but few bars and restaurants hire bartenders that can actually demonstrate any real knowledge of the stuff that sits in the tap.

While I'm happy to see the taplists are getting better (many of the new restaurants popping up have at least serviceable, and in some cases great, beer lists), the knowledge needs to come along with it or the opportunity is wasted. I'm constantly frustrated by good restaurants that pride themselves on good drinks and great wine lists that offer nothing better than Amstel Light for quality beer to pair with quality food. But, then I think, that even if they offered great beer, the offer would be meaningless anyway, because they don't have anyone who knows what the hell they're talking about.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Five Gallons At A Time: More on Dextrins

I love you, Jean De Clerck:

"Beers rich in dextrin are generally considered to have a more mellow palate and this is usually attributed to the greater viscosity of such beers compared with beers of higher alcohol content. This view, however, is quite erroneous (emphasis mine).The author has made a series of mashes so as to obtain worts of differing dextrin content (12-15% difference in attenuation limit) and found that the beers brewed from these high dextrin worts lacked palate fulness. This result is probably due to the fact that raising the mashing temperature suddenly from 50C to 70C to suppress partially sugar formation, at the same time leads to a failure to form intermediate protein degradation products, as will be seen in the next paragraph."

"These intermediate protein degradation products undoubtedly make a major contribution to palate fulness, nor must it be forgotten that the higher the dextrin content, the lower will be the concentration of alcohol, which is also a contributory factor to mellowness and palate."

-A Textbook of Brewing, Volume One

Friday, December 9, 2011

It's Miller Time

Confession time! It annoys me when people slander the quality of beers produced by the megabrewers. It's almost impossible to not make fun of their marketing, and I often do. Plus, considering all the "we can pay to play" political obstacles they throw at craft breweries, some of their corporate higher-ups are downright evil. However, the quality of their beer - i.e. the fact that they can nail their product specifications despite numerous brewery locales and variabilities in ingredients, equipment and water supplies - is mind-bogglingly impressive. I can understand not enjoying their beers, but it's simply wrong to accuse them of being poorly made.

I imagine that being a brewer or a scientist at a company like Miller must resemble living in a country where the characteristics of your nutcase leaders are projected onto you by the rest of the world because most people don't know anything about you. Having met a few of the Miller folks, I can vouch for them not being a bunch of ignorant cookie cuttings. They even drink craft beer! At the end of the day, though, people need jobs and Miller pays well. In addition, the company is on the forefront of brewing science and technology. Hell, I applied for a brewing job there a couple of years ago. I wasn't qualified because I don't have a degree in chemistry or chemical engineering, but imagine how much I could have learned! I like to think that I could have taught them a few things as well, but that's probably a common fantasy among craft brewers. The bottom line for industrial breweries trying to enter the craft market is that until they build dedicated facilities which trade efficiency for flexibility, or buy existing craft breweries and leave their core processes alone (the verdict is still out on you, GooseBev), they'll never be able to pull it off. Which is a shame, because some of the most flavorful beers I've ever tasted have come from a Miller pilot brewery. I don't know if they actually do this, but I find it funny that an experimental Chocolate Bock could account for 0.1% of the volume of any given batch of High Life.

Anyway... whether they brew Imperial Nut Oregano Braggots in souped-up 1/2-barrel kegs or brew MGD on the 1,000-barrel pinnacle of German brewhouse engineering, I enjoy the company of other brewers and I appreciate their work. My war is with the corporate executives and their lobbyists.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Madison Coffee Review?

The boss of MBR is an irresponsible slacker who believes that living without computers for three weeks is a better use of time than meeting his publication deadlines. The nerve! I'll try to pick up some of the slack, but I'm lucky if I can churn out nerdy homebrewing articles on a monthly basis and, as a professional brewer, I'd like to avoid masquerading as a beer critic. While I wake up the ol' brain and ponder which politicians to randomly accuse of torpedoing Wisconsin's beer industry, I'll talk about something that's vaguely related to brewing beer: brewing coffee!

The best and worst coffee in my household are both made via French press. In fact, they both exist in a given mug at the same time. The top 3/4 of the mug is beautifully robust, with thin wisps of brown foam on top and an aroma that can stain walls and make you optimistic about the existence of heaven. The bottom 1/4 of the mug is a sludgy, gritty ooze that needs to be chewed before swallowing. My French press is a cheap piece of junk, pain and simple. I have a small drip machine as well, but its default coffee defines mediocrity.

Thinking of coffee in beer-making terms, I realized that using a French press is like batch sparging and using a drip machine is like continuous sparging. Could I batch sparge the coffee grounds in my drip machine? Hell yes! For coffee to flow out of my coffeemaker, the pot needs to be on its warming plate. By just brewing the coffee without the pot, I can let the beans steep in the brewing water for as long as I like. Once the grounds are steeped, I quickly slide the pot onto the warming plate and wait for it to fill. Because the filter housing needs to hold all of the water in addition to the beans, batch sparging cuts my brewing capacity in half. Luckily, I rarely drink more than one mug a day.

After some trial and error, I found that grinding the beans coarsely and letting them steep for four minutes (starting when all of the water is in the filter housing) works really well. The coffee is much better than what my drip machine would normally produce, but it's not quite as good as the first 3/4 of a mug that comes out of my French press. At some point, I'll throw some money at the problem and make it go away. In the meantime, knowing how to make beer is improving my coffee.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

On the Importance of Barley, Part One

We've spent a whole lot of time here on MBR talking about hops. A whole lot of time. We've talked about growing them, we've talked about steeping them, we've talked about hop efficiencies. We've endlessly debated my love for West Coast IPAs and hop-bombs and everyone else's disdain for them.

Maybe it's time we spent some time talking about malt.

There are a whole world of questions that I'm not sure MBR has ever discussed about malt. What is "malt" being foremost among them. Let alone how malt is smoked, why "chocolate malt" doesn't have any chocolate in it, differentiating between Munich and Vienna malt, and who, or what, Maris Otter is (though we know who Roger Maris and Otter Creek are). Though, strangely, we have discussed 6-row barley and the relative merits of 6-row vs. 2-row barley.

But malt is a pretty big component of beer. And, one of the world leaders in malting barley is located just up Highway 151 in Chilton, WI: Briess Malt & Ingredients Co.

So, it's probably best to start at what is Malt, and more precisely, what is barley since, as we'll see, "malt" is short-hand for (usually) "malted barley".

I'm not sure we're going to finish answering that question today, but it's best to back up a minute and look at the brewing process itself because the science of barley is the science of brewing.

1. Barley is picked from the field and aggregated at a centralized grain storage and distribution facility.

2. Brewing quality barley is transported to a maltster where it is malted. The resulting product is generally called "malt". Grains other than barley can be malted (wheat, for example), though most brewing adjuncts (things other than barley) are unmalted additions to the mash (see below).

3. Malt is shipped to and stored at the brewery where the actual brewing process will begin.

4. The malt is put into a hopper and crushed in a grain mill. Also called milling.

5. The crushed malt is sent to a mash tun where water at a specific temperature is added and the malt is steeped for a period of time (the temperature may or may not be altered during the steep). This is the mashing process. The liquid (called "wort") is drained from the mashtun into either a lautertun (in which case the grains are also transferred) or a boil kettle.

6. The remaining grains are rinsed off with more water and that liquid is also added to the boil kettle. This is the lautering process.

7. The wort is boiled for about 60 minutes, during which hops are added at various points (often at the 60 minute mark, the 30 minute mark, and when the heat is turned off). This is the boil.

8. The wort is then cooled down to approximately 65 degrees (for an ale), and transferred to a fermentation tank where yeast and oxygen is added.

9. After a few days you have beer, which, in a commercial brewery, is sent to a bright tank/tax tank to carbonate and settle out, then on to the bottling/kegging line and out the door.

From start to finish, the science of barley and malting affects the final product in your bottle. So, what is this all-important grain, barley? I'm glad you asked. Barley's scientific genus is Hordeum, with two species that are relevant to beer: Hordeum Vulgare (6-row) and Hordeum Distichon (2-row). It is an annual grass. There are endless cultivars as brewers and maltsters are constantly genetically training barley for their specific purpose.

Barley was one of the first grains human civilization cultivated starting in approximately 10,000 BC. Yes, 12,000 years ago. Today, it is the number 4 cereal grain in the world with over 152 billion tonnes (metric tons) produced globally each year. It is used largely as a feed crop for animals, as it was when it was first cultivated, but human consumption accounts for a significant percentage of the production. In the United States about 25 percent of the annual production is sent to malting.

Barley is grown in temperate areas and is known as a relatively finicky grain. For example, while it is moderately heat tolerant, it does not tolerate cold at all, and most brewing varietals do not tolerate long droughts. Moreover, it is susceptible to a number of crop diseases. So, much like the problems in corn, barley monoculture (growing one variety of barley) can have drastic effects when disease hits.

The stem (stalk) of barley can vary from 1 to 4 feet and typically have 5 to 7 leaf-like nodes below the spike. The spike consists of spikelets attached to the central stem called a rachis. Three spikelets develop at each node. In six-row barley a flower/seed form at each spikelet; in two-row barley on the center spikelet forms a flower/seed (see images a, and b, respectively, below). 2-row seeds are much bigger than 6-row seeds and have a higher ratio of nutrients (carbohydrates and protein) to non-starch material (husk).

