Former Brewmaster Returns to Capital for Brewing of Second Annual Wisconsin Common Thread Collaboration Brew

DSC_0010Former Capital Brewery Brewmaster Kirby Nelson returned to the Capital brewhouse on Saturday representing Wisconsin Brewing Company for the brewing of the second annual Common Thread beer, which this year is a collaboration between ten Wisconsin breweries.

 

Nelson didn’t miss a beat as he casually got behind the controls at the brewery, where he was brewmaster for 25 years. His return to Capital for the collaboration efforts shows the immense sense of community and brotherhood craft brewers have with one another and exemplifies what Common Thread is all about.

 

“It is meant to be a big rally for Madison and Wisconsin brewers,” said Vintage Brewmaster Scott Manning. “We got a crazy notion last year, that a group of ‘competing’ craft brewers could get together, invent a tasty new beer, have a blast brewing it, and release it in celebration of both Madison Craft Beer Week & American Craft Beer Week. The idea was to toast our town and it’s beer culture, to support local agriculture and industry, and to brew as a tribute to our common bond as scientists and artists in the cause of Great Beer.”

 

While Common Thread’s 2012 inaugural brew was California Common (steam-beer) beer was a collaboration between six local breweries, 2013’s will be a Biere De Garde and feature ten breweries including:

  • Capital Brewery
  • Vintage Brewing Company
  • Great Dane Brewing
  • The Grumpy Troll Brewery
  • Lake Louie Brewing Company
  • House of Brews
  • Karben4 Brewing Company
  • One Barrel Brewing Company
  • Potosi Brewing Company
  • Wisconsin Brewing Company

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“We’ve bolstered our ranks and we’re aiming even higher this year- more local pro brewers, bigger batch size, bigger soapbox…same feel-good, local, crafty mission,” said Manning. “Let’s work together to make a beer to make Madison (and Wisconsin) proud. And let’s lead the charge for Wisconsin’s craft brewers to work together, buy and support local, and to elevate our state’s brewing culture beyond its gilded history, into a future of relevance leadership, and prestige.”

 

While the logistics of the brew are being handled by Capital Brewery, all money made above and beyond the costs of producing the beer will be donated to the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild. 2012’s Common Thread raised more than $4,000 for the organization, which benefits small brewers across the state.

 

Each brewery has allocated a certain number of barrels to be sold on their premises, and the rest of the brew will be available through General Beverage for restaurants and bars during Madison Craft Beer Week which takes place May 3rd through May 12th.

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The Farmhouse Ale Style: Fad or Fashion

A couple years ago an emerging Black IPA beer style peaked the interest of craft brewers/drinkers and soon swept over the marketplace like a tasty plague. Pretty soon Black IPA wasn’t just a specialty beer, but a regular brand from breweries like Stone and New Glarus. While the rage of Black IPA’s seems to have slowed as of late, it seems “Farmhouse Ale” has taken its place. But what is a Farmhouse Ale?

farmhouseDefining a Farmhouse Ale

While Farmhouse Ale is not listed in the Beer Judge Certification Program style guidelines, a quick internet search (and a slightly lengthier read of Phil Markowski’s book “Farmhouse Ales”) tells us that Farmhouse Ales are usually categorized as the Biere De Garde’s that originated in northern France or the Saison’s that originated in southern Belgium.

Both beer styles were traditionally brewed in the winter time in farmhouses for distribution amongst field workers during the growing season. Because these beers were brewed by hundreds of different brewers, each with their own strain of yeast and limits on available ingredients, the beers likely varied widely in flavor profiles.

