Friday, May 27, 2011

Wisconsin Legislature, maybe, Trying to Screw Wisconsin Brewers. Again.

This is a "Press Release" of sorts. Written by Marc Buttera of O'So Brewing Company in Plover, WI it deals with a rumored item to be added to the Wisconsin Budget by the Wisconsin Distributors and Large Breweries. I have not been able to independently confirm any of this, so I will just run the entirety of the text of Marc's Facebook post (I did clean up some of the spelling though).

The Journal Sentinel has a great article about why the text is not publicly available. For those of you who believe in open government, you will probably cry.

But here's the gist of what's going on. The Wisconsin wholesale laws prohibit an out-of-state brewery, say, Anheuser-Busch from holding a distributor's license. However, in-state breweries, like O'So, can have a distributor license to distribute up to 50,000 barrels of beer. However, according to a court in the Northern District of Illinois this violates the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution; you can't treat out-of-state companies differently than in-state companies.

So, in order to keep the status quo, but avoid a court challenge that would destroy the whole thing and allow A-B to own a distributor (it's not entirely clear why this is something that needs to be avoided, but that's another post for another day, I suppose), the Wisconsin Distributors (and MillerCoors, incidentally) want to eliminate the ability of breweries to hold a distributor's license at all. Distribution up to 300,000 barrels would just be part and parcel of holding a brewer's license.

It is not clear whether this innate distribution right would also be subject to the exclusivity rules that a distribution license is subject to; i.e., a distribution right is exclusive to a given territory. However, the rumored legislation would hurt two of the primary ways small breweries have to make money related to a brewery's current distribution rights: 1) selling distribution rights for a given territory; and, 2) minor investment by the distributors themselves.

As to the latter I am reminded of the wise man who once said "Thou shalt not shit where one eats." However, as to the former, removing the ability of breweries to sell their distribution rights, creates a funding issue that simply reeks of distributors being pissy that they have to pay the breweries for the rights - while on the other side, making mad bank by selling those same rights to other distributors. Something about having cake and eating it, too, comes to mind.

Distributors have been underhanded with small breweries over this for the past few years - taking advantage of brewers that don't yet realize that their distribution rights have value that distributors should be paying (dearly) for. Shame on the distributors for being so ... ruthless ... but I'm also reminded of the wise man who said "Don't hate the playa, hate the game." Completely eliminating the ability of the breweries to sell these rights while keeping the ability of distributors to sell the very same rights, simply reeks of bad sportsmanship though.

Moreover, the 25 retail account rule seems a bit of an overreach; there's no reason for it since these breweries are using their distribution rights to get started - everyone has to start somewhere. Requiring 25 retail accounts in order to have any self-distribution rights is akin to making the brewers only brew pale ales until they can prove they are good enough to make other styles.

Some of the other pieces of the rumored legislation are merely gratuitous bits that seem to be attempting to reign in ... well ... I'm not really sure what these other changes are attempting to do. Mostly, they seemed aimed at annoying small brewers. Marc's note mentions something about The Great Dane, but they wouldn't be affected at all since The Dane doesn't hold a Brewery License - they hold a Brewpub License, which is a completely different beast.

------------START POST-----------------

Currently there is legislation being pushed through the Joint Finance Committee and SECRETLY into the budget bill without feedback from the small brewer!

The Chapter 125 Branch Legislation would:

All Wisconsin Breweries and Brewpubs will be negatively affected by losing their Wholesale and retail licenses and the benefits those licenses provide. With out this O’so wouldn’t have survived over the last ten months after our split with our local distributor! We certainly wouldn’t have hired two new guys, as we did, and wouldn’t of grown enough to be planning on the future!

Eliminates the current option of a brewer choosing to self-distribute or starting a Wholesale Distribution Company. For New brewers coming up, this is really bad because they will never have the chance to begin on their own keeping more of “their” money before choosing to go with distribution.

Eliminates a Brewers current right to have ownership in two restaurants. For all of you who eat/drink at the Great Dane, what will happen there???

Protects (Grandfather Clause) currents Wholesalers retail licenses, while eliminating that benefit for new start up Wholesalers.

Unfairly burdens new Wholesalers and breweries with a requirement of 25 separate independent retail customers before a Wholesale license can be granted.

Eliminates the ability of Brewers to sell existing retail or wholesale operations separately from the brewing operation. If you grow large enough to move a portion of your production to a industrial park, you would not be able to sell out of that location at all, if you chose to keep your retail/pint sales out of your “store front.”

Eliminates current Wholesale investment in privately held Wisconsin Breweries while allowing investment in out of state and foreign and publicly traded breweries.

The Story line from Wisconsin Beer Distributors Association (WBDA)/Miller-Coors: Small brewers are unaffected by these changes. Small breweries can do everything they can do today. Small brewers are “exempt” from changes.

This is simply not true.

We currently can hold two retail licenses. These licenses are issued by our local municipalities and are like all other retail licenses. They allow us to serve other breweries’ beer and promote the craft beer industry. A retail establishment owned by the brewery is a portable asset and can be sold like any other retail establishment. This proposal eliminates the ability to have a retail licenses and ties the retail establishment beer sales permanently to the brewery permit. It also limits beer sales to the products of the brewery only by the removal of the retail licenses.