It is the seed that maltsters and brewers are most interested in. The seed itself is comprised of a protective husk on the outside,  a non-starch cellular membrane called "aleurone", then the  endosperm that consists of carbohydrates and protein, and an embryo. "The total number of cells in the kernel endosperm reaches over 280,000, as compared to 117,500 in wheat and 180,000 in rice. This is the reason why barley kernels contain more cell wall material and, consequently, more of its main component, beta-glucans, than those other cereals." [cite]

A mature seed contains approximately 35% moisture (a white milky substance, typically) and is allowed to dry in the field until its moisture reaches approximately 20%. This is done for a variety of reasons, the primary of which is that a seed that has a lot of water is very brittle and tends to rupture and split - something that the maltsters don't like because it reduces the ability of seed to continue to germinate (we'll talk about this later).

You can see how decisions in the field directly affect barley quality. Thus, barley from one farm, whose micro-climate may be dryer (slightly longer germination and faster drying conditions), may be very different from barley from another farm whose micro-climate may be more moist. And we haven't even discussed differences in the hundreds of barley varietals that the farmers choose to grow. Each varietal has slightly different growing conditions and carbohydrate and protein mixes. These differences can have profound impacts when the barley is malted.

During "threshing", the seed is removed from the stalk and the "chaff" (the feathery material and other non-seed stuff). After the seed is removed from the stalk and chaff it is dried to below 12% moisture for storage and transportation. Because of the precise dry-storage conditions required for barley, the seed is transported from the farm to a central storage facility. After this central drying and storage, the seed is often then aggregated in larger centralized silos and then shipped off to maltsters.

You can see how the decision to aggregate and mix, commodify, barley is both a blessing and a curse. In one respect it evens out the minor differences between farms in order to fulfill large orders placed by maltsters and brewers. On the other hand, though, it removes the uniqueness that one farm's barley has with respect to another. In wine, with grapes, we call this uniqueness "terroir" and it is celebrated and valued. It is only recently, within the past 2 years, that this value is being leveraged in the brewing industry with Lakefront, Rogue, and Sierra Nevada leading the way with beer produced with non-commodified barley (Local Acre, Chateau Rogue, and Sierra Nevada Estate, respectively).

If you refer back to the steps listed above, we have just completed (in a very summary way mind you) step one. In future articles we'll talk about the malting process and how that works.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I Promise This Is The Only Time I Will Say This

Not to be political or anything, but apparently a recall attempt is getting under way here in Wisconsin. I am not endorsing any particular candidate, nor am I even suggesting that you vote one way or the other, I'm not even recommending that you do or do not sign a recall petition.

I will just remind you that our Governor had the chance this past summer to veto a bill bought and paid for by MillerCoors and the Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association. As a result of that legislation even recognized that Wisconsin is now a worse place for craft brewers and craft breweries:
"Why isn't Wisconsin ranked higher [than 7th], then? Partly because of production that doesn't even crack the Top 10, but partly because of legislation passed this summer that protects Miller from A-B InBev encroachment that combines the brewer's permit and wholesale and retail licenses given out by municipalities into a single permit under state control and prohibits brewers from buying wholesale distributors. That's great for Miller, but just made life a whole lot more difficult for the more than 70 brewers in the state that aren't Miller who now have a much more difficult path to getting licenses and getting their product on shelves. Wisconsin's total beer output grew only 0.2% during the past decade. Making life harder for most of your brewers for the sake of one doesn't seem like the best way to create growth."
Admittedly MillerCoors (not a Wisconsin company, but headquartered in Chicago) and the Wisconsin Beer Distributors (most of whom specialize in selling you Miller and Anheuser-Busch products) are better off.

Monday, November 14, 2011


I've been thinking a lot lately about the Occupy Wall Street Movement. While the skeptic, pessimist, and pragmatist (do all three mean the same thing?) in me doubts the long-term efficacy of the movement, the short-term media coverage at least makes it clear what the message is.

But, really, it's not just Wall Street. The Declaration of the New York City General Assembly lays out the grievances thusly:
  • They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.
  • They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.
  • They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless animals, and actively hide these practices.
  • They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.
  • They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.
  • They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.
  • They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.
  • They have sold our privacy as a commodity.
  • They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.
  • They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.
  • They have donated large sums of money to politicians, who are responsible for regulating them.
  • They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.
  • They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.
  • They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.
  • They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.
According to Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors, beer is for straight, football-lovin' males that love to make fun of each and ogle the ladies (but drink responsibly boys). 

Beer is a commodity product. It all tastes the same. Barley and hops is barley and hops (except when it's triple hop brewed). Fields of barley in Montana and North Dakota are the same as fields of barley in California and Wisconsin.

If you don't have Clydesdales you aren't cool.

It took national boycotts in the 70s and 80s to cure labor issues at Coors. Anheuser-Busch was sued in 2005 for using illegal surveillance practices on its employees.

None of the three major beer marketing companies in the United States are owned and operated by US companies.

They have bought and influenced politicians in Wisconsin and throughout the United States to actively suppress competition from craft brewers.

Four Loko and similar products, despite known health issues with alcohol and caffeine products, were pushed into student and minority markets.

Through control of advertising and other media outlets, the major breweries impose propaganda on the public to their own benefit and to the detriment of craft beer.

Beer, perhaps more than any other product, imposes American colonialism world-wide. 

I propose that we promote an agenda to #OccupyBeer. Tell Anheuser-Busch-InBev, SABMiller, and MolsonCoors that you agree with Twisted Sister "We Aren't Gonna Take It". Tell the Beer Marketing Companies that you disagree with their world-view. Tell them that you prefer local, you prefer craft, you prefer sustainable. 

And, most importantly, drink craft beer.

Friday, November 11, 2011

On My Lack of Posting - Rediscovering Augustiner Maximator


Things have been relatively quiet around here recently. I'm hoping this changes in the near future. I've been debating whether to say anything, but I think some explanation might raise some interesting issues. But, first, thanks to Joe for finding time to write even with a new baby in the fold.

But on to the reason that I haven't been posting lately: I've been really bored with Wisconsin beer lately. I don't think I've bought a single six-pack of beer from a Wisconsin brewery in 5 months. Nothing new. Nothing exciting.

The best, by far, has been Potosi's new Witbier. And Kirby's Eternal Flame is a pretty awesome project.

But, by and large, Wisconsin beer has been really, really boring. And, you can tell me that you're too busy brewing your base brands. That demand is so high. Constrained production. Stretched too thin. Blah, blah, blah. I don't care. Boring.

So, what have I been drinking? Nothing. To be honest, I haven't been drinking a whole lot lately - beer or otherwise.

I've bought some bottles of Stillwater and Fantome that are sitting unopened. I bought some Surly Wet in Minnesota that was pretty delicious (good, not as good as I had been hoping it would be). I've had some bottles out of my cellar that I've been trying to get through (2008(9?) New Glarus Berliner Weisse - REALLY good; 2006 Two Brothers Heavy Handed was interesting).

Tonight, just for kicks, I pulled out a 2008 Augustiner Maximator, one of my favorite doppelbocks. Still one of the prettiest beers you can buy, the tawny body is below a dense tan head. The chocolate and roasted caramel aromas explode out of the bottle. A strong booziness mixes with the chocolate to create some amazingly complex plum, and earthy fruit-like aroma. Still dry as ever, the flavor is somewhat subdued and very drinkable. The cherry fruit comes out in the finish with a fine pucker, a slight bready maltiness holds up the body quite well.

After 3 years in the cellar this beer is still one of my favorites on the planet. Kirby doesn't make 'em this dry, which is unfortunate, because if he did, between Augustiner and Capital, I'd never drink anything else (OK, except maybe an occasional Double IPA or Arrogant Bastard).

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Five Gallons At A Time: Blending, Priming Sugar and Alcohol

Each of the last three years, I brewed a batch of English Ale and set aside a gallon to age on oak chips that were originally inoculated with Flanders Red microorganisms. I blended the remaining four gallons of each batch with the aged beer from the previous year, then added corn sugar to carbonate. If you know the alcohol content of each beer in a blend, you can use the mixing formula to estimate the alcohol content of the blended beer before you add priming sugar:

Blended ABV = (ABV1 x Volume1 + ABV2 x Volume2) / Total Volume

My Old Ale was about (6.1 x 3.9 + 7.7 x 0.9) / 4.8 = 6.4% alcohol by volume before priming. Figuring out the alcohol contribution of the priming solution is a little more involved. I primed my beer with 120 g of corn sugar dissolved in water. The volume of my priming solution was a pretentious 417 mL. Those are the values I knew, and these are the values I assumed to be true:

-Corn sugar solubility = 90.6%.
-Corn sugar fermentability = 100%.
-1 lb of fermentable extract produces 0.078 gallons of alcohol.

First, I needed to know how much alcohol was already in the beer. Rearranging the definition of ABV:

Initial Alcohol Volume = (ABV / 100) x Beer Volume = (6.4 / 100) x 4.8 = 0.31 gal

Next, I used the following formula to figure out how much fermentable extract the priming sugar contributed to the beer.

