Union Corners Brewery: Madison’s Newest Brewery Opens with Emphasis on Community Involvement

DSC_0338.JPGMadison’s newest brewery will open its doors to the public for the first time at 5 p.m. today. Patrons will not only be welcome to enjoy the new brews at Union Corners Brewery but are encouraged to help create them as well.

“Anyone can come in with a beer idea can come in and fill out a submission,” said Owner Eric Peterson. “We go through and pick one we think has a lot of potential and create the recipe based on that concept.”

After a recipe has been formulated by the brewing team, Union Corners Brewery will schedule a day and time to brew the beer and allow community members to reserve a spot to observe that brewing. Participants can hang out in the classroom next to the brew space and watch the live feed via brewery camera, or they can watch from within the brewery. Head Brewer John Puchalski will explain the process step-by-step and also talk about the recipe and the history of the style.

Those who attend the brewing will have the exclusive ability to order growlers of that beer. The person who suggested the beer idea will have some say in the naming of the brew and will work with Puchalski and staff to find a name that works best.

Puchalski has been brewing for almost a decade. Before starting at Union Corners Brewery, he was the manager at the Brew and Grow hydroponic gardening and homebrew supply shop formerly located at 1525 Williamson St.

“Working at Brew and Grow was a great opportunity. I was working on a pilot system and my beer definitely improved over the time I was there,” said Puchalski. “I really enjoy brewing some of the lesser-known traditional styles. I really like shining light on styles you don’t see a whole lot of. I think if people give some of these beers a chance they might become one of their new favorite styles.”

Union Corners Brewery will open with a limited lineup of three beers brewed in collaboration with friends at Capital Brewery and Rockhound Brewing Co. Below are the initial offerings and how Puchalski describes them:

Kentucky Common: A dark cream ale brewed with corn. Expect a light-bodied, easy-drinking beer with a roasty finish.

Roasted English Porter: The name says it all. Puchalski loves a roasty Porter and brews this one with four kinds of roasted malts and two grades of crystal malt to give this brew a roasty, but not sweet, flavor. A total malt bomb.

Belgian Single: Essentially a sessionable Belgian Pale Ale. The base beer is similar to a Pilsner and is somewhat aggressively hopped. A floral cousin to a Hefeweizen with a Belgian twist but not so much of the banana esters one would expect to taste in a Hefeweizen.

The three initial brews were not yet named as of the writing of this article, but Peterson says they will all have names by opening on Friday. Union Corners Brewery will carry kombucha, ciders, nitro cold brew coffee on draught, and wine. Craft beers from other breweries will occupy some of the 24 available draught lines as the brewing team ramps up beer production in-house. The brewery will also have a full chef-crafted menu and table service available.

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From left to right: Head Chef Joe Tharp, Head Brewer John Puchalski, and Owner Eric Peterson

“Our food is outstanding,” said Peterson. “We really went all out and have good chefs. Not just traditional brew pub fare.”

The final menu will be released on Friday when Union Corners Brewery opens and will include Head Chef Joe Tharp and his team’s house-made ice cream. Once some heavy dark beers are brewed, the brewery plans to offer ice cream floats featuring the house-made ice cream to serve in the restaurant and the patio, once that opens up for the season.

The atmosphere in the taproom/restaurant has an industrial look and feel to it, which compliments the brewery’s brand and emphasizes the namesake of the Union Corners neighborhood and hard-working union people.

“We wanted a simple yet impactful logo that incorporates the fact that we are a brewery along with the theme of union corners,” said Peterson of the bold, gear-toothed, single hop cone that adorns the entrance to the building. “We have multiple versions incorporating our logo that pay homage to the different trade crafts. We decided to play on that along with a steampunk look and feel.”

ucbPeterson says that in addition to the cog logo currently used as the brewery’s Facebook profile, they will also be releasing more one-off designs that similarly feature other trades such as electrical and plumbing. Speaking of plumbing, Union Corners may very well have the coolest urinal in town.

For more information visit the Union Corners Brewery Facebook page or their website at unioncornersbrewery.com.

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Apologies for those who follow the blog. I haven’t written much as I have spent the last 6 months working with 5 breweries to create six unique beers for my restaurant. Please check out my other blog if you are interested in knowing more. We made the following beers.

Barrigon Barril Cafe:

We collaborated with our friends and neighbors at One Barrel Brewing Company to create this Imperial Brown Coffee ale made with Tex Tubb’s special blend of Just Coffee beans. After primary fermentation, we aged half of the batch in firkins on maple wood and Costa Rican cacao nibs from Tabal Chocolate in Milwaukee. One Barrel Brewing Co. will be aging the other half of the batch on oak and another cacao liqueur and then releasing it simultaneously at their brewery two doors down from Tubb’s.

Enrique Sucio:

At 5:30 we will tap the first custom beer in our House of Brews double feature: Enrique Sucio. Enrique Sucio is an Imperial IPA aged on lightly toasted/Scorpion Mezcal-soaked oak chips that boasts a strong yet subdued malt backbone, while featuring the citrusy aromatics and flavors of Amarillo hops. With notes of oak and smokiness, reminiscent of Clint Eastwood’s voice, this sweet-finishing brew begs the question: “Do you feel thirsty? Well, do ya, punk?”

Pancho:

Pancho is a bold yet refreshing Mexican IPA featuring cirtusy hops from New Zealand and zested lime peel. The brew is named after revolutionary general and Mexican hero Pancho Villa. While Pancho is the featured brew, Hydro Street might dazzle us with one or two of their other creations. Brewmaster Aaron will be on hand to chat beer with all of our beer-curious friends and patrons. The first 100 customers to order Pancho will receive a free commemorative pint glass. ¡Viva la revolucion, viva Mexico, y viva la cerveza!

Saison De Cilantroctus:

Saison De Cilantroctus is a traditional Franco-Belgian Farmhouse Ale featuring fruity/spicy esters in the forefront. Traditionally farmers brewed these beers in the winter with whatever ingredients were on hand. We took a similar approach using roasted cactus paddles and cilantro from our kitchen. The only difference between us and traditional farmhouse brewers is we won’t be waiting until summer to indulge in this brew.

Rey Rye:

Rey Rye is a malt-forward Imperial Rye Vienna beer with low hop bitterness and a spicy rye finish brewed for us by  Next Door Brewing Company. Rey Rye was brewed with German Pilsner, Vienna and Rye malts and features German hops from Gorst Valley in Wisconsin to give the brew a distinctive hop nose. Brewmaster Keith will be on hand to address the masses. The first 50 royal subjects to order Rey Rye will receive a commemorative pint glass.

Templo:

Templo. Templo is a Smoked Chocolate Chipotle Porter featuring roasty character and a complex layering of Bolivian cacao nibs and chipotle warmth that will set your heart on fire! Kali Ma… Kali Ma… Shakti de!

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MobCraft

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.

Who and What is Karben 4? An Interview With Brewmaster Ryan Koga

kogaMy family and I decided I finally knew enough to be dangerous, so we decided to be dangerous.” -Karben 4 Brewmaster Ryan Koga

Eight years ago Wisconsin native Ryan Koga moved to Montana to start college. The young man who knew nothing about beer or brewing before he left, has returned home as the face and brewmaster of Madison’s mysterious new brewery Karben 4.

“I started off on the bottling line just trying to make rent money,” said Koga. “I didn’t even know anything about beer at all, especially craft beer. I had my eyes opened to what was true around me. I fell in love with it.”

Eventually, Koga moved up the ladder at Yellowstone Valley Brewing Company in Billings, Montana to become the head brewer. He later helped the ownership open a second location and consulted on another small brewery before returning to Wisconsin to open Karben 4.

“My family and I decided I finally knew enough to be dangerous,” said Koga. “So we decided to be dangerous.”

Why Wisconsin?

“Wisconsin is undoubtedly one of the nation’s strongest beer cultures,” said Koga. “Historically, popularly…whatever else. I wanted to bring what I had become good at and bring it home and try it here.”

Koga says that he is excited to be here at this point in Wisconsin’s craft beer evolution and that Wisconsin’s beer day of taking craft beer to what it can be is just starting.

“That’s why I am pumped,” said Koga. “The enthusiasm is already here. There is already stellar beer being put out. But I think where it is going to end up is a lot further down the road than it is today, and that had a huge influence on me choosing Madison in my home state of Wisconsin. It is where I was raised, it is where my pride is and where my heart is and I wanted to be a part of what was about to happen.”

Koga and his business partners researched markets all over Wisconsin, but says Madison always came to the top of the list. While doing research, Koga called the president of Wisconsin brewers guild and asked if any other breweries were opening in Madison.

“She tipped me off that Ale Asylum was going to expand and this was right before they were going public saying that they were going to expand,” said Koga. “So I just cold-called Otto (Dilba) the next morning and just said hey, I heard you guys are doing your thing so I guess that probably means you are going to upgrade your equipment—so what if you just sold me your equipment?”

Koga worked out a deal for some of the equipment which the Ale Asylum folks left in place as Karben 4 moved into the 3698 Kinsman Blvd. location that housed Ale Asylum since their inception in 2005.

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Why Karben 4?

“With a lot of names and brands people want to be able to understand it right away—and Karben 4 is certainly not that,” said Koga. “It is not in an effort to be pretentious or anything else.”

Koga explained that he wanted to have a brand that would be able to stand by itself like Nike or Google. The ownership wanted something that didn’t mean anything before the company existed or are able to understand who they are.

“It was something that would speak to our personalities that would never paint us into a corner that our beer names or styles would have to follow some sort of theme that was put out there,” said Koga. “Karben 4 is a way of implicitly saying ‘geeks’ without having to outright say it…It is meant to make people uncomfortable, it is meant to make us uncomfortable at first, but it is something that allows us to define who we are as we grow and as we fill out. People will help us define Karben 4 and what it is.”

Business Plans

“The goal is to stay in the tap room as long as possible until we understand what our brand is, how people perceive us, and what beers they really want,” said Koga. “Until we understand all of the factors, I don’t think we are prepared for distribution in bars and restaurants in full force.”

Koga says staying in the taproom will allow Karben 4 to develop its brand and use feedback to understand what its niche in the market is.

“Internally we feel that one of the worst things we can do for strategy is to put a bunch of product into a bottle when nobody knows who we are and we haven’t tested our product,” said Koga. “We can’t just put it on a shelf and hope people find us.”

Koga also hopes tho add at least one more fermentation tank to the three 30-barrel fermentors they already have. He says that having to expand the brewery will be a sign that things are going well.

DSC_0036Flagship Beer

Koga said Karben 4 picked their flagship beers as their first five (NightCall Smoked Porter, SamuRyePA, Block Party Amber Ale, Lady Luck Irish Red, Undercover Session Ale) releases. While they may change a little bit, they will always be in Karben 4’s regular lineup. Koga has been surprised which brew is emerging as an early favorite amongst patrons.

“NightCall, the smoked porter has been talked about since we opened,” said Koga. “I’m flabbergasted…One of my specialties is to make a richer beer with a little bit more complex flavor that is smooth and works out together…So to have the Smoked Porter be the on in the spotlight, I’m pleased as I could be. That’s awesome!”

Favorite Wisconsin Beers

“Dan Carey makes some of the best traditional German beer you’ll find and I thoroughly enjoy his works,” said Koga. “I have been drinking them for years now. Every time I came on vacation I was often given special requests to bring back Spotted Cow for folks in Montana. The same thing goes for Capital. They are a Lager factory. They are awesome/stellar at making lagers.”

Koga says that Madison is such an eclectic population that one can find a niche and a following in the market if they are doing something consistent and cohesive. He is confident that Karben 4 can succeed with their “malt-forward beers”, though he says he loves hops and can’t keep is head out of the brewing kettle when he is brewing hoppy beers like the Silk Scorpion Black IPA. He also eludes to having a bit of a passion for Porters.

“I love Tommy’s Porter,” said Koga. I have been pawing on that a lot since I’ve been back…I got stuck in my booth at Beer and Cheese and I heard he Lake Louie Brewmaster Tom Porter) was there and he’s one of the people everyone says you’ve got to meet. I also really dig on Ale Asylum beers. My bachelor party was Sticky McDoogle and Hopalicious the whole time. I am not a huge fan of Belgian style beers…but I will willingly and lovingly order Belgian beers at their (Ale Asylum’s) place…I absolutely love Bedlam.”

What He Loves About Beer

Koga thinks making good beer is more than just producing a quaffable product, and thinks there is an emotional side to it as well.

“I love Bordeaux wine,” said Koga. “When I am having red wine…when there is Bordeaux around, that’s my style…I thought to myself, you’re a brewer, you know, can you create that certain emotional experience you have when you are having a Bordeaux? There is a certain way I always feel when I have it, it just connects with me. If that were a beer, what would it be? What would the experience be?”

Koga says that is his statement with the Lady Luck Irish Red which he hopes people will connect with emotionally.