We currently can hold a wholesalers license. It is also issued by our local municipalities. It is the same wholesale license as those held by any other wholesaler. It allows us to sell our beer, as well as other breweries beer. This proposal eliminates the right to hold a retail license. American Craft Beer Week was last week and in honor of it, many local breweries traded beer to be on guest taps at each other’s locations, this would NOT be allowed next year if WBDA & Miller/Coors gets this through legislation!

Why is WBDA and Miller-Coors be pushing this? Simple they are losing market share of sales. May the better beers win!!!

It is no secret that craft beer is gaining market share while the Miller-Coors and InBev market share continues to decline. The WBDA can eliminate future serious competition by prohibiting craft brewers from getting together to open their own wholesalers. It is a very real scenario that in the near future small breweries in Wisconsin will be forced to get together regionally, and open wholesalers for their own and other craft beers. This is already happening across the country. Consider these facts: There were 92 wholesalers in Wisconsin in 1994. In 2007 there were 67. Today there are 42, and the number continues to drop. At the same time, the number of brands carried by these wholesalers has more than doubled. Distributor jobs have also been eliminated. The employee to brand ratio at the wholesalers has declined to the point that adequate sales representation no longer exists. Breweries are trying to band together to reverse this trend. These new brewery-owned distributors will also create new jobs that Wisconsin desperately needs, instead of eliminating jobs in the name of efficiency as wholesalers do as they consolidate.

Every small brewer uses their wholesale license today to sell to a few customers. Many brewers sell (with their wholesale license) to special events/festivals with permission from the wholesaler that has the assigned territory from the brewer because the wholesaler does not want to haul the beer, or man the booths, out to weekend festivals. These festivals have helped O’so grow quickly over the last three years. The first two years we were somewhere in the state building our own brand! We shouldn’t have to do this without any sort of compensation. Most of us use this as our marketing! This proposal requires 25 or more customers, making start up of self-distribution nearly impossible. It would also not be possible for small brewery to get started by selling to a small local grocery store chain with 5-6 stores where the beer obviously would be well advertised and seen. This is often the only way to get started without giving up as much as 28% off the top in sales to a distributor in which you get lost at the bottom of their portfolio because as a small brewer you don’t have the money to give a way free things like New Belgium, Miller, Etc. We keep our money within the buildings to improve efficiency’s and create more jobs by being able to produce more product. If you build it they will come! We produce the product, why should the distributors have all the rights! It is our product, we should be able to choose if we want to do business with any distributor, not be forced to do business with them because they have more money to pad the representatives from Wisconsin’s pockets. A good distributor wouldn’t feel threatened, but learn to adapt to change and build a craft division!

Small brewers often look to wholesalers as a source of capital. Many times wholesalers have funds to invest, and a local brewery can be a good place to do so. Many small breweries see this investment as a way to gain market share with the wholesaler. Today, Wisconsin wholesalers can and do invest in both in-state and out-of-state small breweries. This proposal unfairly discriminates against WI small breweries by eliminating this potential source of capital while allowing wholesalers to invest in out-of-state breweries whose brands they carry. NOT that we would ever want to do this type of capital building.

Small brewers can currently own two restaurants, and some small Wisconsin breweries do. This proposal eliminates the ability to own a restaurant with a liquor license.

Governor and legislative leadership say they do not want to use the budget for policy.

This legislation is being pushed through the Joint Finance Committee and secretly into the budget bill, without input from us, small brewers, whose livelihoods are being threatened. This means that it doesn’t have to go through hearings and reviews that it otherwise would. Why is this being rushed through so quickly without proper input, debate, and disclosure?

Legislators and the governor say they are against more government and bigger government.

This legislation creates more state government bureaucracy, by transferring license administration from local municipalities to a state level agency, eliminating local jobs.

Sorry for the length of this note, but this is so important to share with all of you who drink our beers to know about and help us fight. The craft brewing industry is one that is providing real jobs in Wisconsin. O’so Brewing Company started in a strip mall in 2007 and is about to embark on a ¾ million dollar expansion, creating 7 full-time jobs over the next three years. We are part of a growing community of breweries that continue to have a recognizable impact on Wisconsin's economy. We started out very small and our only lifeline was the fact that we were allowed to self distribute. In fact, we had a split with our local distributor last August and the only recourse was to only sell our product out of the front of our brewing supply store because we could not use our license from the brewery because of contractual language. These sales kept us growing and kept our current 5 full-time employees with jobs. Some of these employees positions had already been eliminated by larger companies down sizing. Had the laws been different about licensing, I am not sure the outcome would have been the same for our survival, nor our employment of any of these employees.

The brewers and the Wisconsin Brewers Guild will NOT OPPOSE the joint legislation changes (Branch Legislation) provided we are TRULY Exempt.

• Current 50,000 barrel level of annual production for brewers to hold a Wholesale License would move to 300,000.

• Brewers under 300,000 barrels are completely exempt from all remaining changes proposed with “Branch Legislation” (meaning that any licenses that we are able to hold today, we would still be able to hold after The proposed changes go into effect)

So what do you need to do? Contact your local representatives! Tell them that you OPPOSE the Chapter 125 Branch Legislation unless it is written in that all current and future breweries (under 300,000 bbls) are exempt from these changes.

