By Ryan Urban
It’s rare that I remember the first time I had a specific beer. But I remember the first time I had Silurian Stout by Door County Brewing Company.
I was watching Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014 at a bar called the Court N’ House—it was near the court house—in Eau Claire.
As an avid Packer fan, I had no reason to root for either team, and just wanted to see a good game. But the bartender asked me to pick a side—there were orange or green Jell-O shots on the line, depending which team scored.
I bet on Denver, which proceeded to get blown out by the Seahawks 43-8. One shot. Thanks, Peyton. The game was… forgettable.
But one beer was not!
Dark, nice tan head served in a weizen glass. Vanilla is apparent on the nose, but subtle enough on the tongue. Sweet and creamy, almost a peanut butter quality, but dark chocalaty, toasty malts held their own—unlike the Broncos.
I began seeing Door County on the shelves shortly after that. With other great beers in the Door County lineup—Polka King Porter, Pastoral Saison, Le Printemps Saison, L’automne Biere De Garde, etc.—the Baileys Harbor brewery has since grown to the point that it is contracting much of its brewing to Octopi, down state in Waunakee, Wisconsin.
I’m not sure where Silurian—a reference to the Silurian Period when the Great Lakes were a much larger inland sea—is brewed currently, but it’s still as tasty as I remember back in 2014.
It would be a good choice once again alongside some bar peanuts and friends when New England and Atlanta play this Sunday. If I can’t pick a winner in the game, I can at least pick one on tap.
Rating: Glass – Growler – CASE – Keg
by Ryan Urban
The year 2016 won’t go down as a favorite in my book, but it did have some redeeming qualities—one being in beer.
Where to begin? I figure: Close to home.
In the craft beer desert of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, we finally have a place to get a decent beer. Opening in June was the White Stag, which also has awesome food and allows me to live my dream of playing trivia master once a month. In the vast world of beer, this is the biggest to me.
One needs a local watering hole, a place everybody knows your name–if you will. Every time I walk in, I see friends and also meet new people. After 6 years in a small city, this was well over due.
Soon, hopefully, local options will grow. Another taproom is nearing completion and, though setback-laden, there are plans to open a brewery in Rice Lake.
Elsewhere, the word uttered more and more is saturation. America now has more than 5,000 breweries, finally surpassing the number open prior to prohibition. But signs of an apex are showing.
A Wausau brewer noted it recently. The owners of Minneapolis brewery Harriet also used the term in explaining a decision to close. I just happened to stop at Harriet shortly before the announcement. Super chill atmosphere, live music and very good beer—I was surprised.
But in a market of many great breweries, some are bound to fall. I have an almost constant desire to make the 2-hour drive to the Twin Cities and hit a taproom or two. Many expansions in the metro give me hope that more may distribute here. Some that really caught my attention in 2016 were Urban Growler, Fair State, Sisyphus, Bauhaus… But there are so many I have yet to visit… sigh.
But I would be remise not to mention the great things happening in the Chippewa Valley. In Eau Claire, though Northwoods Brew Pub went south to Osseo, Lazy Monk opened a fantastic taproom and the Brewing Projekt finally appears to be on track to a major expansion. Brewster Brothers became neighbors with Leinie’s in Chippewa Falls. Even Cornell has brewery now. New distribution into northern Wisconsin from great brewers like Bent Paddle was also a big plus.
Looking at Wisconsin as a whole, the big action is taking place in Milwaukee. There’s a beer renaissance happening there big enough to attract the North American Guild of Beer Writers to hold its annual conference there in 2017, which I’m really looking forward to.
Mobcraft hopped ship from Madison, where the opening of Lone Girl and Rockhound brewpubs still produced a net increase in options in the Capital.
But back to Milwaukee—I enjoyed visits to Brenner, Urban Harvest and Good City in 2016. Good City appears to be well on its way, already distributing its Motto Mosaic-hopped pale ale. Breweries like 3rd Space, Westallion, City Lights, Broken Bat, Big Head, Like Minds and others give me much to look forward to in 2017.
All the same, it’s the veterans of the industry that I keep going back to. Lakefront’s My Turn series was a highlight at my local liquor store all year, with Evan Mexican Lager, Howard Helles and Latif double chocolate stout. Summit had a phenomenal 30th Anniversary lineup, including the Keller Pils, English Barleywine, Us & Them threads and Unchained Dark Infusion. The old standbys from Lakefront, Summit, Bell’s, New Glarus, Sierra Nevada and other craft beer pioneers are still among my favorites and constantly in my fridge.
Nationwide, big mergers caught headlines as InBev bought up SAB Miller, a couple craft brewers and homebrew mainstay Northern Brewer. Craft brewers Cigar City and Oskar Blues; and Victory and Southern Tier formed new ties.
Hop bombs, sours and barrel-aged beers—and combinations therein–remain ever popular, but more traditional styles like the Pilsner seem to be regaining respect as more new breweries release their own renditions. The year gave rise to the crowler as another awesome way to get beer from the brewery to the fridge.
I’m out of analysis and prognostications. Simply stated: What a great year for beer! The glass is full for 2017, and I’m just going to try and enjoy it. Cheers!
To listen now, click here. Or enjoy our blog recap first.
Beer Review: Ale Asylum Oktillion
Not to be confused with this Disney villain—though we didn’t get her name right.
We talked Oktoberfest variations.
In Brew News:
Interview: Isaac Showaki of Octopic/Third Sign.
We gave a shout out to our good friends at the Handy Homebrew Show!
Kick back, uncap and listen to our full episode below. Cheers!
We had such a great interview with Ryan Verdon of Real Deal Brewing that we couldn’t bear to cut the show down to a half hour. We talk about this Menomonie (WI) nanobrewery’s sessionable English-style beers, as opposed to “Barrel-aged barleywines of death.” Plus, Carl and I review a Porter all the way from Green Man Brewing in Asheville, North Carolina and look back at some classic beer commercials. “It works every time”
Stick a pitchfork in this one–Episode #4 is done! On this Beer Run, I drink my 1,000th unique brew and interview Mike Fredrickson, head brewer at Pitchfork Brewing Company.
Episode 3 is up! On this run: Drinking beers in the name of science, beers for Dooms Day bunkers and an interview with Leoš Frank of Lazy Monk Brewing. Listen at beerrunpodcast.com.