Fermentable Extract = (Solubility / 100) x (Fermentability / 100) x Weight / 453.59 = (90.6 / 100) x (100 / 100) x 120 / 453.59 = 0.24 lbs

Since every gram of fermentable extract produces about 0.078 gallons of alcohol, you can calculate the volume of alcohol produced from the priming sugar as follows:

Priming Alcohol Volume = 0.078 x Fermentable Extract = 0.078 x 0.24 = 0.02 gal

Adding the priming sugar to the main batch, I ended up with 0.31 + 0.02 = 0.33 gallons of alcohol in 4.8 + 417 / 3785.4 = 4.91 gallons of primed beer (1 gallon = 3785.4 mL). My final estimated ABV was 100 x 0.33 / 4.91 = 6.7%. As you can see, priming sugar can significantly influence alcohol content. If you want to control the alcohol content of a bottle-conditioned beer, you can adjust the amount of water in your priming solution. I don't usually bother, but it's nice to have a comprehensive estimate of ABV.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Press Release Tuesday - Imperial Stoutfest at Brasserie V

Sorry for the slow pace of posting. As I've mentioned, it's been crazy 'round Casa de MBR. I promise that I'll get back to posting more frequently. In the meantime, go to Brasserie V for an Imperial Stout.

--------------START PRESS RELEASE-------------------

Stop in Brasserie V this week for our Imperial Stout Fest starting Tuesday, the 1st.
We will be tapping four very rare, hard to find kegs of Imperial Stout (ok, one is a porter) all from Denmark, that will be a real treat for all you dark beer lovers.
We will be offering these as flights so you can try them all. Here is the lineup:

Amager HR Frederickson
Djævlebryg Gudeløs
Xbeeriment Blackforce
To Øl Black Ball Porter

We have also just added over 25 new beers to our 130+ hand-picked bottled beer list!!
There are some great new beers, and hard to find stuff from Belgium, Denmark, France, Norway, and more.
Check out some great new Lambics and Sours! See our website for the full list.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Art of Craft Beer

We've had this discussion a number of times in various contexts, but maybe we should just address the 500 pound gorilla in the room. Namely, at what point does brewing craft beer stop being a craft and start being a widget manufacturer? And are the two, really, inherently, at odds. I'm not talking barrel limits, because barrel limits are arbitrary. More to the point, it is entirely possible, in my theory, that a brewery that produces 3 million barrels per year is more in line with the "craft" of brewing, than a brewery than "churns out" 10,000 barrels of the same old stuff day in and day out.

I wrote an article way back in February of 2008 that I think outlines a good working definition of "craft beer".

craft beer: a trade involving the skilled art of brewing beer.

It is the art of beer that is the primary difference between Budweiser and O'So. Side-by-side you (and I) would be hard pressed to differentiate between Genessee Cream Ale and Spotted Cow. Yet we consider the latter a craft, and the former a widget. To the extent that brewing beer is a lesson in replication, anyone can turn on a photocopier and press start. But what distinguishes "craft" from "beer" is the art. It is the art that we love, is it not?

Anyone can make an India Pale Ale, but one particular brewer's vision that stimulates the drinker's senses is, like the perfect golf shot, what keeps us coming back for more. The brewer as artist. How many people have painted their mother? But we remember Whistler's Mother because it strikes a chord, it stimulates our senses and causes us to evaluate ourselves and humanity. Much the same way, how many brewers have made an IPA? But we remember Pliny the Elder because it stimulates our senses and causes us to evaluate ourselves and what it means to be human.*

Thus, a craft brewery is not a collection of beer, but rather a collection of artistic statements. Just like the difference between Claude Monet and Thomas Kinkade, there is a difference between Mikkel Bjergsø and Leinenkugel's.

So, why is it then, that so many craft breweries are so quick to abandon their art for the sake of producing more widgets?

Take, for example, Lagunitas. One of my favorite breweries from the West Coast, and their recent Press Release regarding their new seasonal "Lagunitas Sucks Holiday Ale":
This sad holiday season we didn’t have the brewing capacity to make our favorite seasonal brew, the widely feared BrownShugga’ Ale. You see, we had a couple of good years (thank you very much) and so heading into this season while we are awaiting a January delivery of a new brewhouse we are jammin’ along brewing 80 barrels of IPA and PILS and such every 3 hours.
Lagunitas the widget-maker.

Then consider Founders' problem with its recent release of its Canadian Breakfast Stout:
We make this beer because we are extremely passionate about creating the best liquid we know how to produce. We started this business as home brewers and still look at ourselves as such. We know that some of you might never get your chance at a CBS bottle, but we feel it would be a greater disappointment to have never shared this product at all.
I understand production constraints; in fact, I probably understand them better than the breweries themselves do. I understand that if Woodman's doesn't get its allotment of 80 cases of Hopalicious the world will come to a screeching halt. That if Avenue Bar doesn't get its 3 kegs of South Shore Nut Brown, the brewery may never see the tap line again. But is it worth sacrificing artistic integrity to placate a vendor? 

The most common justification for widget-ification is "But the consumers!" Yes, they blame you, dear reader/consumer. You have put a gun to their head and demand that they continually produce PILS and Knot Stock and Mudpuppy Porter in such vast quantities that they can't possibly make room in the production schedule for something new.

Picasso could have sat back and sold all the Blue paintings he could ever hope to sell, but then the world would never have his Cubist or Surrealist periods. On the other hand, To Kill A Mockingbird is no less an artistic statement simply because Harper Lee never wrote another book. I'm as happy as the next guy to sit back and listen to ? and the Mysterians' "96 Tears" for the rest of my life, but Radiohead was just getting started with "Creep". 

* I use Pliny the Elder as an example, obviously. We've all had that beer that makes us sit back, look at the bottle, and completely change our frame of reference. Whether it's that perfect beer sitting by the fire with buddies that suddenly tastes like the best beer you've ever had, or whether it's a purely academic analysis of a highly regarded, highly rated, beer.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Kohler Food and Wine Experience - And the Winner Is ...

You'll recall that we are giving away some tickets to Kohler Food and Wine Experience. And, more specifically, to the Oktoberfest celebration contained therein. There were 22 entrants via web, Facebook, and Twitter. I used to draw a truly random number between 1 and 22.

The lucky winner is ... Number 5.

Number 5 you can claim your prize by sending me an email with your name, email address, and the name of the lucky person attending with you. I will put you in touch with the fine folks at Kohler and they will get you set up with your 2 passes to Kohler Oktoberfest on Saturday Night!

Oh. You probably want to know who Number 5 is don't you?

Jen Jeneric who entered via Facebook. Congrats Jen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Capital Gets Its Man

While Carl Nolen still gets his shit figured out, Capital Brewery is quick to move on. Capital Brewery has named Tom Stitgen as its new General Manager. Mr. Stitgen is a CPA, paper pusher, bean counter, number cruncher, squint, etc. etc. He comes from a CPA firm and, according to the press release at least, has "experience in all areas of distribution based business from sales to back office operations." 

Tom has the ideal background to turn Capital Brewery into Capital Brewery, Gift Haus, and BierGarten and to implement the strategic goal to have each of these be a "profit center". 

Look, I don't run Capital. They didn't ask my opinion, but like most of you, I have an asshole, so I'm going to use it: Capital's problem isn't an accounting one. The problem at Capital Brewery is not that they aren't selling enough t-shirts and are losing money on the Gift ("Geschenk", thank you very much) Haus. 

Friday, October 7, 2011

Five Gallons At A Time: Choosing Mash Temperatures

I wish Jamil Zainasheff would stop recommending that brewers mash at high temperatures in his BYO articles. Until I'm a world-renowned brewmaster, though, my opinion is unlikely to count for much. After all, would you take my advice over a guy who's won the freakin' Ninkasi award twice? I wouldn't… at first. But it's important to keep in mind that competition-winning beers are chosen primarily by how well they match a series of written descriptors, not how enjoyable they are or even how much they resemble the commercial beers that inspire the competition style guidelines. Unless you're trying to win medals, your decision-making process should be driven by "which option will make the most pleasing beer?" You'll be constrained by time, money and convenience, but those boundaries aren't very relevant in choosing one single-infusion mash temperature over another. If I were to re-brew all the beers I've ever made, the only ones for which I might choose high mash temperatures (153+ degf) over low ones (149-152 degf) are sour beers.

I've read about commercial breweries conducting short conversion rests at high temperatures and still being able to make dry beers. They may specifically source malt with high levels of beta-amylase. They might employ step mashes that produce a lot of maltose during their temperature ramps. Maybe their mixing methods are particularly efficient. Whatever their reasons, good for them. In my homebrewery, single-infusion mashes at high temperatures do not result in dry beers. They result in high final gravities and syrupy viscosities that make each pint feel like an endurance test. According to some brewers, dextrins - unfermentable (by Saccharomyces cerevisiae, at least) simple starches that are produced in greater concentrations by high-temperature mashes than low-temperature mashes - do not contribute to mouthfeel or body. Maybe dextrins aren't the direct cause, but I'm confident that mash temperatures and mouthfeel are strongly correlated in most homebreweries.

I once had blind faith in the dogma that high mash temperatures were required to combat the inherent wateriness of session beers. The problem? After repeated attempts to get it right, I've still never brewed a good session beer by mashing at a high temperature. Since the time of this happy accident, I've made a number of delicious session beers with low mash temperatures. Not only did they taste great, but they weren't remotely watery. In my opinion, ethanol is an important component of mouthfeel. If I can choose ingredients to layer flavors and build body (or the perception of body) in session beers without high mash temperatures, I don't see any reason to mash high for stronger beers. It's like The Low Budgets say: Aim Low, Get High.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

New Ale Asylum Brewery - A New Take On A Familiar Place

I'm sure you all diligently read The Cap Times piece describing the new facility for Ale Asylum: 46,000 square feet of gleaming steel to be filled with a brewery, restaurant, and rooftop patio lounge.

Sounds fancy, eh?

But, you're going to say, how can Ale Asylum have a restaurant? They aren't a brewpub! But here's the catch. Ale Asylum doesn't own the building, it just rents the space. It's just one of many tenants in a larger space. Another tenant is a restaurant (that independently purchases its beer supply from a distributor). Another tenant is a rooftop lounge.

If this sounds familiar, it's because we are all familiar with this type of building: it's called a mall.

Can I coin a new term? BrewMall. BeerMall? Mallt?

Coming soon: Forever Over-21.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Have Your Wits About You: Alaskan White Ale

As you are no doubt aware (or maybe you aren't aware, I sometimes forget whether people know these things or not), Alaskan Brewing Company has entered Wisconsin. The opening salvo consists of product staples Amber and White (Red and White? In Wisconsin? Coincidence? Probably.).

First up is the Alaskan White, a hazy wheat beer spiced with orange peel and coriander. The style ranges from dry and crisp (Wittekerke) to malty and heavily spiced (Great Lakes Holy Moses). The classic for the style is, of course, Hoegaarden [ed note: Hoegaarden is NOT pronounced "Ho Garden", it is properly pronounced "Who KHarden"]. Here in Wisconsin it is not a terribly popular style: Tyranena, Potosi, and Vintage [ed note: Vintage made theirs based on votes here at MBR!] are the only ones I know of that make one consistently.

I don't know about you, but wheat beers, and witbiers in particular, are a mixed bag for me. I love some of them but dislike others. I definitely prefer the dryer, crisper versions; though the more heavily spiced can be OK if the carbonation is high enough. Some, though, can be unbearably spiced and fruity and the wheat can often take on a musty quality; the especially fruity versions can be cloyingly sweet.

The BJCP classifies witbier in Class 16a and has this to say about the flavor profile of the style:
Pleasant sweetness (often with a honey and/or vanilla character) and a zesty, orange-citrusy fruitiness. Refreshingly crisp with a dry, often tart, finish. Can have a low wheat flavor. Optionally has a very light lactic-tasting sourness. Herbal-spicy flavors, which may include coriander and other spices, are common should be subtle and balanced, not overpowering. A spicy-earthy hop flavor is low to none, and if noticeable, never gets in the way of the spices. Hop bitterness is low to medium-low (as with a Hefeweizen), and doesn’t interfere with refreshing flavors of fruit and spice, nor does it persist into the finish. Bitterness from orange pith should not be present. Vegetal, celery-like, ham-like, or soapy flavors are inappropriate. No diacetyl.
Alaskan Brewing Co. White Ale
BA (B-) RB (49)

Appearance: the color of an early fall tall-grass field, hazy, with tints of orange, yellow, and tan; a lazy white foamy head sits and the slumps over on top
Aroma: muted coriander dominates, orange peel comes through later, a lemony aroma from the yeast asserts itself and a faint wheatiness is also prevalent; the aroma hits all the right notes, though isn't as assertive as I might like
Flavor: although restrained, the wheat and malt are most noticeable, with a slight peel-i-ness, a hint of rind, coming through; the spices are subtle at first, but come through in force later: grassy, coriander, cumin, lemon balm all seem to make appearances
Body: medium-light body with a crisp, semi-sweet finish
Drinkability: I could drink a whole 22 of this in one sitting and have room for more
Summary: I really enjoy this white ale; it has great flavor but doesn't hit you over the head with it; the body is right on and finishes nicely; I don't understand why it doesn't rate well, except to say that RateBeer's statistics might tell you something: while it has a 49 on RateBeer, the average for the style is a mere 60. It's not a trendy style, it's not a trendy brewery, it's not a trendy flavor profile, or use trendy ingredients; but it is a good beer that I have enjoyed drinking.

I did receive this bottle in the mail from Alaskan Brewing Co. However, they made their money with bottle since I will most definitely be buying more.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Great American Beer Fest Winners 2011

This past weekend was yet another Great American Beer Fest. While MBR went last year, we were unable to attend this year. Nonetheless, they held the event anyway.

Congratulations to the following Wisconsin breweries (and brewpubs). They each brought home some bling (do people still say "bling"?):

New Glarus Brewing Company: Blacktop IPA: American-style Black Ale: Gold
New Glarus Brewing Company: Raspberry Tart: Fruit Beer: Gold
Capital Brewing Company: Autumnal Fire: German-style Doppelbock or Eisbock: Gold
Capital Brewing Company: Eisphyre: German-style Doppelbock or Eisbock: Bronze
Lakefront Brewing Company: New Grist: Gluten-Free Beer: Silver
Vintage Brewing Company: Wee Heavy: Scotch Ale: Silver

Friday, September 30, 2011

Press Release: Another Chance to Win Some Free Tickets on MBR

OK everybody, it's that time again! You can win tickets to the Kohler Wine and Food Experience on October 22.

I'll bet you're wondering how. There are three ways to win:

Comment on this post with your First Name and Last Initial.
Comment on this post at MBR's Facebook Page.
Retweet this post from MBR's Twitter Feed.

I will stop collecting names on Friday October 14, 2011. I will let you know who won the tickets Monday October 17. You have two weeks starting .... NOW!

Oktoberfest at the Kohler Food & Wine Experience

Saturday, October 22 at 8:00 PM - 10:00 PM

Celebrate our Wisconsin Heritage along with the German tradition of Oktoberfest. Featuring local and regional microbrews, polka music by the John Roehl Orchestra and bratwurst from Johnsonville. Be sure to bring your lederhosen.

$36.75 per ticket

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Audience Participation: Forgive But Don't Forget

Mark Twain once wrote: "Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it."

I've been thinking about this a lot lately. This idea of forgiveness and giving a brewery another (another) shot.

When do you stop giving brewery another shot? When do you say "enough is enough, I'm done"? What can a brewery do to encourage that second (or third or fourth) chance?

How much of that decision is marketing? Can a brewery market itself out of a hole?

How much is simply the culture of craft beer? There seems to be a culture of consumer experimentation in craft beer - trying different beers from different breweries - how much is simply coming back around to the brewery?

In cases where the brewery is forgiven, what were the triggers? What changed about the beer or the brewery?

Three examples based on (un-named) in-state breweries:

Brewery A is from a small town. It makes a large range of beer that is firmly within the experimental tradition of craft beer. However, technical issues present flaws in the beer. I bought two or three packs from this brewery. Got frustrated, gave it a full 6 months to year off (didn't purchase any of it). I had some at a beer fest that was actually pretty good (no flaws), bought two more packs of it in the store and one had the same flaws as before, while the other did not. Gave it another few months off (put it in "the rotation" more or less) and came back to the same flaws. Have not purchased it since (2 or 3 years ago) and have no intention of purchasing it again.

Brewery B is also from a small town. It makes a medium range of beers that are all very good. There was a long run of beer, however, that had serious diacetyl problems in the bottles and on tap. I stopped buying any brands from this brewery for a long period of time (maybe 9 months or so). When I came back to it, some of the brands had been "fixed" (have not exhibited the problems at all), while others continue to be very spotty. In this case, I continue to purchase the "good" brands from this brewery, while I purchase with far less frequency (if at all) the "spotty" brands.

Brewery C makes a large selection of beer. Some of the beers are (subjectively) really good, some I don't like at all. I never purchase the ones I don't like. In fact, I only purchase the ones that I do like and won't purchase a new release from this brewery until I have had independent confirmation that it is even worthy of trying from friends and acquaintances whom I trust.

So, there seems to be a pattern on my part of willingness to forgive technical issues, so long as the brewery is able to fix them. However, I am far less willing to forgive compete market misses.

Have you given this as much thought as I have? Any conclusions?

Friday, September 23, 2011

When Craft Brewers Bicker

So I subscribe to this RSS feed that I can never read the full article for. Why? Because the silly pay wall prevents me from reading Beer Business Daily. But the teaser (because you never know, with a teaser like this I just might pony up the $500+ per year for a subscription) goes like this:
Holy cow. There's trouble in paradise. Here's what happened. At about 3pm yesterday, outspoken brewer Larry Bell of Bell's Brewery rang BBD from the Cubs game to relay that it is his opinion that the small brewer tax bill (H.R. 1236 and S. 534), which sets a new tax threshold at 6 million barrels, should be scrapped in favor of language which keeps the threshold at 2 million barrels...
If you're like me you read that and went "Holy Cow! I have no idea what any of that means or why it matters but it sounds incongruous and meaningful so I'm going to research it."

Like I said, "If you're like me ... and you have a beer blog ... and you find tax law interesting ... and you have a Thursday morning to kill ..."

Anyway. There's a bit of a backstory to this: At the end of last year the Brewers Association was faced with the problem that Sam Adams would no longer qualify under its [the BA's] definition of "craft beer" which put a barrel cap at 2 million barrels to be a member. So, rather than face the lost dues of its biggest member, the BA, unsurprisingly I suppose, simply raised the barrel cap to 6 million barrels, thereby retaining Sam Adams as its largest member by a rather healthy margin.

There. That ought to fix it, right?


Relatedly, and by relatedly I mean in a causative not a correlative, manner, Sam Adams faced another problem: the tax code gives a break to certain small brewers. The tax break goes like this: every brewery owes the federal government an excise tax of $18 per barrel; except, we don't want to hurt small breweries, and, in fact we want to encourage them, so instead of $18 per barrel, any brewery under 2 million barrels only has to pay $7 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels.

You see where this is going right?

If you guessed that Sam Adams, through its puppet the Brewers Association, would lobby the government to increase the barrel limit from 2 million barrels to 6 million barrels you win a prize.

Given all of that, we come back to the Present Day. Larry Bell bitchin' in the Rags. Why does Larry Bell care? I'm sure if I had paid my $500+ per year for that damned subscription I could probably tell you. But, as it is, I have to guess.

My guess is that Larry Bell, like the rest of us, gets testy when he sees rules bent for "the special case." Even if the rules might ultimately (but probably not) affect/benefit him. It's the principle of the matter. Why should we treat Sam Adams any different?

It's a really good question, actually.

2 million barrels is a lot of beer. 6 million barrels is 3 times "a lot" (is that a "shit ton"?). Is it even possible to be a "craft" brewery at 2.5 million barrels of production? Given the scale of production is the $11 per barrel tax break on a mere 60,000 barrels (less than 3% of your production) incentivizing you at this point? Would an increase in $11 per barrel on less than 3% of your production really hurt you? And, if it's not providing an incentive or meaningful break, why should we (the American people) subsidize you? We need all the money we can get. Adding $660,000 isn't much, but, hey, it'll pay for a couple new school renovations.

In other words, if the Brewers Association weren't just a puppet of Sam Adams and listened to people like Larry Bell instead of Jim Koch, the Brewers Association might waste its lobbying dollars on increasing the 60,000 barrel part of that equation instead of the 2 million barrel part of that equation.

Friday, September 16, 2011

We Haven't Talked About Hops In A While I Guess

Joe is our resident hop expert, but I'm the resident hop lover.

I'd place this wager with Joe, or really against anyone: I will put my AA per beer ratio up against anyone, winner has to drink a Ruination and Ruud Awakening back-to-back.

I don't want to hear any crap about balance. Fuck balance. I want hops. Malt is for dopplebocks (which I also love). Don't give me this "ooo...this IPA is perfectly balanced with an emphasis on aroma hops and a backbone of amber malt." Screw that. I want to smell the hops the second the cap comes off the bottle. I want a huge white head foaming over the top. I want effervescence. I want enough bitterness to question whether you're drinking the most delicious lemonade ever made. I want a lip-licking, resinous, sticky, aftertaste of citrus fruit and pine.

Anyway. This is all to say that when I heard that Bill Rogers was having a Hop Week at The Malt House next week (September 18-24), my heart went all a pitter-patter. Here's a list of what you'll be able to drink at The Malt House:

Gaverhopke ExtraChouffe Houblon
Hommel Bier
Troubador Magma
De Ranke XX
Red Eye Black IPA
Central Waters Illumination
Potosi Tangerine IPA
Satisfaction Jacksin
Tyranena Hop Whore
Oppigårds Amarillo
Weyerbacher Simcoe DIPA
Wintercoat Double Hop
Bell's Oracle DIPA
Nøgne-Ø IPA
3 Floyd's Arctic Panzer Wolf
3 Floyd's Dreadnaught
Sierra Nevada Southern Hemisphere Harvest Ale

Not a bad list at all. The ExtraChouffe, Magma, and Oppigards are particularly intriguing and I haven't a Dreadnaught in a while. So, I will be hanging out at Malt House most of next week. In fact, on September 19, Malt House will have Wisconsin hop experts Gorst Valley Hops out to talk alpha acid with you:
Celebrate the hops harvest with Gorst Valley Hops and help kick off Hops Week September 19 from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Malt House! Sip an awesome selection of some of the hoppiest beers around, chat with GVH hops experts, sample hops "tea," pick a pack of hops to take home (one per guest, please, while supplies last), and test your hops knowledge in our trivia contest to earn a chance to score some GVH bling. The Malt House is located at 2609 E. Washington Ave.
Wisconsin, thanks to Gorst Valley, is revitalizing its hop industry. Indeed, Wisconsin was a hop-growing region well before Washington and Oregon. Gorst Valley does this by purchasing hops from its growers, providing a processing service, and selling the hops directly to brewers. In this regard, Gorst Valley is encouraging and subsidizing (to some extent) farmers throughout (mostly Southern) Wisconsin to grow hop varieties that are in demand: primarily Cascade, but other varietals as well. As a result over the last few years hop acreage in Wisconsin has grown tremendously; of course, it doesn't come anywhere close to the hop farms of Washington and Oregon.

Brewers like Furthermore and Central Waters and Tyranena are using Gorst Valley hops in their own brews.

So, I hope you'll join me in celebrating the hop harvest at The Malt House. I'll even let you buy me that Ruination when you lose the bet.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Press Release Thursday: Hop Head Beer Tour and Free (free!!) Tickets

Hop Head Beer Tours is run by friend-of-MBR Justin Schmitz. Their tours are sweet. You should go on one. Before you do, stop in to Alchemy, Glass Nickel (Atwood), or Vintage and put your name in the hopper to win some tickets for an upcoming tour.

------------------START PRESS RELEASE--------------------

Greetings Hop Heads!

The Alchemy Cafe, the Glass Nickel Eastside Madison and the Vintage Brewing Co. are all hosting their own raffle for 2 free tickets to the Heritage Ale Trail, our beer history themed brewery bus tour on Saturday, Sept. 24th. Sign up at the bar with your name and contact information for the raffle and the names of the winners will drawn on Monday, Sept. 19th! So stop in, grab a pint and sign up!

Hop Head will be at the Great Lakes Beer Fest in Racine, WI on Saturday, Sept. 17th. We have partnered with the Grumpy Troll Brewpub in Mt. Horeb to pour their beer in the beer tent while promoting our tours!

Upcoming Tours:

Heritage Ale Trail: A History Themed Brewery Bus Tour. Saturday, Sept. 24th. Originates in Madison, WI and travels to the Minhas Craft Brewery, Haydock Beer Memorabilia Museum, Potosi Brewery and the National Brewery Museum.

Madtown Brewery Tour: Saturday, Oct. 15th. Originates in Neenah, WI and travels to Schultz's Cheese Haus, Capital Brewery, Vintage Brewing Co. and Ale Asylum.

Fox River Beer Tour: Saturday, November 12th. Originates in Madison, WI and travels to Schultz's Cheese Haus, Stone Cellar Brewpub, Titletown Brewing Co. and the Hinterland Brewery.

In Planning for Spring 2012:

Chicago Brewery Tour: Originating from Madison in Feb 2012.

Central Wisconsin Brewery Tour: Originating from Neenah in Feb 2012.

Backroads Brewery Tour: Originating from Madison in April 2012.

Milwaukee Brewery Tour and Brewers Game: Originating from Madison and Neenah in June 2012.

See you on the bus!


Justin Schmitz
Managing Director
Hop Head Beer Tour Co.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Second Hand Knowledge


In the blog universe, I suppose, this is a bit like "So, I heard from my friend's mom's uncle ..." But some information from The "Beer Me" Blog from MSNBC:

  • Budweiser, down 30% to 18,000,000 barrels
  • Milwaukee's Best Light, down 34% to 1,300,000 barrels
  • Miller Genuine Draft, down 51% to 1,800,000 barrels
  • Old Milwaukee, down 52% to 525,000 barrels
  • Milwaukee's Best, down 53% to 925,000 barrels
  • Bud Select, down 60% to 925,000 barrels
  • Michelob Light, down 64% to 525,000 barrels
  • Michelob, down 72% to 175,000 barrels
What I find most interesting is this: New Glarus' Spotted Cows sales for the state of Wisconsin is almost 50% of Michelob. Almost. Stan Hieronymous has some more information about this: "Anheuser-Busch sold 8 million barrels of Michelob in 1980 ... It took A-B only eight days in 1980 to sell as much Michelob as it sold in all of 2010."

Frankly, I'm amazed A-B sold 925,000 barrels of Bud Select. I've never seen anyone intentionally order that beer when it wasn't free.

Finally, MGD is 1/10th the sales of Budweiser. Who knew?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Who Owns Your Beer?

Phillip Howard, Assistant Professor at Michigan State University, has some great slides on the beer industry that you might find interesting. At the very least, I find them interesting.

The first is a chart of brand ownership. It basically shows that 11 breweries own the vast majority of the most popular brands.