What Markowski Says About Biere De Garde

  • Golden to deep amber with a high amount of clarity
  • Faint hop aroma masked by a toasty malt character
  • 6-8% ABV
  • “Favors and displays upfront malt character and sweetness, generally balanced with a paradoxal dryness”

BJCP STYLE FOR BIERE DE GARDE

Brewsconsin Reviews New Belgium Lips of Faith Biere De Garde Collaboration with Brewery Vivant

What Markowski Says About Saison

  • Deep golden to light orange with higher than average carbonation levels
  • Fruity and sometimes spicy Belgian aromatics
  • Flavors can contain spiciness attributed to yeast and often have a detectable level of hop bitterness
  • “Flavor is typically dry and refreshing with fruit and spice flavors dominant”
  • 6-9% ABV

* Traditionally were 3-5% but modern versions tend to be 6-9%

BJCP STYLE FOR SAISON

Brewsconsin’s Review of Goose Island’s Saison’s; Pepe Nero and Sophie

Fad or Fashion?

Markowski’s  defines and classifies two fairly loose styles, Saison and Biere De Garde, as Farmhouse Ales. While Farmhouse might be all the rage right now on the market, it is fair to say that for the most part brewers are being fairly true to style…at least the modern version of it. Even beers like Spotted Cow from New Glarus which would usually be classified as a Cream Ale sort of works as a Farmhouse Ale. The addition of corn likely could have been used by farmhouses looking to get a little extra sugar into their beers so the alcohol would help them keep from winter when they were traditionally brewed until the growing season.

While I originally thought that the Farmhouse Ale was just a marketing tool, I realize now that the style does have a deep-rooted history and that modern brewers’ takes on the styles are usually quite enjoyable and fitting based on all definitions I have researched.

What Next?

If Black IPA was the last craft brewing marketing fad and Farmhouse Ales are just coming into their own (Belgian IPA’s had a quick run in there somewhere, even a few Belgian Black IPA’s reared their heads), what will be the next fad beer style? Also, does that style exist yet? While Farmhouse Ales are modern interpretations of classic styles, Black IPA kind of invented its own style. In fact it is still a specialty category in the BJCP style guidelines. Either way, it is exciting to be here still in the early stages of this craft brewing revolution.

*This blog was powered by Ommegang Hennepin and Goose Island Pepe Nero

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Rumorville – New Belgium Discontinuing Brands Including Belgo and Seasonals

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 This Just In:

Rumor is that New Belgium will be discontinuing most of their seasonal brands including Snow Day Winter Ale, Somersault Ale and Red Hoptober, and sadly will also also discontinue their tasty Belgian IPA Belgo. While Belgo apparently isn’t producing high enough numbers (we tried our best), it sounds like the the regular seasonal beers will continue, but be different recipies and brands every year.

What Does This Mean?

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While Belgo was a great beer and will be truly missed, we understand how seasonal beer brands can become stale and lost in the mix amongst today’s craft beer adventurers who seem to need to try every beer available just once and then move on. Cheers to New Belgium for keeping their seasonals fun new and fresh, but jeers for letting Belgo go. Obviously, if the numbers aren’t there businesses need to move on…but damn.

Our Advice

Buy Belgo while you can and hide it for a while. At 7% ABV and properly stored one should be able to get a few years out of it and it might be worth the novelty of having a sixer to bust out in 2016 after New Belgium buys out AB/InBev and continues its dominance of the market share with its carbon-neutral-wind-powered-Lips of Wha? super-beer that captivates audiences of all genders, races and intergalactic space wanderers while the dregs of the beechwood tanks are fed to futuristic super-cows that provide meat through genetic synthesis without losing their lives and all but crumbling vegetarian reasoning and returning harmony to the Earth.

Drink on that son.

Cheers from Rumorville

-Out

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Brewsconsin Beer Review #8 – Lakefront Brewery Chad

Whose Turn?

chad

Over the next seven years or so Lakefront Brewery’s “My Turn” series will release about three beers a year allowing employees to design their own beer for limited release featuring their name. Beer four in the series is an American-Style Barleywine known as Chad named after its creator Lead Cellerman Chad Sheridan.

Who is Chad?

Chad started at Lakefront Brewery in June of 2005 after his “beer guru” and and Beer Barons of Milwaukee Homebrew Club member Johnny O’Brien dropped his name to Brewery Owner Jim Klisch at the Chilton Beer Fest. Chad has worked there ever since and recently completed a short stint at the Siebel Institute of Brewing Science and Technology.