Information provided by The Wisconsin Brewers Guild. Do you want to help the WBG in having the money to fight this type of cause? Join the Wisconsin Brewer's Guild by becoming a WIBL member today.

Notes from the Field: It’s getting crowded in here! Ohio's Fast-Growing Beer Scene

Only two of the nearly 200 brewers at the first International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio, this past weekend were from Wisconsin: Leinenkugel and Steven’s Point, which is one of only a few craft brewers from the state that distribute to Ohio.

Despite the lack of representation, my experience there brought a lot to mind about Wisconsin and its rich, yet mostly self-contained craft beer scene and how Ohio might already be moving in a similar direction.

With a limited array of locally produced craft beers to fill store shelves, Ohio has long been a stable market for some of the region’s biggest players from Michigan (Bell’s, Founders, Jolly Pumpkin, Arcadia, New Holland, and Dark Horse), Pennsylvania (Troeg’s, Victory,  Weyerbacher, and Stoudts), and Illinois (Goose Island and Two Brothers). It also has been a long-time home for some of the many major players from the West Coast (Stone, Bear Republic, Sierra Nevada, Northcoast, Lagunitas, AleSmith, and Rogue) and Colorado (Great Divide, Avery, Fort Collins, Boulder, Left Hand, Tommyknocker, and Breckenridge). East Coast contributors like Sam Adams, Brooklyn, DogFish Head, Ommegang, Magic Hat, Southern Tier, Schmaltz/HeBrew and Smuttynose have long been in the mix as well.

These breweries have found room in Ohio not only for their year-round brews, but oftentimes also for seasonal and special releases largely due to a lack of in-state competition. Until recently, Cleveland-based Great Lakes and Akron’s Thirsty Dog were the only major local players keeping them from having their run of the Buckeye State.

This isn’t the case in Wisconsin, as you know, where the diverse array of great local brewers has earned a good share of the shelf space and tap handles from local merchants. But this weekend’s event might’ve been a sign of a sea change in Ohio beer culture that could have it soon far more resembling Wisconsin than its current melting pot of regional and national craft brews.

Of the more-than-80 domestic craft breweries in attendance at the show, 24 were from Ohio, most of which don’t yet distribute to the northern part of the state -- but many are hoping to start.

During the past several years, new breweries popping up around the state already have begun to steal market share from out-of-state brewers. Hoppin’ Frog, a Madison Beer Review favorite and winner of a 2008 GABF Gold Medal for its BORIS The Crusher Imperial Stout (the beer took a silver medal at the Cleveland fest, second only to its “doubled” sister-beer DORIS, which took the gold), has been expanding rapidly since starting production out of Akron in ’08 and is now available in 15 states including Illinois, but alas, not Wisconsin.

Indigo Imp, a brewer of Belgian-style ales in Cleveland began brewing shortly thereafter. In 2010, Crooked River Brewing (not seen since the 1990s) resurfaced from bankruptcy, and longstanding Strongsville, Ohio-staple The Brew Kettle (once named one of the Top 5 Brewpubs in the World by RateBeer) suddenly began not only bottling and distributing, but doing so in mass quantities around the area. Meanwhile, Rustbelt Brewing in Youngstown, Wooden Shoe in Minster, and Rivertown and Mt. Carmel Brewing in Cincinnati, also are now searching for their piece of the bottled beer pie in Northeast Ohio.

The brewpub scene is growing just as crowded. With several well-established brewpubs already in the area, Buckeye Brewing -- in business since 1997 -- opened The Buckeye Beer Engine, its first full-service brewpub, in 2006.  Fat Heads Saloon, winner of a silver medal at the 2010 GABF for its Head Hunter IPA, also has opened a successful brewpub in neighboring North Olmsted. The stage will get even more crowded this summer when former DogFish Head head brewer Andy Tveekrem opens Market Garden Brewery literally across the street from Great Lakes’ brewpub. The restaurant will be operated by Sam McNulty of McNulty’s Bier Markt, a locally renowned Belgian beer bar also located nearby.

I remember traveling throughout Wisconsin in 2007 and being shocked by the amount of retail shelf space dedicated to in-state breweries, most of which I had never heard of as an Ohioan because they only distributed within their home state.

The model of the small regional brewery easily able to spread its influence into nearby states appears less viable as more and more new breweries arise and saturate local markets. The biggest victims in Ohio have been mid-sized craft breweries like Weyerbacher and Left Hand, who previously could swarm the shelves with year-round staples and seasonals.

While the likelihood of losing the ability to purchase and drink beers Ohioans used to find regularly looms, the change could be considered largely a positive one. As Wisconsinites have experienced for a long time, having more locally produced options establishes a sense of pride for the products and gives travelers a unique product to sample while in town. Meanwhile, it undoubtedly brings more macro drinkers into the fold, increases interaction with the actual artisans behind the beers, and fits nicely into the recent overall trend in the food and beverage industry towards locally manufactured products.

Since most of the MBR readers live in Wisconsin: How do you feel about this? Would you sacrifice some of the many local players in your area to have access to more regional and national brews or are you happy to have a beer culture with so many local contributors?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

And the Winner Is ... Kohler Festival of Beer Passes

You'll recall last Thursday MBR announced a chance to win two tickets to the Kohler Festival of Beer being held on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday (May 27, 28, and 29). Yes, that is this coming weekend.

Drum roll please. Using the random number generator at, I put limiting numbers as 1 and 28, the total number of likes, comments, and tweets received from Thursday through Tuesday. The result was 13. And the lucky holder of number 13 is ....

Twitter handle @dgrupe

The winning tweet was "RT @MadisonBeer Kohler Festival of Beer - Free Passes"

See how easy that was? That could have been you. But instead it was @dgrupe. See Twitter IS good for something.

Notes from the Field: International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio: A Quick Review

by Jeff Walcoff

This weekend, Madison Beer Review attended the first International Beer Fest in Cleveland, Ohio, held in roughly half of the nearby International Exposition Center – a massive 1 million-square-foot convention center originally built as a factory that built bombers during World War II.

With more than 200 brewers and 800 beers from around the world for the sampling, The Fest was Cleveland’s first major foray into a full-scale, multiple-session beer festival – and while it undoubtedly had its perks, it also showed certain need for improvement if there’s to be a second year.

As might be typical of new, large beer festivals, the biggest issue was the lack of representation from the breweries and distributorships themselves. The folks pouring the beers were almost entirely volunteers who knew nothing of the offers they were serving, even down to simple facts like style. One of the great delights of any type of beer event is having a chance meet and greet a brewer, owner or distributor. This felt like going to a neighborhood art show and having finance majors from the nearby college describing and selling the pieces.

A couple more novice beer drinkers I spoke with shared similar disappointment.

As for the beers, most of the hundreds being sampled were the same one would find on the shelves of a bottle shop down the street. Most breweries offered between two and four varieties and almost all were year-round offerings.  But nonetheless, there was still plenty of beer to be had and it was a nice chance to revisit some old favorites, as well as retry beers I simply didn’t remember because I hadn’t tasted them in a long time. I had forgotten how good Weyerbacher Merry Monks and AleSmith Red Devil are mostly because the always-constant stream of new beers has prevented me from ordering or buying them in several years. And, let’s be honest, there’s never a bad time to be poured a glass of Rochefort 10 or Orval.

Here were some of the highlights:

* Legendary West Coast brewery Pizza Port was in attendance to everyone’s surprise (they weren’t on the published list of participants). Their Black IPA was a consensus pick among folks I spoke with as one of the festival’s best. They also served a porter, brown ale, and IPA that were among the best we had all day.

* Michigan brewery Kuhnhenn, which also doesn’t distribute to Ohio, sampled four beers, including their Crème Brulee Java Stout that blew me away.

* The Real Ale Bar featured some interesting offerings including a casked version of Fat Heads’ 2010 GABF silver-medal-winning Head Hunter IPA, and one of the very first offerings from Market Garden Brewery (an amber), the soon-to-open Cleveland brewpub by former DogFish head brewer Andy Tveekrem.

* A nicely aged 2009 vintage Great Lakes Blackout Stout served only in the VIP area.

* Four beers from Sierra Nevada’s limited edition “Beer Camp” series.

As for some of the notable award winners, New Hampshire’s Smuttynose Brewing took home the gold medals for both English Pale Ale (Shoals Pale Ale) and Porter/Stout (Robust Porter), while Strongsville, Ohio’s The Brew Kettle’s earned four golds, as well as the prize for Best in Show for their White Rajah IPA.

If you’re considering a trip to the area to experience the fantastic beer scene, I’d also recommend the annual Cleveland Beer Week in October [ed note and it runs from October 14-22], which features countless beer dinners, samplings, rare keg tappings, vintage tastings, and a massive closing-night gala. While the individual events might set you back more than the one-stop Fest, the beer is more geared towards special releases and seasonals and nearly all of the major events are attended by direct brewery reps, oftentimes the brewers themselves.

---------ED NOTE------

As a little follow-up, keep in mind that other events around the country use volunteers to the same mixed results. Great American Beer Fest ("GABF") in Denver, CO does this and the service knowledge even there, at indisputably America's premier beer festival, can be woefully lacking for the inquisitive mind. Many brewers do not attend GABF, and those that do are often there to attend satellite events such as conferences or specific account tastings and what-not - they are rarely available on the event floor. Eventually these satellite events will grow and support the I-X BeerFest and more brewers will see the value in attending such a show. In the meantime, volunteer training should focus on a base level of beer knowledge and volunteers should be getting at least a cursory training on the product that they will be serving.

Other events like Great Taste of the Midwest mandate that brewers attend and that brewery staff pour; this is much easier when you have 120 breweries from a consolidated area (the Midwest). It is also, by far, the exception rather than the rule. GTMW can do this because of the relationship the organizers themselves have with the breweries, it would be difficult for an event not run by industry insiders to mandate this.

The following is the follow-up press release from the event organizers.

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

Cheers to a Great Event!
International Beer Fest Wows the Crowd First Year Out

(Cleveland, OH) The I-X Center can cheerfully raise a glass to another successful event. International Beer Fest, the largest showcase and competition of world beers in the Midwest, lived up to the hype. The festival and beer competition featuring 200 stellar breweries and upwards of 800 beers drew 8,567 visitors to its three tasting sessions, gaining instant fan loyalty from both brewers and attendees alike.

“For a first-year show, we were thrilled with the attendance and overall positive comments about the International Beer Fest,” said Robert Peterson, president of the I-X Center. “We will definitely hold the event in May 2012 - dates will be announced soon.”

Show organizers noticed right away that the attendance seemed to grow with each session. Many patrons that had planned to attend only one session soon found themselves purchasing tickets for the next. The site’s Facebook page became flooded with positive comments and “can’t wait until next year” postings. Fans have already been asking for dates and tickets for 2012!

The judged competition was easily a crowd favorite. “Best in Show” went to The Brew Kettle Production Works from Strongsville, Ohio. The brewer’s White Rajah wowed a panel of beer experts and garnered the brewery top recognition. As the ceremony ended, the Beer Kettle crew happily walked away with a total of nine medallions that graced their booth until the end of the show.

Other Northeast Ohio brewers also faired well in the judging, giving the Buckeye State plenty to brag about with a grand total of 36 medals earned between them. Hoppin’ Frog Brewery of Akron, Ohio, and Fat Heads Brewery & Saloon of North Olmsted, Ohio, both walked away with five and four medallions respectively, including two golds for each. Great Lakes Brewing Company and Buckeye Brewing Company from Cleveland, Ohio, and the Thirsty Dog Brewing Company out of Akron, Ohio, each won three medals in various categories. The Willoughby Brewing Co. of Willoughby, Ohio, went home with two, including a bronze for their Peanut Butter Cup Coffee Porter. A complete list of winners may be viewed on the International Beer Fest website,

International Beer Fest will be held next May, 2012 at the I-X Center in Cleveland, Ohio. For more information call 216.265.7468 or visit us online at, or

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Reminder: Kohler Festival of Beer - Free Passes

Today is your last day to get the chance to win two free passes to the Kohler Festival of Beer this weekend. Check out the article from last Thursday on how to win.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Notes From the Field: An Introduction

This is a part of a series of articles written by a correspondent from outside of Wisconsin. I thought this might be of interest, so I solicited the article. Of course, the articles deal with my own hometown of Cleveland, Ohio - I know, you're shocked - but there are two reasons for my commission of these articles.

The first reason is obvious - this was a great opportunity for a first look at a big beer event in another Midwestern city - within easy travel distance for those inclined to make the trip or for some ungodly reason find themselves in Cleveland, Ohio. First year festivals can be a mixed bag and a first-year festival on the scale attempted in Cleveland (the I-X Center is over 1 million square feet and includes an indoor ferris wheel) doesn't happen frequently. For the record, I'm happy to review/edit/publish any articles that a reader may want to submit about events going on in the Midwest or around the world.

The second reason is to present some non-Wisconsin views about beer, and the second article in this series, coming on Friday, will look specifically at how a fledgling craft beer state like Ohio can or should use the more-developed beer scene in Wisconsin as a model.

Finally, the contributor himself, Jeff Walcoff, is a well-respected writer in his own right. He is, as it also turns out, singly responsible for converting me to craft beer with a well-timed pour of Dogfish Head's 120 Minute IPA. He knows more about the diversity of styles and flavor nuances than almost anyone else I know. Oh, I should probably disclose that he is also my step-brother. So, look for his articles this coming Wednesday and Friday; let him know what you think about the event and about Wisconsin's brewing scene.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Press Release Friday: Wisconsin Celebrates American Craft Beer Week

For a variety of reasons that I'm not going to go into, we decided not to hold Madison Craft Beer Week during the Brewer's Association's designated "American Craft Beer Week." It was very tempting, but we didn't. However, your Wisconsin brewers are participating in American Craft Beer Week. So, get out this weekend and check out some of the guest taps at your favorite local brewery or brewpub.


Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild Celebrates American Craft Beer Week,
May 16-22, 2011
MADISON, WI – May 16, 2011 – The Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild is celebrating American Craft Beer Week, May 16-22, 2011. Wisconsin craft brewers are celebrating the camaraderie of this close-knit industry by hosting a “Guest Tap” beer at breweries and brewpubs around the state.
“Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild members make some of the best craft beer in the world.  We want to give our customers the chance to sample Wisconsin brands they may never have tasted,” said Jeff Hamilton, President, Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild and President of Sprecher Brewing, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  “It is refreshing to be part of an industry where your competitors are also your friends and you can genuinely toast each others’ success. The majority of Americans live within ten miles of a craft brewer.  This is the week we are inviting everyone to stop by and have a beer with us.”
During the week of May 16, celebrations will take place at a variety of breweries all across the state. Events include the release of special beers, food and beer pairings, craft beer dinners, and special brewery tours.  A list of events can be found on the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild website:
“Wisconsin Beer Lovers Members should check out what their local breweries or brewpubs are offering WiBL members,” Hamilton said.  “We want to celebrate craft beer, but we also want to thank our WiBL members for being such loyal supporters of our brands.”
“Guest Tap” beers can be found at the following locations:
  • Sand Creek Brewing Co., Black River Falls, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Central Waters Brewing Double Chocolate and Lake Louis Mosquito Beach
  • Central Waters Brewing, Amherst, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Sand Creek Oatmeal Stout
  • Sprecher Brewing Company, Glendale, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Capital Brewery Blonde Dopplebock and Milwaukee Brewing Saison
  • Capital Brewery, Middleton, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Sprecher Brewing Company Black IPA, Great Dane Brew Pub Imperial IPA and Lake Louis Mosquito Beach
  • Milwaukee Brewing Co., Milwaukee, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Sprecher Brewing Company Black IPA
  • Lakefront Brewery, Milwaukee, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Tyranena Brewing Company Scurvy IPA
  • Tyranena Brewing Company, Lake Mills, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Lakefront Brewery Bridgeburner
  • Fox River Brewing Company, Appleton, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Great Dane Brew Pub Selections
  • Great Dane Brew Pub will have as Guest Tap:
    Fox River Brewing Company and Capital Brewery Selections
  • South Shore Brewery, Ashland, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    O’so Brewing Selections
  • O’so Brewing Brewing, Plover, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    South Shore Brewery Nut Brown, Potosi Brewery Fiddler Oatmeal Stout, and Czech Style Pilsner
  • Potosi Brewery, Potosi, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    O’so Brewing Nighttrain, and Hopdinger
  • New Glarus Brewing Co., New Glarus, WI will have as Guest Tap:
    Vintage Brewing Co. Woodshed, Hibiscus Saison
  • Vintage Brewing Co., Madison, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    New Glarus Brewing Co., Spotted Cow, Raspberry Tart, Woodman 77
  • Stone Cellar Brewpub, Appleton, WI will have as Guest Tap:
    Pearl Street Brewing Dankenstein IIPA, El Hefe Bavarian Hefeweizen
  • Woodman Brewery, Woodman, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Vintage Brewing Co. Selections
  • Pearl Street, La Crosse, WI, will have as Guest Tap:
    Stone Cellar Brewpub Java Lava
American Craft Beer Week is celebrated throughout the United States and is designed to highlight the small and independent craft brewers, and their products.  The Brewers Association defines a craft brewer as small, independent and traditional, producing fewer than 6 million barrels per year, with less than 25% of the brewery owned or controlled by an alcoholic beverage industry member, who is not themselves a craft brewer.  Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley, but the hallmarks of craft beer are innovative styles and interpretations of traditional ingredients.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Kohler Festival of Beer - Free Passes

Hey everybody,

Guess what? I've got two free passes for all-day Saturday 5/28 at the Kohler Festival of Beer. How awesome is that? Well...check this out:

Two Kohler Festival of Beer Saturday (5/28) Day Passes which includes admission to Beers Around the World and Cheers to Beers - $73.50 per ticket (a $78.75 value).
Beers Around the World
Join us for samplings of beers from around the world and help celebrate the inaugural release of Jigger Ale in the U.S., the official beer of the Old Course Hotel in St Andrews, Scotland. Prize giveaways, live entertainment by the Waterstreet Hot Shots and an afternoon filled with good friends, good times and great beer.  Location: Main Festival Tent  $26.25
Cheers to Beers
Taste an extensive variety of beers served by breweries from across the country. After savoring and sampling, vote for your favorite. Guests will also enjoy samplings from the Kitchens of Kohler. The winning brew will be featured throughout the summer in The Horse & Plow. Each guest will receive a collector beer glass, complete with the Kohler Festival of Beer logo.  Location: Kohler Design Center  $52.50

And that's just two of the events on Saturday. You should check out what's going on all weekend up there - there are 19 events in 3 days. 

So, what can you do to win these tickets? There are two ways to win; (1) "Like" or "Comment" on this post on MBR's Facebook Page; or (2) Tweet this post and reference @MadisonBeer in the Tweet; Tweets, likes and comments will be compiled on Tuesday 5/24; then keep an eye out for next Wednesday when I'll announce the winner right here on MBR.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On (and Off) Wisconsin

During the Madison History Walk on Friday our guide, Andrew, made a comment that I found really interesting. The number one state in state brand loyalty is, not surprisingly, I suppose, Texas. People from Texas are proud of it and will go out of their way to purchase things from and by the people of Texas. Number 2 is Wisconsin.

While probably not surprising to the people of Wisconsin, I don't know if people outside of the state completely realize this. In fact, to be honest, I'm not sure people outside of Wisconsin spend a whole lot of time at all thinking about the state of Wisconsin. Indeed, prior to moving here I'm not sure I could have accurately pointed out on a map of Wisconsin where any city other than Milwaukee would be located.

But, hey, do you know where Toledo, Ohio is? or Dayton? or Fort Wayne, Indiana? I didn't think so.

This brand loyalty has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are obvious. We have had an explosion of growth in the craft beer industry here; new brewpubs and breweries are sprouting up all over the place. It is not much of a cliche to say that virtually every town has its own brewery. This is true because people from Wisconsin drink beer from Wisconsin and they drink a lot of beer. So breweries like Lake Louie, O'So, New Glarus, and others have a legitimate chance of success without ever having to leave the safe nest of Wisconsin.

From a consumer standpoint however, we should be a little more adventurous. First, and most obviously, Wisconsin breweries are painfully monochromatic. Amber? Check. IPA? Check. Dopplebock? Check. With the exception of Furthermore playing on the fringes, and really, adding stuff to pale ales isn't that far out on the fringe, there are few breweries in the state that play on niches or in specific styles or really have a strong identity of their own.

In the meantime, breweries that do interesting things and have solid identities are being passed over and forced to leave the state. Dogfish Head left, Stone left, Boulevard left, Allagash left. All solid breweries. Indeed, in some (most) cases much stronger, more consistent, better breweries than we have here in Wisconsin. And it is very possible that more will be leaving. Some of this is their problem, of course. Stone just got cold feet; Dogfish Head didn't want to put in the marketing efforts (and, no, I'm not buying Dogfish Head needed to reallocate product; they actually entered some markets with the beer that they pulled out of Wisconsin).

People in Wisconsin will drink local before they drink quality or experiment. Is this a problem? Only if you value differentiated products or real competition. Do we only drink Wisconsin wine? No because Wisconsin wine isn't very good (sorry Wollersheim, you are, admittedly the best of a bad lot). Do we only eat Wisconsin cheese? Well, maybe we do - but we have a competition in this space that doesn't seem to exist in the breweries.

I spoke with Marc Buttera at O'So, and he's asked a number of in-state breweries to collaborate on a beer with him. How awesome would that kind of collaboration be? Night Train meet Bedlam? Lupulin Maximus meet Rocky's Revenge? Consecrator meet Dankenstein? F-ing awesome. So far everyone has turned him down. Why? Because breweries here are afraid of competition. They like their safe nest and loyal customers and Ale Asylum's afraid that if they collaborate with O'So people will like the O'So better and drink that instead. [ed note: I just picked on Ale Asylum, I have no actual evidence that this is the case with them and frankly my mind explodes with the possibilities of a Dean Coffey/Marc Buttera collaboration!]

But that's not how it works. If the last few years of the beer industry have taught us anything it is that there is no "instead", it is all "in addition to". There is no competition and collaboration works.

So, as consumers we shouldn't be afraid to experiment and try something new. Like Dank? Try Nosferatu. Like Ballistic? Try Hop Rising. Like Dirty Old Man? Try Black Bear Stout. Like Fixed Gear? Try Ard Ri. You get the point. There's a lot of great beer out there and you'll find that you aren't substituting; you always come back to that Lakefront, Ale Asylum, Tyranena, etc. You always come back to the local because, well, because it's local. But in the meantime, you're missing a lot of great beer out there.

Breweries. Get out and collaborate. Take Marc up on his offer. Only good can come of it. You are not too busy. You have nothing to fear. How cool would a Lake Louie/Lakefront beer be? Lakefront Louie? Come on. It's too easy. Hinterland/Furthermore? Heretofore. It's fun. Everyone can do it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tuesday Press Release - Kohler Festival of Beer

So, I am a horrible person. I have been a little busy lately (you might have been able to tell?) and I'm just getting around to publishing this press release for an awesome beer festival up in Kohler. I don't know about you, but prior to moving to Wisconsin I had never heard of Kohler. 

Apparently Kohler where all the cool kids go when they can find a babysitter for the kids and don't have to trek the yearlings up to The Dells for endless trips up stairs and down water slides. Anyway. Get ye a babysitter for the weekend of the 27th.

ps. Pay attention to MBR in the coming days, there is a slight chance that we might be giving away some tickets to this very festival. 

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

Kohler Festival of Beer
May 27-29, 2011
Friday 5pm-Midnight / Saturday 10am-10pm / Sunday 8am-10pm
The American Club Resort
Kohler, Wisconsin

The third annual Kohler Festival of Beer is a celebratory weekend of good food and great beer! The three-day event includes demonstrations & tastings featuring breweries from across the country highlighted with live entertainment. 

The complete schedule, tickets and hotel packages for the 2011 Kohler Festival of Beer are available online at or by calling 1-800-344-2838.

Tickets are available a la carte and as day passes. Ticket prices start at $26.25. The Saturday Day Pass includes the Cheers to Beers and Beers Around the World for $73.50 per person. The Sunday Day Pass is available for $120.75 per person and includes Eggs & Kegs breakfast, Shorts and Chefs and Blues, Brews & BBQ events.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Five Gallons At A Time: Alpha Acid Saturation

A couple months ago, we had a small discussion on hop bitterness. Garrett noted that perceived bitterness involves more than just IBUs, which is true, but being able to understand and control the individual components of hop character will improve how your recipes meet your expectations. Today, we're going to focus on how alpha acid saturation impacts IBUs.

Either Zymurgy or BYO, I don't remember which magazine, ran an article about Sierra Nevada's Beer Camp which mentioned that the participants compared the lab-measured IBUs of their beers with the three most common calculation methods used by homebrewers: Rager, Garetz and Tinseth. They found the Tinseth method was the most accurate of the three:

Without measuring your IBUs in a lab and fine-tuning your predictions to match your brewing system and packaging methods, the best you can expect from any IBU calculation is a ballpark estimate. Even with the bar set nice and low, only the Rager method acknowledges IBU contributions from whirlpooling the wort after boiling, which is beyond the scope of this post, and only the Garetz method takes alpha acid saturation into account.

I started with the premise that Tinseth's numbers are pretty good, but they need tweaking at the high end. I based my tweaks on two data points:

-In the Beer Camp article, the Tinseth method was pretty close for a 65-IBU beer.
-When Deschutes tried to brew two batches of 243-IBU beer, they ended up with 80- and 87-IBU beers (I don't have a link to share because Deschutes took down the blog post). I don't know how Deschutes predicted their IBU values, but I assumed they were similar to what Tinseth would compute.

I chose to include a correction factor that leaves the Tinseth calculations alone at 65 IBUs and below, but otherwise decreases utilization such that my calculations predict 85 IBUs when Tinseth predicts 240 IBUs. Furthermore, I didn't want to create a situation where increasing a hop addition could result in less bitterness. I use the following multiplier to satisfy those criteria:

Mibu = Target IBU / ((Target IBU - 65) x (240 - 65) / (85 - 65) + 65)

When my target bitterness is above 65 IBUs, I multiply the Tinseth utilization values of each hop addition by the multiplier. Here's what it looks like across a range of IBUs:

It's common knowledge that claims of 120+ IBUs for bottled beers are ridiculous, but claims of 80+ IBUs may also be absurd unless the brewers of those beers use similar correction factors (I don't know of any who do) or test their IBUs in labs.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Madison Craft Beer Week Success

Thank you to everyone and anyone that came out and helped to support Madison Craft Beer Week. We worked hard to bring you a good week of events and, from all reactions, it appeared as if you enjoyed them. If you were at the Cask Ale Night you were treated to a surprise: MBR writers Jeff, Robyn, Matt, and Joe poured you beer along with special guest Aran Madden of Furthermore Beer.

Post in the comments which events you went to and what you thought - I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Finally, this week could not have happened without our Sponsors - please thank them with your support:

Frank Beer
Specialty Beverage
General Beverage
River City Distributors
Wisconsin Distributors
The Malt House
New Glarus Brewing Company
The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
The Great Dane Pub

Brasserie V
The Old Fashioned
Dexter's Pub
Beer Connoisseur Magazine
The Isthmus
Sustainable Times

Monday, May 2, 2011

New Glarus IIPA and The Hesitation Blues

I've been thinking a lot lately about the link between music and beer. I've been thinking a lot about the Blues lately too. I have no idea if or why these things are related but the link has been my near obsession with this beer - the New Glarus IIPA - which I have been thinking about a lot lately as well.

For those keeping score at home that's a lot of thinking. Especially to be where I sit today with no clear idea of how or why, in my mind, New Glarus' IIPA is connected to the Blues. I just find myself wanting both. When I'm drinking an IIPA I find myself wanting, nay, needing to listen to the Blues; but not any blues. I don't need the honkin' barroom blues; I don't need wailing blues; I don't need steamrolling blues. I need old-school blues; Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, and Blind Lemon Jefferson's Blues. And when I'm listening to these Blues I find myself wanting this IIPA.

I think the key is in the thinking. In other words, both lend themselves to reflection. Indeed, the blues is all about reflection and retrospection and insight. The blues is about assessing ourselves through the prism of another's experience. We all have or can identify with many of the same experiences. Lead Belly and I have very little in common, we have led two very different lives, but we've both had the Hesitation Blues.

Indeed, a song like Blind Lemon Jefferson's "See That My Grave is Kept Clean" demands that we reflect on our end of days. That we ask ourselves how we see the end occurring. The reason for the end occurring. The realities of our end on others.

A beer like New Glarus' IIPA likewise demands introspection. Retrospection. Pondering. Deep thought.

You probably, at this point, think I am crazy. Fair enough. But this isn't a partying beer. Sure, you could crack one open in front of a Brewers game (The Beautiful Game, that plodding, playful, summer game meant for conversation and reflection seems like a rather fitting duo) but it doesn't really seem fit for, say, a Packers game or a Blackhawks game or NASCAR.

This beer demands thought, it will not be ignored, you cannot talk over it, you cannot mindlessly chug from the bottle, it is distracting at best when playing poker.

Its aroma is powerful; instantly transporting you to a lonesome, dewy, meadow with its bright grassiness and robust flowers. The bitterness is a smacking reminder of your godforsaken life and all of the pathways that have brought you to this glass in front of you. Its finish lingers, holding the thought; rotating it around in your brain, waiting for you to choose to let it go in search of solace in the hope that another sip will bring with it some other thought or some other memory. Drink it slowly, take the time for reflection; it gets better as it warms. The 9% ABV helps to cull the dead brain cells leaving the best ones to do your best thinking. But it doesn't stick around forever, overstaying its welcome, wearing you out.

I don't know. Maybe I am crazy. But I'm telling you that when I drink this beer it gives me the Blues. Some of the best Blues you can have in a glass.