Racking Our Wine

wine1Today we racked our wine that we picked grapes for on September 27th. We got what was left at the vineyard which turned out to be a mix of Prairie Star and Delaware grapes.

The specific gravity has dropped to a .996 but the wine still has a bit of tartness. We added 2.5 campden tablets and 4 ounces of lightly toasted oak chips. In a month we will have to see how it tastes and then decide if it needs any sweetening. wine2

More Accolades for MobCraft

MobCraft-beerCongratulations to our friends at MobCraft for being named Wisconsin’s Best New Brewer and getting this great write-up in Madison Magazine! Exciting announcement as we work with them to create Saison De Cilantroctus for release at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace during Madison Craft Beer Week 2014.

Esquire Beer Geek Article Didn’t Butthurt My Feelings

By: Will Mueller @brewsconsin.wordpress.com

There has been a bit of a buzz on the Facebooks as of late regarding a certain Esquire article titled “The Most Mockable Things That Beer Snobs Do” that has geeks all over the world calling for the “imbecile” author’s head. After laughing my way through the “douche’s” article and realizing that in some way I exhibit every one of the behaviors listed, I think Aaron Goldfarb (terrible pseudonym) hit his target gravity exactly.

There is no denying that beer events, as Goldfarb says, are “predominantly male gatherings of dorks squeezed into obscure brewery T-shirts,” and crowds are “scruffy, pale, and a few pounds overweight but mostly in the belly.” During Madison Craft Beer Week this year my restaurant released a Sci-Fi-themed ale and had about half a dozen “Comic Book Guys” waddle in two hours before the tapping asking if they could just get a taste. Two hours later the entire bar area was packed with a similar ilk and a mad dash for the beer was on. We sold the beer for $4/10oz but could have charged $8 or $10 just none would bat an eye. In the articles I have read of Goldfarb’s, a whopping two in all, he comes across as Beerstradamus. But I’ll stop tugging the guy off since I didn’t even know what the hell Esquire was until I read all the beer geeks ironically complaining about its pretentiousness. I’ll just go ahead and explain why I embody all of the of the annoying things that beer geeks do, even though I claim to live in the low range of the geekiness spectrum. For every “annoying” action of my own, I have seen ten-fold how geeky geeky can get.


Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.34.35 PM

I don’t take notes per say, but I do check every unique beer I have into Untappd and have been doing so since December 20th 2012. And, whether it is a testament more to alcoholism or geekiness, I am currently at (checking smartphone) 462 unique beers and plan to hit 500 before my first year of Untappd is up. Pretty sure I get a badge for that. How many badges do you have? While I don’t put much stock in taking notes or rating the beers, I do walk into a bar and intentionally order something I haven’t checked into and usually check in after my first sip. If you want to know what beer I drank last for whatever reason, friend me on Untappd @bigbeardbrewsconsin or @brewsconsin on Twitter, because for some reason I feel the need to put all of that information out there.


My brother's birthday cake from last year.

My brother’s birthday cake from last year.

When people ask me for a light beer I generally point them to the shelf that has Miller Lite, PBR, and 12 Mexican beers that all taste the same (like butts) and if they are unsure I try to get them into a gateway beer like New Glarus Spotted Cow or Capital Supper Club. My favorite beer order is when someone asks for a Miller 64. I tell them, “I don’t have it, but I do have Miller Lite and water. Do you want me to make you one?” Sometimes I think I am the only person who gets that joke. The customer will usually order a Corona Light or something and we will both walk away from the experience wondering how we failed to connect. I just want people’s mouths to be happy. Is it wrong for me to think they can do better? Why can’t I just be happy for them for liking what they like? I’ve never classified myself as a beer geek, but somewhere along the line I became the self-righteous snob with annoying behaviors that Esquire is accusing me of being.


Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 3.07.37 PM

While not active on any of the forums, I probably have signed up for and have an account for all of them. And, when I am not busy getting drunk (the last few months apparently), I do have my own beer blog and have done more beer writing with my $50,000 in journalism degrees than I have using those skills trying to get a grown-up job. I might be more inclined to get involved, but in reality, I just don’t care that much what strangers think about beers. I usually only care what I think about beers (because I am a self-righteous snob…and lazy). But, when the beer community got all in an uproar about being judged for acting exactly like they act I decided to chime in. Perhaps my blog will become a forum and I can quit my night job?


Dia De Los Muertas. Drinking a beer finally resurrected from the dead.

Dia De Los Muertas. Drinking a beer finally resurrected from the dead.