Where did the recipe come from?

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“I drank up all the Beerline Barleywine that was in stock at the brewery the first year I was employed,” said Chad. “I took from the Beerline recipe 1/3 Organic Munich Malt, 2/3 Organic 2 row Pale Malt, 10% of bill split between Organic Red Wheat flakes, and I added Organic Dark Rye to the grain bill to add something spicy without changing the overall profile of the original base beer. The hops we had in stock were Organic Bravo, and so we used a bit more for additions in this beer than the Beerline had. So this beer has double the IBU’s than the previous version.”

Chad went on to say that one of the first beers he remembers seeking out to consume and one of the first all-grain beers he made with guru Johnny O in his early brewing career was a Barleywine.

“These beers were made for every ale-ment and for every person,” said Chad. “Barleywines get better with age, so being able to have beer that is ever changing and can stand the test of time. That is another reason for picking this style.”

Chad in the words of Chad

“The final product is rich, malty, multi-layered, and amber colored with off white head. It has rich strawberry rhubarb pie flavors and aromas with grapefruit, papaya, and other citrus notes in the nose. complex dried fruit and malt forward flavors dominate, undertones of toffee an peppercorn caramel, Chad finishes slightly malt syrup sweet with spicy pleasurable alcohol warmth. I really think this is a dessert kind of beer. This is a Barley Wine for a Brownie. That’s how I recommend enjoying this beer!”

Brewsconsin’s Opinion

Chad pours deep copper with an off-white/tannish head. The initial aroma is that of an Old Ale’s sweetness without the cardboardiness that often comes with it. The beer is very malt-forward and slightly biscuity with a nice balance of hop bitterness. Chad is full-bodied, has medium carbonation and just a bit of comforting alcohol warmth. Chad finishes bittersweet with a lingering something that makes us want to eat chocolate…or as Chad himself suggests, brownies. Damn son!

At $5.69 a bomber we would call this a steal!

Rate Beer: 4.2

Beer Advocate: 4.2

How does Chad like having a beer with his namesake?

“It’s nice to have a few brief moments in the craft beer spotlight,” said Chad. “Even if it is on the coattails of the Klisch brothers. There is a warm and pleasant feeling in my belly as of the moment. Whether from the glass of Chad in my hand at 11am, or the joy of my beer getting people a little less sober. It’s all Great! Maybe I’ll be around long enough to get another ‘Turn’!”

Big Beard Brewsconsin Beer Review # 7 – New Belgium Rampant Imperial IPA

rampantnb

New Belgium’s Rampant is a medium-bodied beer comes across as a little thin for the style and has a bit of hot alcohol warmth coupled with a very biting hop bitterness that is accentuated by high carbonation. Hop flavor comes across as a bit soapy but the head retention is great and the lace in my glass in beautiful. This beer will get you drunk and is a good deal financially for an Imperial IPA. It doesn’t touch Hopslam, but really, what beer can?
I feel like this beer has been produced for the masses as opposed to the Lips of Faith series that won me over after thinking of New Belgium for so long first as proprietors of Fat Tire instead of the innovative craft brewers and energy conservation gurus that they are. While I don’t think this beer will be one of he brands they are known for, I think it will be interesting as New Belgium tries to build a brand somewhere above your standard craft six-pack but beneath the four-packs and bombers. Central Waters’ Satin Solstice comes to mind as a beer that has nestled its way into this category…though Central Waters doesn’t up their price for their Imperial.

Price is fair @ $10.99/6

My Beer Advocate Rating 3.38

My Rate Beer Rating 3.3

Review: Comeback, The Wisconsin Beer Movie

Before I start, I just want to say that I respect that Caitlin Iverson and Tim Tynand put their time and efforts into producing “Comeback, The Wisconsin Beer Movie”, a movie that focuses on the craft brewing industry in Wisconsin. It was great to hear Wisconsin beer people talk about Wisconsin beer and learn a little history along the way. Obviously a lot of time and effort went into producing this film, but honestly I didn’t enjoy it all that much. Here’s why:

The film which was shot as a documentary had no real story line. We occasionally hear from Tanner at Port Huron, but never really learn much about his brewery or at what stage they were at when the movie concluded. I am not really sure what the argument of the movie was other than that a long time ago big breweries automated and made more beer than the little guys and tried to buy them out. I don’t think enough emphasis (if any at all) was put on the fact that prohibition was really the hurdle small brewers couldn’t overcome and what led to their extinction.

The video editing and production in this film left a lot to be desired as well. There were a lot of jump-cuts or strange cross-fades that leave the viewer confused as to what they just saw or if they saw things in the right order. Additionally, Robin Shepard’s interview which was the most used throughout the film was marred by by wind that could have been avoided by interviewing in a better location, with appropriate equipment, or possibly could have been removed during post-production.

The overall point of the movie (as I understood it) was that Wisconsin people like Wisconsin beer. I would have liked to hear from a lot more people on the street or in the bar as to why they might be loyal to Wisconsin breweries. Clearly it is the masses that are shaping the revolution, but their voices seem to be absent from this film which is less than an hour long.

At the $5 I paid to download the film (now $9.99 the next day) I would say it was worth the watch just to see what it was all about, but I don’t think I will watch it again. If you are interested in checking it out you can download it here, but be wary, it comes as a .mov file and might not open on your Mac.

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Single Hop Beers – Ale Asylum’s Approach to American-Style Beers

Isthmus beer writer Robin Shepard recently wrote an article about the Ale Asylum‘s new Blood Red Ale which is a hoppy red ale served exclusively at the Ale Asylum. While I haven’t been in to the brewery to try it as of yet, I think the fact that the brewery uses Citra hops exclusively is an interesting example of how the Ale Asylum is doing something really unique with their American-style brews.

To sum it up: Remember the triple-hops brewed Miller Lite commercials? Yeah, it is kind of like that (because that is how most styles of beer are brewed) except the Ale Asylum likes to use one hop varietal exclusively for each beer giving beer drinkers an opportunity to understand how that particular hops bitters, flavors and aromatizes beer.

asylumAle Asylum brews exclusively use the following:

Hopalicious – Cascade

Ballistic – Amarillo

Satisfaction Jacksin – Centennial

Blood Red – Citra

Below is Shepard’s article and following that is the response I posted on the Isthmus web page.

http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=39027#articleComments

Citra might be the most grapefruity of all hops surpassing the Amarillo Ale Asylum uses in the Ballistic IPA. One of my favorite things about Ale Asylum’s hoppy brews is their use of a single hops in each beer to help distinguish that flavor exclusively. A great way to learn about American hops is to sit down with a Hopalicious, a Satisfaction, a Ballistic and put them next to the Blood Red. Four American style hops featured exclusivel in four beers is pretty awesome.

The Americanization of Beer Styles

Below is a link to an interesting article by Charlie Papazian explaining how homebrewers and craft brewers in America have altered classic beer styles, and in many cases, invented their own. I would agree with most of the article except I think Papazian fails to mention that most of the Americanization involves making beers with higher original gravities leading to higher alcohol content than the beers Americans were originally trying to mimic.

http://www.examiner.com/article/the-americanization-of-beer-styles

Big Beard Brewsconsin Beer Review # 6 – Zywiec, Poland’s Number 1 Beer

zywiecZywiec (Gee-vee-ettes) pours a crisp golden color and omits a citrusy lemon zest aroma. The beer itself has a cereal grain taste with a medium to thin body and has a medium bitterness as well. Moderate amounts of noble hops in the flavor profile give this beer a little bit of a spiciness. The beer finishes dry and moderately bitter.

Got the beer as a gift from good friends, one of whom is from Poland, thus I do not know how to rate this beer by price. For what it is, it is good, but not normally my style.

My Beer Advocate Rating 3.4

My Rate Beer Rating 3.3