Beer of the Week: Brewing Projekt WISCoast

WISCoast.JPG

Brewing Projekt WISCoast.

I am proud of the brewing scene in Northwest Wisconsin. Breweries are relatively sparse over a large area spanning from the Chippewa River to Lake Superior, but most of the dozen or so make great beer. Some are among the oldest microbreweries in the Midwest—South Shore in Ashland and the one and only brewery in my county, Valkyrie. More recently, Hudson, Hayward, Superior, Menomonie, Somerset and other towns have become home to some skilled brewers serving beer in distinct spaces with great character. Oh, and there’s good old Leinenkugels.

Soon, the region may have its first mid-size craft brewer. After months of negotiating terms with the City of Eau Claire—without little evidence of progress—The Brewing Projekt reached an agreement to move into a larger, vacant space across the street from its current site in the heart of Eau Claire. The news came after a rally attended by more than 500 people, including myself. What a fun affair, with music, great weather and a dozen style-shifting, flavor-packed beers on tap.

It had been an extra-long time coming for these brewers, who had to cut through a considerable amount of red tape just to be licensed to brew, in large part because owner William Glass also owned Fire House bar in Eau Claire.

But where there’s a will there’s a way. Now, the Brewing Projekt envisions its new space as a destination brewery. It is my hope that the “Projekt” will be a stepping stone to making Eau Claire a destination city for beer lovers. Though much different than The Projekt, a block down Oxford Avenue, Lazy Monk Brewing makes superb representations of classic Central European styles—more about that here. Further, K Point Brewing is growing on the south side, Brewster Bros. and, of course, good old Leinenkugels up the road in Chippewa Falls. There are many more within 30 miles of Eau Claire, all serving beer on par in quality as that of most breweries in Madison, Milwaukee or the Twin Cities.

Eau Claire also offers other amenities prized by many beer lovers—an extensive system of paved trails and singletrack for bikers, good paddling waters, Ice Age hiking trail, challenging disc golf courses and a fantastic music scene highlighted by the Blue Ox and Eaux Claires festivals.

But let’s get back to the beer. My first from The Projekt, and a delight during the dog days of summer, WISCoast Pale Ale is a good introduction to the brewery’s distinct lineup.

First of all, having grown up on a Wisconsin dairy farm, I’ll drink anything with a cow on it. Citrusy hops and wheat make this an incredibly fruity, refreshing beer. The Brewing Projekt states, “Crafted to be wickedly crisp and totally refreshing.” Agreed.

Don’t wait for the expansion to visit The Brewing Projekt. Make a day or weekend of it. Eau Claire is very cool.

Rating: Glass – GROWLER – Case – Keg

 

 

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Beer of the Week: Leinie’s Red

 

Lienie RedLeinenkugel’s Red Lager

I’m starting the Beer of the Week feature primarily to give some props to some old favorites that always have a special place in my heart… and fridge. I’m going to start with one that, sadly, won’t remain an option much longer.

Leinie’s Red has been a 23-year standard in the brewery’s lineup of easy-drinking lagers, wheat beers and, of course, shandy. Leinenkugels, a subsidiary of Miller since 1988, held out longer than just about anyone in getting swept up in the wave of hoppy beers that dominate shelves and tap lines today.

But the 149-year-old brewery has slowly produced some more hop-forward beers in the last few years, a helles lager, an India pale lager and finally the Wisconsin Red Pale Ale in February 2016. The Red Pale Ale is replacing the Red Lager, which had its last run on Feb. 29, according to the Chippewa Herald newspaper. Interestingly, Leinie’s is taking a page out of the New Glarus playbook and offering the Wisconsin Red Pale Ale only in Wisconsin.

The new red is, in fact, a pretty good beer, but I’m sad to see the Red Lager go. Part of it is certainly for nostalgic reasons. It was a beer my dad would order if he wanted to class it up when eating out—or if the place didn’t have Labatt’s. He has since discovered Fat Tire.

I also appreciate the style of this beer—Vienna style lager. For my money, Vienna lager is the most balanced style in the book. Leinie’s version isn’t really top of its class—though it did win a gold medal in the World Beer Cup in 2002—but where I live in rural Wisconsin it’s a welcome option in small-town taverns with little more than macros on tap.

Specs on it are 4.95% ABV, 20 IBU, pale and caramel malts, and Cluster and Mt. Hood hops, according to Leinie.com. The result is a clean, bready malt balanced with tingle of spicy hops.

I’d pair it with a bowling alley pizza or have it with cheddar and pretzels from the comfort of a recliner during the Packer game—if I can find any left this fall.

Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg