Madison's smallest brewery opened to a big crowd back on Friday, July 6. One Barrel Brewing Company, at the intersection of Atwood and Winnebago streets, a.k.a. Schenk's Corners, is located in a neighborhood known for good tap houses. The area was once home to the Hess Cooperage, the largest barrel maker in Wisconsin, which turned out wooden barrels by hand for many of the city's pre-Prohibition breweries, like Fauerbach and Hausmann.
Today, One Barrel Brewing owner Peter Gentry's homebrew dream of making it big is coming true. After being open less than two weeks, his nanobrewery is creating a macro-buzz on the east side. So much so, in fact, that Gentry ran out of his own beers after just nine days.
Business has been so good that repeat visitors are beginning to wonder if the name "One Barrel" was such a good idea, as demand seems to have overwhelmed Gentry. "I've been selling more beer in a day than I thought I'd sell in a week," he says. On opening night, Gentry filled over 1,000 pints of beer.
His initial lineup included: a crisp Kölsch-style session ale called The Commuter; #2, a Strong Ale based on Gentry's winning homebrewing recipe in the 2009 Grumpy Troll Challenge; and, Summer Ale, a light-bodied pale ale that proved so popular it didn't make it past the first weekend.
To help meet demand, Gentry has turned to Mark Duchow, owner and brewmaster at Sweet Mullets brew pub in Oconomowoc. Even so, Gentry doesn't expect to have a collaborative batch of The Commuter and #2 ready until the middle of next week, around July 25.
On Monday, for the first time, Gentry fired up his own "namesake" one-barrel brewing system, located behind the walnut bar his father custom-made to fit the century-old building that was originally a neighborhood grocery store. For the record, Gentry's first completely "in-house" beer will be an American Pale Ale, which he's hoping to tap by July 30.
Gentry makes up for having run out of his beer by expanding an impressive number of guest taps featuring other local breweries like Ale Asylum, Great Dane, House of Brews, New Glarus, Sweet Mullets, and Vintage Brewing. Not having his own beer right now hasn't seemed to diminish the spirits of his patrons, as the after-work crowd continues to pack the 1,300-square-foot bar. When business settles down, Gentry's ultimate goal is to regularly offer six to eight of his beers on tap for most visits.