I pretty much drink everything at home out of a pint glass or a tulip and am pretty anal about glassware in my house. I like to have even numbers of glasses and matching sets. Pint glasses are the only exception. I don’t want to have more than one of the same pint glass, but I want them each to tell a story of where I have been and how I came upon that particular pint glass. I do, however, get off on bars like the Malt House here in Madison where every beer comes in the glass the brewery wants the beer served in. I don’t get there much though, since it is usually jammed packed with beer geeks from the local club. If you want some good geek talk that is the bar to be a fly on the wall of for sure. They’ll astound you with stories of brewing rituals and dazzle you with official-sounding terms like cold break. They might even try to cut into a few local favorites for you. They’ll make no real points, mind you…but it is going to be a lot of fun.


My favorite annual collaborative release.

My favorite annual collaborative release.

There is something special about getting the beer before everyone else. When the Wisconsin Brewing Company beers came out this week I was quick to point out that I tried most of them when they were test batches at the Great Dane and tried the others at the pre-opening friends and supporters party. I tend to get invited to these things because I occasionally write about beer and free press is usually looked upon as a good thing. In fact, WBC just unintentionally got a shout out here, so  I guess their evil plan to wine and dine me worked. And all it cost them is two free beers and one handful of chocolate candy corn I regret taking on my way out the door. Why do they even make that stuff? I have run a few beer release parties in the last few years and intend on doing several more collaboration releases for 2014 with a few of my favorite local breweries. Beer releases are great because the geeks always come. Even if your beer is just okay, it will be talked about it like it was something great. Why? Because at the end of the day the beer will be gone and the few who tried it will be so grateful that they will sing its praises to all those less fortunate than themselves.


We found these warm fellers in a cabin during a long backpacking trip. What would ordinarily be drain pour was like gold to thirsty hikers.

We found these warm fellers in a cabin during a long backpacking trip. What would ordinarily be drain pour was like gold to thirsty hikers.

Admittedly, this is one of the downfalls of snobbery. But to be honest, there are certain flaws that beer can have that are just not enjoyable to drink. As a BJCP Certified Judge (official after next weekend’s point is tallied), we judges dump a lot of beer. Everyone has to learn to brew somewhere, and a lot of homebrew batches just don’t turn out that well. Some taste like poison; Though nothing one can do in the normal brewing process can cause actual poison, the bottles and glasses don’t get finished. Often times we save really bad ones for the classes to help others learn what beer shouldn’t taste like. Sometimes in the commercial brewing world bad batches exist. Sometimes beer gets too old, intentionally or unintentionally, and doesn’t stand the test of time. I usually finish beers, even questionable ones, but everyone should have their limits of what they are willing to finish. If it tastes like cardboard, band-aids, or butter…by all means, DON’T finish it. Something went wrong. It is okay to let that beer go, it wasn’t meant to be. Just accept that you are a fat, bearded, pale, middle-aged snob and be happy because your mouth is happy.



Henry Schwartz realized when he was 19 years old that it was legal for him to buy brewing ingredients, but not legal to buy beer. A few years later he and two friends (Giotto Troia and Andrew Gierczak) started MobCraft and recently released its first commercially available beer: Participation Pale Ale. The malt-forward heavily-hopped pale ale was the result of crowd-sourcing which differentiates MobCraft from the rest of the pack.

Each beer brewed by MobCraft is the result of an online vote where fans can submit votes and even recipes for which beer they would like to see brewed next. But, the video can probably explain it better than I can.

Currently, MobCraft is brewing at the House of Brews off of Stoughton Road in Madison, Wisconsin where they lease space for the tanks they bought from brewmaster Page Buchannan. MobCraft hopes to be able to build their own brewhouse in the near future when they plan to add a subscription option tho their beer distribution.

MobCraft-beerThe subscription would involve a three, six, or 12 month commitment where subscribers would get a four-pack of 22oz bottles of each brew delivered either to a local pick-up location or to their home. The home delivery option would be a bit more expensive as it would involve the beer being (for legal reasons) back to their homes. The beer will cost an estimated $25 per four-pack before shipping charges, but Schwartz says the crowd-sourced beer will be worth it.

“The focus of the company will be to make really cool beers,” said Schwartz. “Not just Ambers and Pale Ales, but indigenous beers with non-traditional brewing ingredients.”

Currently MobCraft’s Participation Pale Ale is Available at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, the Majestic, 8 Seasons Grille and the Lakefront Pub in Whitewater. MobCraft only made seven barrels, so I recommend trying this beer while you can, because before long the beer will be replaced by the highest vote getter. The Most Mobbed Double IPA is next on their brewing schedule.