The second graphic points out that just two firms, AB-InBev (47.9) and MillerCoors (28.9), have almost 77% of the market share. Boston Beer, the largest craft brewer in the nation, has a mere 1.1% of the national market share.
This is one of my favorite graphics:

Finally he ends with a graphic showing Breweries per Capita by State. Which, we are all pretty familiar with, so I'll leave it to you to check out on his site.
This isn't really anything that we didn't already know. But these are some unique graphical representations that help to drive home the point of what, exactly, 5% of market share looks like. More importantly, it shows why, despite minor protestations, Miller and AB are not particularly afraid of craft beer. They are, however, savvy enough to recognize general trends (double digit growth of craft for almost every year of the 2000s) and are making plans to head craft brewers (via its lobbying entity the Brewers Association) off at the pass before craft becomes big enough to loosen the grip that the big brewing cabal have on the industry.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Press Release Thursday: Keg & Cork Toast To A Cure

-----------------START PRESS RELEASE----------------------

Keg & Cork: Toast To A Cure
Friday, September 16, 2011, 5-9pm
Capital Brewery- 7734 Terrace Avenue, Middleton WI
For more information call 608-298-9902 or email us at

Advance tickets are $45. Day of tickets are $55.
All proceeds benefit The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation

Beers from Big Bay Brewing, Capital Brewery, Cross Plains/Essers Brewery, Gray’s Brewing Company, Rhinelander Brewing Company, Vintage Brewing and Wisconsin Distributors.

Wines from Barossa Wine Distributors, Fawn Creek Winery, Northleaf Winery, River City Distributors, Spurgeon Vineyards and Weggy Winery.

Food from Northwoods Cheese, PF Changs, Scott’s Pastry Shoppe, Sprecher’s Restaurant, Tropical Cuisine, Tutto Pasta and Vintage Brewing.

We will also have a silent auction and beer/wine pulls. There will be entertainment from Cait Shanahan of Cait and the Girls, and Devil’s Fen.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Two New (Glarus) Releases

As summer comes to a close, New Glarus Brewing Co. has come out with a two very different new seasonal beers: Laughing Fox Kristal Weizen and Black Top Black IPA. One is traditional, the other modern; one is mild, the other assertive; one is light, the other dark; one is...ok I'll stop there, but you get the idea.

New Glarus Laughing Fox Kristal Weizen

Appearance: Surprisingly dark, copper-orange with a big, foamy, lingering head.
Aroma: Clove, cinnamon, and just of hint of the hefeweizeny banana ester.
Flavor: In short, very mild. Hints of wheat and clove, with a very thin body. None of the caramel flavors the darker color implies come through in the taste. The yeast notes become a bit more pronounced as the beer warms up; I'd drink this one at cellar temperature for full effect. A very light, clean beer with mild hefeweizen-yeast notes.
Drinkability: Absurdly drinkable.
Summary: The copper color made me think that Dan might be throwing us a curve ball here, but this beer is basically a light, filtered Hefeweizen, which, I suppose, is exactly what a Krstial Weizen should be. According to the bottle, the color is meant to match that of a fox's fur, which it nails head on. I have to say I prefer Dancing Man, but that one clocks in at 7.2% abv, where as Laughing Fox is a modest 4.5%, making it a good choice for a session on the last few hot days of summer (which may already be behind us, unfortunately).

Black Top Black IPA
Appearance: Very dark brown if not quite black, with hints of dark amber when held up to the light.
Aroma:: Classic American hop notes of Citrus and Pine, with a hint of caramel in the background.
Flavor: Assertive American hop flavor up front, finishing with a strong bitterness and just a hint of roast. I suspect they use a combination of de-bittered black malt with some roasted malt to get the dark color without too much roast. There is a hint of an acidic bitterness, likely from the roast malt, that melds with the hop bitterness to form a minerally, almost quinine-like bitter note. However the roast flavor is restrained enough so as to not be astringent or unpleasant. A very interesting blend of flavors.
Drinkability: Moderate. The bitterness and roasted note combine to wear out the palate a bit as the glass goes down. I don't see my self drinking a bunch of these in a row.
Summary: Not an IPA/Stout hybrid, but rather a solidly bitter IPA with just a hint of roast that adds some uniqueness and complexity. A tasty brew.

Monday, September 5, 2011

More Legislation: This Time for Homebrewers

Back in April we talked about a kerfuffle that arose around serving homebrew in public places. Primarily, we noted that it was, technically, illegal. Yet, obviously, "everyone does it". If you've been to a Wisconsin beer festival in the last few years, there's a good chance that a local homebrew club has had a space set up to do demonstrations and provide tastes of their own products.

Homebrewing is a vital level of the modern american brewing scene. Many of your favorite professional brewers began their lives as homebrewers. Homebrewing also been singularly responsible for the surge in popularity in cider and mead. To the extent we want to encourage nascent entrepreneurs to perfect and expand their industries, this is exactly the activity that homebrewers and homebrew clubs do.

Of course, the naysayers will naysay. Opponents will point to the fact that homebrew is an even more nefarious public health risk than regulated beer - who knows what gets put it into it, how much alcohol is in it, whether it is sanitary, etc. Distributors will point out that this is the only alcohol product that is untaxed.

So, the Wisconsin Homebrewers Alliance have proposed some draft legislation to attempt to remedy their problem: namely, that much of what they currently do, in practice, is not, technically, legal. Even if it goes largely unenforced.

The following is the draft legislation.

------------------------------START DRAFT LEGISLATION-------------------

125.06 License and permit exceptions. No license or permit is required under this
chapter for:

(3) Homemade wine or fermented malt beverages. The manufacture of wine or
fermented malt beverages of any alcoholic content by any person at his or her home,
farm or place of residence if the wine or fermented malt beverages is to be consumed by
that person or his or her family and guests, and if the person manufacturing the wine or
fermented malt beverages receives no compensation.

(3) Homemade wine or fermented malt beverages. (a) The making of homemade
wine or fermented malt beverages by any person, if the total of the homemade wine or
fermented malt beverages made during a calendar year does not exceed one hundred
gallons in a household having one person of legal drinking age or two hundred gallons in
a household having two or more persons of legal drinking age, and if the homemade wine
or fermented malt beverages is not sold or offered for sale. For purposes of this Chapter,
a person who makes homemade wine or fermented malt beverages is not a “brewer”
or “manufacturer” as those terms are defined in s. 125.02, as long as the person making
the homemade wine or fermented malt beverages receives no compensation.

(b) The possession, storage, or transportation of any such homemade wine or fermented
malt beverages, or the mash or wort produced for the purpose of making such homemade
wine or fermented malt beverages.

(c) The demonstration, judging, tasting, sampling, exhibition, contest or competition
of such homemade wine or fermented malt beverages. An owner, lessee, or person in
charge of a public place, including a brewer, licensee, or permittee under this Chapter,
may conduct, sponsor, or host a demonstration, judging, tasting, sampling, exhibition,
contest, or competition of homemade wine or fermented malt beverages at the public
place or the premises described in the license or permit, as long as they do not acquire
any ownership interest in or sell the homemade wine or fermented malt beverages.
A licensee or permittee may allow homemade wine or fermented malt beverages to
be stored at the premises described in the license or permit if the homemade wine or
fermented malt beverages are clearly identified and kept separate from the alcohol
beverage stock of the licensee or permittee. The possession, storage, providing, or
consumption of homemade wine or fermented malt beverages as part of a demonstration,
judging, tasting, sampling, exhibition, contest or competition is not a violation of ss.
125.09 (1), 125.14 (5), 125.315, 125.32 (6) or 125.67, and the labeling requirements of s.
125.32 (7) do not apply to homemade wine or fermented malt beverages kept or served as
part of such events or activities. Homemade wine or fermented malt beverages submitted
or consumed as part of a demonstration, judging, tasting, sampling, exhibition, contest, or
competition are not “sold or offered for sale”, and a prize awarded at such demonstration,
judging, tasting, sampling, exhibition, contest, or competition is not “compensation” for
purposes of the exception set forth in s.125.06(3)(a).

139.04 Exclusions. No tax is levied by ss. 139.02 and 139.03 in respect to:

(1) Making of wine, cider or fermented malt beverages at home solely for consumption
therein and use thereof in such home by the family and guests without compensation.

(1) Making, possessing, storing, transporting, or consuming homemade wine or
fermented malt beverages produced in accordance with s. 125.06 (3) (a), or conducting,
sponsoring, or hosting a demonstration, judging, tasting, sampling, exhibition, contest or
competition of homemade wine or fermented malt beverages as described in s. 125.06 (3)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Five Gallons At A Time: Decoction Temperatures

Hitting a target temperature with a decoction can be tricky if your mash tun doesn't have a heat source. That's because (1) your main mash will get colder during its rests and (2) the decoction will need to raise the temperatures of both your mash and your mash tun.

To account for heat loss over time, you should conduct a simple test with your mash tun: add hot water, measure its temperature, wait an hour and measure its temperature again. You can then determine your mash tun's rate of heat loss by plugging the measured temperatures into the following equation:

dQ = 8.33 x Vw x (Tw1 - Tw2) / (Tw1 - Ta)


dQ = rate of heat loss (BTU/hr/degf)
Vw = volume of water, measured cold (gal)
Tw1 = initial water temperature (degf)
Tw2 = final water temperature (degf)
Ta = ambient temperature (degf)

By assuming dQ is a constant (it'll be close enough at mash temperatures), you can calculate the temperature loss of a given mash rest with this equation:

dT = dQ x (T1 - Ta) x t x (8.33 x Vw / mg + 1) / (8.33 x Vw / mg + 0.4) / (8.33 x Vw + mg)


dT = temperature loss (degf)
t = time of rest (hr)
Vw = volume of mash water, measured cold (gal)
mg = mass of grain (lb)

In reality, Vw and mg will decrease after you pull a decoction. However, the math would require iteration if you needed to know the decoction volume to figure out the decoction volume. To get in the ballpark for the portion of a rest where a decoction is being pulled, you can multiply both values by 0.7. Most of the terms cancel out, resulting in the following equation:

dT = dQ x (T1 - Ta) x t x (8.33 x Vw / mg + 1) / (8.33 x Vw / mg + 0.4) / (8.33 x Vw + mg) / 0.7

The reason why I like these calculations, as opposed to assuming a fixed temperature drop per hour, is because they account for the fact that small mashes cool down faster than big mashes.

To deal with temperature changes in the mash tun, I assume that the inner surfaces of my mash tun are at the mash temperature, the outer surfaces are at ambient temperature and that the temperature gradients between the two are linear. These assumptions aren't perfect, but they're adequate for predicting the initial temperature of a mash rest. As far as the math is concerned, half of the mash tun gets heated up to mash temperature and the other half stays at ambient temperature. Including your mash tun in your calculations, and assuming the decoction will have the same water-to-grain ratio as the mash, will change the heat transfer equation from this:

Vd = Vm x (T2 - T1) / (Td - T1)

to this:

Vd = (cm x mm + cmt x mmt / 2) x (T2 - T1) / (cm x (Td - T1)) / dm


Vd = volume of the decoction (gal)
Vm = volume of the mash before pulling the decoction (gal)
T2 = target mash temperature after returning the decoction (degf)
T1 = main mash temperature before returning the decoction (degf)
Td = temperature of the decoction before returning to the main mash (degf)
cm = specific heat capacity of the mash (BTU/lb/degf)
mm = mass of the mash before pulling the decoction (lb)
cmt = effective specific heat capacity of the mash tun (BTU/lb/degf)
mmt = mass of the mash tun (lb)
dm = average density of the mash (lb/gal)

Specific heat capacity of the mash? Mass of the mash? Average density of the mash? Yeah, there are a few variables you'll probably never measure. Thankfully, you can mathematically manipulate them into brewing parameters that you care about:

Vd = (1 + cmt x mmt x (8.33 x Vw / mg + 1) / (8.33 x Vw / mg + 0.4) / (8.33 x Vw + mg) / 2) x (1.018 x Vw + 0.0837 x mg) x (T2 - T1) / (Ts - T1)

Based on some crude testing, my mash tun seems to have an effective specific heat capacity of 0.33 BTU/lb/degf (I love using pounds as a unit of mass. Don't have judgment). If you use a plastic cooler for a mash tun, that number should work for you too. Anyway, you can see that accounting for temperature losses made the calculations a lot more complex. On that note, I'll leave you with some food for thought: should we worry about evaporative water loss from the boiling decoction?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

At Least It's Not A Hop Shortage

BeerAdvocate pointed to some articles mentioning that barley production in the United States is down. This year only 450,000 acres were recorded in North Dakota, one of the top barley producers in the country.
The state is projected to produce 24.8 million bushels of the crop, down sharply from 43.5 million bushels a year ago. This year’s production will fall far short of the 44.1 million bushels grown in Idaho and the 37.4 million bushels produced in Montana, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.[cite]
Wet conditions (since 1993!) have slowed the production of barley in North Dakota as elsewhere. This is just one indicator of weather fluctuations that make malting barley difficult to produce.

Malting barley has a pretty healthy profit on it. Producing feed barley is barely break-even. As a quick aside: malting barley has very specific requirements in terms of grain size and quality. If the grain does not meet these requirements, it cannot be used as malting barley, it can only be used as feed. Obviously, the farmer doesn't (can't) know if the planted field is of sufficient quality until it is ready to be harvested.

However, given the wide fluctuations in weather, the risk of a field of feed barley is greater than it has been in years. This risk is not compensated by the price spread (the difference in price between malting barley and feed barley). Put simply, farmers have stopped producing barley because it is too risky; its low-end is not profitable enough and its high end isn't high enough.
[Another] of the things working against the crop: Barley, which isn’t a genetically modified commercial crop, competes with crops such as corn, soybeans and canola that receive substantial investment from the private biotech seed sector ... .
In other words, Dow and Cargill have vested interests in research in corn and soybeans; they have no such vested interest in barley. Thus, these competing crops (from the farmer's perspective) have had much of the risk genetically modified out of them. Barley, on the other hand, remains un-modified and risky. If an interested entity, say Anheuser-Busch or Miller were to sponsor barley-related research perhaps some of this risk could be eliminated and farmers would be willing to plant barley.

 However, AB and Miller have no such interest - they have contracts going out for a number of years to obtain their barley requirements. Indeed, the industry is going in this direction; production is mostly limited to only that directly under contract. In agricultural terms it has become a "specialty crop."

The reduction in barley production will hurt domestic craft producers who don't have the negotiating power to obtain such requirements contracts. Chalk this up to another benefit Goose Island receives by having its corporate overlord. However, if brewers were to team up for such purchases, either through a Brewers Guild, or some ad hoc (or formal) purchasing group, it might be possible to ensure that the group's access to barley is not so restricted.

In the meantime, expect barley prices to continue rising.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Bizarre


If you remember this song, well, congratulations. I was obsessed with it when I was younger. I'm not sure why, but we'll just chalk it up to the 90's, I guess.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with anything.

Well, when I saw publishing an article about the best beer states, it seemed oddly apropos.

TheStreet lists it's Top10 Beer States of 2011. [ed note: keep in mind that TheStreet is a business publication, so it's looking primarily at best places for the business of beer].

10. Montana ("It [has] the third-best ratio of brewers to citizens in the U.S.")

9. Delaware (Dogfish Head, duh)

8. New Hampshire (Portsmouth, Smuttynose, RedHook, and the New England hub of ABInBev)

7. Wisconsin ("Why isn't Wisconsin ranked higher, then? Partly because of production that doesn't even crack the Top 10, but partly because of legislation passed this summer that protects Miller from A-B InBev encroachment that combines the brewer's permit and wholesale and retail licenses given out by municipalities into a single permit under state control and prohibits brewers from buying wholesale distributors. That's great for Miller, but just made life a whole lot more difficult for the more than 70 brewers in the state that aren't Miller who now have a much more difficult path to getting licenses and getting their product on shelves. Wisconsin's total beer output grew only 0.2% during the past decade. Making life harder for most of your brewers for the sake of one doesn't seem like the best way to create growth." [ed note: I couldn't have said it better myself])

6. New York (AB, Labatt's, and Genessee provide big production boosts; Brooklyn doesn't hurt, either)

5. Washington ("The Seattle-based brewer [Mike's Hard Lemonade] has turned its colorful, fruity malt beverages into a 1.2-million-barrel-producing beast last year after pushing out only 805,000 just four years earlier.")

4. Colorado ("With the fourth most breweries in America and the fourth best capita per brewery in the country, Colorado has plenty of IPA and witbier for the craft collective and enough Bud and Coors Light for the Tim Tebow jersey-wearing Broncos faithful.")

3. Oregon ([ed note: if Oregon is 3, Colorado is 4, and Wisconsin is 7, who the heck is 1 and 2?!?])

2. Vermont ([ed note: WTF?] "Its brewing culture ... is enormous.")

1. California ("Sierra Nevada [took] the lead by producing 786,000 barrels in its Chico headquarters alone last year. Brewers that have been household names to craft fans for years are finding bigger followings as well, with Escondido's Stone Brewing increasing production from 49,000 barrels in 2006 to 115,000 last year and Lagunitas-based Lagunitas Brewing jumping from 39,000 to 106,000 during the same span.")

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Floating Down A River of Beer

On Saturday August 20th Madison Beer Review will be tagging along on a tour of breweries in South-Western Wisconsin (the bus leaves from the Great Dane Fitchburg at 8:30am and costs a mere $40). I use the term "tagging along" loosely, Tim, director of the movie "Comeback Wisconsin" put the tour together and he asked me, Jeff, to "lead" or possibly to "guide" the tour - though Tim, not I, scheduled all the stops.

I agreed despite not having any idea what it means to "lead" a tour.

Robyn has done tours with the Hophead Beer Tours Co. Joe does tours at Ale Asylum. Mrs. MBR led tours at Pendarvis and Belmont. My aunt was a tour guide in Washington DC. I've been on bus tours of England and the Canadian Rockies. I think it has something, vaguely, to do with the phrase "To your left your will see ..."

The tour will look something roughly like this:

Leave Great Dane Fitchburg at around 9am
Hit Simple Earth Hop Farm on the way to Potosi Brewing Co around 11:30am for lunch and beer.
Then we're off to lovely Mineral Point, Wisconsin home to shandy experts Brewery Creek.
After a quick nip, it's on to The Trollway of Mount Horeb and some brews at the world-renowned Grumpy Troll.
Finally, we'll stop at New Glarus Brewing Co, before heading back to the Great Dane Fitchburg by about 9pm or 10pm or so.