In Our Opinion: Capital’s Mutiny IPA Will Be Huge In 2013

In Spring of 2010, when Capital Brewery released the brilliantly-marketed “Supper Club”, then Brewmaster Kirby Nelson told Milwaukee-based Suds, Wine and Spirits:

Supper Club is rolling along and doing very well. It is a great addition to our lineup. Wisconsin Amber is still the flagship beer, but Supper Club is catching up.”

While we don’t believe Capital’s new Mutiny IPA will be as big for the brewery as Supper Club was/is, we think Capital’s step away from their malt-forward German-style brews will diversify their fan base and increase their standing in the marketplace.

mutinyThe Beer

Mutiny pours amber in color and has a beautifully-retained off-white head. With a bit of caramel sweetness, the malt provides a good backbone to balance the 70 IBU’s derived from American varietals of hops. Mutiny weighs in at 6.2% ABV, and while it has a little bit of a hoppy bite to it, it goes down smooth and doesn’t fill you up like some of its higher gravity counterparts.

Why Will Mutiny Be Big?

It is our belief that price, drinkability, distribution, marketing and packaging will all play roles in Mutiny’s success.

For starters: How many really good IPA’s can you get in cans? A lot of venues don’t allow glass bottles limiting the beverage options one can fill their cooler with. Sure, Dale’s Pale Ale is good, and Sierra Nevada’s Torpedo really hits the spot sometimes, but those brands are far from local and a tad on the pricey side (in our opinion).

Say you are a homer like us, and you like to drink local whenever possible. In our opinion, Mutiny is by far the best canned IPA in the state, and at a low cost of $10.79 for 12 cans, a thrifty craft drinker would be nuts not to have this beer in their everyday lineup.

Capital brewery also has a well-known brand and has established tap lines and shelf space all over the state. They have a track record of making consistent products that do well in the market; they will have no problems flooding the market with their newest beer. Mutiny is marketed as their “coming out of our shell” beer after parting ways with long-time traditional German-style brewmaster Kirby Nelson.

Mutiny is Capital’s statement to craft drinkers in Wisconsin saying that they too can brew an American IPA. They did a pretty good job of it to boot.

While the hop craze seems to be dying down a bit over the last few years with Belgian and farmhouse ales taking some of the spotlight, there is still a loyal army of hop-heads out there waiting to pounce on anything with dank citrusy bitterness they can get their hands on.

Capital understood that this hop-loving sect of the craft-drinking population generally steers clear of their malty brands. With that knowledge they created Mutiny, giving hop-heads a reason to drink Capital at an affordable price and in a can that they can take anywhere. We’ve got a twelver in the office fridge and think you probably should too. Mutiny will have a great year and a great future in Wisconsin.

Next Door Brewing Company: An Inside Look At What Will Be Madison’s Newest Nano-Brewery

nextdoorIn the last few years Madison has seen it’s number of breweries rise substantially. Karben 4, One Barrel Brewing Company, and House of Brews are the new kids on the block and Ale Asylum moved to it’s new facility. By the end of 2013, the building that housed the Appliance Service Center on Atwood Avenue will be transformed into the Next Door Brewing Company.

While BJCP Master Judge, experienced professional brewer, and Beerpocalypse Now co-host Keith Symonds is a traditionalist when it comes to judging beer, his brewing philosophy might surprise people.

“I am such a stickler for brewing to style as as judge,” said Symonds, “But as a brewer I am interested in making interesting beers.”

Symonds will have plenty of opportunity to experiment in his new three-barrel brewery which will allow for quick beer turnover and provide a lot of leeway for experimentation. While experimentation and creative brewing may fill a few of Next Door Brewing Company’s tap lines, Symonds plans on having three consistent brands available every day. He says one will be a lighter beer, one will be some form of an American Pale Ale, and one will be something a little higher in alcohol, perhaps around the seven percent range. Symonds didn’t give away too many secrets about his brewing plans, but talked more about the atmosphere he is hoping to create.

“We really want it to be a place where the community can come and talk to one another,” said Symonds. “We wanted it to be in a neighborhood where people could walk in…A place for political discourse.”


Symonds floor plan for Next Door Brewing Company

While 2439 Atwood Avenue is currently an empty building, Symonds hopes to remodel the space and install the brewery to begin brewing and serving to the public by the end of the year.

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


“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.

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”


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%


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


Brewsconsin Beer Review #8 – Lakefront Brewery Chad

Whose Turn?


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?


“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


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