This is what I think an agenda will look like:

Fitchburg - Dodgeville: Talk about beer ingredients and production
Dodgeville - Potosi: Talk about history of brewing in South-Western Wisconsin
Potosi - Mineral Point: Talk about Tasting beer
Mineral Point - Mount Horeb: Talk about brewpubs, community, and, loosely, brewing laws
Mount Horeb - New Glarus: Talk about Spotted Cow and the ubiquity and power of New Glarus
New Glarus - Madison: Anything we haven't already discussed

If that sounds like something you'd be down for, you should come along.

------------post script-------------
A bit of a disclaimer: MBR does not really have any vested interested in this tour: we didn't pay for it, we didn't set it up, we don't run it. MBR was kinda, sorta, hired by Comeback Wisconsin, Director Tim, to do this tour. This is one of the many non-writing things that we do at MBR - we help people to understand and appreciate beer in Wisconsin; indeed at least a full 1/3 of the things that MBR does is unrelated to writing articles for you to read. To that end, we've done beer dinners, beer tastings, beer festivals, beer pairings, beer consulting, and now you can add beer tours to the list. If you're interested in any of us doing any of that for you, let me know and we can hook you up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Great Taste of the Midwest 2011 - A Review of Sorts

I have to admit that it is really difficult to write a review of this year's Great Taste of the Midwest. Why? I can't really put my finger on it, but it doesn't seem to me that there was a whole lot to review about it; it's sort of like trying to explain why something didn't happen (like additional terrorist attacks in the wake of 9/11).

But I'll take a crack anyway.

One of the things that most stood out to me was the complete lack of any blockbuster "big beers" or trends this years. There was nothing that I heard "buzzed" about; no "you gotta try this" or "holy crap that was amazing". In previous years Vanilla Dark Lord or Cask Furious or whatever were all the rage. This year? Nothing really stood head and shoulders about the rest.

I think this says a lot about Midwestern beer actually. I think it says: a) many breweries are "catching up" to the big boys - we aren't just dominated by 3 Floyds, New Glarus, Bells, Great Lakes, Founders, etc. most every brewery is making good to great beer that can sit side-by-side with the best; b) the beer tends to be fairly homogeneous - (not homogenized) in other words, few breweries really stand out with niche production of a specialized type (see, e.g., Jolly Pumpkin) - every brewery has an IPA, a Belgian of some sort, maybe a lager, something that makes a passing attempt a sour (more on this in a minute).

So, to try to "make up" some form of differentiation ended up as this year's biggest "fail" - putting weird shit in beer. Last year, of course, had the all-time winner in this category with a "peanut butter stout", but I saw a lot of breweries putting weird shit - and by "weird shit" I mean things like blueberries, hyacinth, elderberries, raspberries, orange blossoms, tangerine, jalapenos, etc. (fruit and flower adjuncts) - into otherwise perfectly fine pale ales, golden ales, porters, stouts, etc. Indeed Dark Horse Brewing from Marshall, MI even managed to use Cinnamon Red Hots in a beer for the weekend's biggest WTF moment.

It wasn't all terrible - some breweries make a living doing this very, very well - Dave's BrewFarm and Shorts among them. But for many, it was simply not particularly good, or questionable and boring at best.

Thankfully most breweries have dialed down the sour beer with all but the best continuing their sour production. Breweries like Brugge Brasserie (Indianapolis, IN) and De Stihl (Normal, IL) and Jolly Pumpkin (Dexter, MI) and Goose Island (Chicago/Belgium/Brazil) had some of the best.

Indeed, this year's "Winning" beer (imho, of course), Saison De Ruisseau, came from De Stihl. The Saison was full-flavored and complex with a distinct but not overpowering sour tuck to it. I enjoyed every sip of it.

Speaking of enjoying every sip. I will close with the biggest frustration of the day and something that the event organizers need to address for a variety of reasons: pour sizes. I had breweries (Goose Island, I'm looking at you! They were merely the most egregious - almost every brewery was guilty) that poured me nearly a full f-ing glass of beer. I dumped most of it on the ground. It was fine beer, it's not like it was bad, but I don't want or need that much beer. It's called the Great TASTE of the Midwest. 3-4oz pours tops. It's not only a complete waste of beer, but it prevents people from enjoying all of the beer available and it's a huge waste of my entry fee*.

The event organizers need to stress to the breweries to pour tastes not full (or even half-full) glasses. When designing a glass put a marker on the glass for the breweries to use when filling.

*Prices for the Great Taste have gone up because the event needs to pay for all of the beer that the breweries bring. If a brewery pours 5 kegs of something, the event pays for all 5 kegs. If the brewery is pouring too much and you're throwing 3/4 of the beer on the ground, they (the brewery) could have poured properly and only brought 2 kegs and eliminated the waste. Then the event would only pay for 2 kegs and your ticket prices wouldn't have to go up every year.

----post script----
Vintage Brewing Co. definitely took the day with the Best Booth - a full Vintage bar with 2 complete sets of tap lines (over 25 total taps), couches, tables, chairs, and fish bowls. I love it when breweries recognize the value of the Great Taste and take advantage of the marketing opportunity presented to them.

The GTMW iOS and Android app was a solid success. I didn't use it because I don't have a need for it, but those that did found it very useful for their purposes. Some things to think about for next year: reminders for beers that are on a schedule and more use of q-codes either in the guide or, preferably, at the booths.

Finally, there needs to be more thought/advertising/information about the education tent - it was quite the poor state this year with attendees barely paying attention and those that were unable to hear or understand anything being said.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Press Release Friday - Something to Whet Your Great Taste Whistle

Alaskan Brewing Co. is coming to Wisconsin Labor Day weekend. Frank Beer will be distributing. Those of you that know, know that this is pretty darn cool. Those that don't - you are in for a treat. Alaskan makes some great beer, including one of my very favorites - Smoked Porter; it's warm and smoky with a nice clean finish.

But here's what I don't get: Alaskan is entering with their amber (why?), IPA (again, why?), and White (umm...ok?). It seems set up to fail. Alaskan's a great brewery, but why would you buy these beers from them? With the exception of the White, almost every brewery in the state already makes passable versions of these - Alaskan has no competitive (or comparative) advantage.

Why not come in with Smoked Porter and push that as the distinguishing brand? Yeah, not everyone's gonna love it, but it is a great beer that will convert people. On the other hand, nobody's going to buy Alaskan Amber over Capital Amber or Alaskan IPA over Hopalicious.

Anyway; cool to see a National-ish brand coming instead of going.

-----------START PRESS RELEASE----------------------

Alaskan Brewing to Enter First State East of the Mississippi
Wisconsinites can raise a glass with Juneau's "taste of Alaska" this Labor Day 

Juneau, Alaska (August 12, 2011) - Beer drinkers in Wisconsin will be able to celebrate the Labor Day holiday with brews from the state of 100,000 glaciers when Alaskan Brewing brings their bottled "taste of Alaska" to the Badger State this September. Alaskan Brewing Co. is partnering with six local distributors to help share the products throughout the state.

"We are thrilled to represent Alaskan Brewing Co's award-winning beers in our markets," says Mike Frank, President of Middleton's Frank Beer Distributing, one of Alaskan's Wisconsin partners. 

With the addition of Wisconsin, Alaskan's second new market entry since 2008, Alaskan beer will be available in a total of 12 states. Alaskan will be entering Wisconsin with their Gold Rush-era inspired Alaskan Amber. Alaskan IPA and White Ale will be available in mid-September, a number of their year-round and seasonal beers will be available in kegs and caseware in the state later this fall. 

"Customers have been asking for it and we look forward to selling such great craft beers in our 30th year of business," says Sussex-based Beer Capitol's Ken Limas. Alaskan will also be partnering with Lee Beverage, Kay Beer Distributing, CJW Distributing and LaCrosse Beverage.

This year the Juneau-based Alaskan Brew Crew celebrates their 25th year of handcrafting award-winning beers brewed with the historic recipes and local ingredients of the Last Frontier.

"We are excited to celebrate our anniversary with a hop over the Mississippi to share our beers with Alaskan fans in Wisconsin," says Alaskan Brewing Co-Founder Marcy Larson.

Alaskan Brewing will be posting news and announcements about launch events and activities at and as they get closer to the September release. 

25th Anniversary Alaskan Perseverance Ale Releases September 1 

Alaskan has been brewing in the remote coastal town of Juneau, Alaska for the last 25 incredible years. To celebrate this tradition, the Brew Crew created Alaskan Perseverance Ale; a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Alaska birch syrup, fireweed honey and alder-smoked malt – a tribute to all that makes Alaskan beers truly Alaskan. 

Learn more at, or for images, product samples and interview requests please contact Communications Manager Ashley Johnston,


About Alaskan Brewing Co. 
Alaskan Brewing Co. has been making award-winning beer in Juneau, Alaska, since 1986. The Alaskan Brew Crew bottles the unique character of the Last Frontier with historic recipes, local ingredients and glacier-fed water. Alaskan Brewing handcrafts Amber, Pale, White, IPA, Stout, Smoked Porter, Winter Ale, Summer Ale and a variety of limited edition beers in the Alaskan Pilot Series. Follow Alaskan at, and