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Wisconsin beer and breweries: News and reviews
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Beer Here: Good Old Potosi from Potosi Brewing

Credit:Robin Shepard

The Fourth of July is about summer traditions, family gatherings and sharing beer with friends while watching fireworks. This year, consider a brew from Potosi Brewing that speaks to that sense of community. Good Old Potosi was once an icon in the Wisconsin brewing business, and it's still made today by a revived craft-era brewery. This beer offers a taste of history each time you crack one open.

What is it? Good Old Potosi from Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wisconsin.

Style: The golden ale, sometimes called a blonde ale, is clear golden to straw in color. These ales are crisp and light- to medium-bodied, and have a low level of hoppy bitterness. This is a style with a mild overall flavor; it may be slightly malty but should be balanced and very clean. The golden ale will range in strength from 4% to 5% ABV. The style is considered a standard "entry-level" or introductory ale among American craft beers. It's often offered as an alternative to mass-marketed light lagers and pilsners.

Background: Potosi Brewing Company is dedicated to preserving beer history as part of its mission. It's home to the National Brewery Museum, and serves a beacon to the American Breweriana Association, which holds its annual meeting in the region every five years, most recently this June. Given this setting, Good Old Potosi represents much more than just your parents' beer. Moreover, with its connections to the surrounding community, this beer goes beyond marketing based around the revival of former glory, as is the case with Pabst Blue Ribbon and the revived recipe for Schlitz in today's retro-friendly beer market.

The current incarnation of Potosi Brewing Company opened its brewpub in 2008 inside what was once the old Potosi Brewery. The Good Old Potosi label was one of the first beers to be made there. From the beginning, the intent behind the reintroduction of Good Old Potosi was to offer a beer that was similar to what had been a flagship brew for the original Potosi Brewery, which was originally established in 1852. That operation eventually grew to become Wisconsin's fifth-largest brewery.

Good Old Potosi was a dominant brand for the brewery following Prohibition until it closed in 1972. Across the street from the brewery is a symbol of just how large in stature the phrase "Good Old Potosi" became in Wisconsin. There stands a 40-foot-tall version of the brewery's iconic cone-top Good Old Potosi can.

"The combination of ingredients and the process of how they brewed beer in Potosi back then was much different than now," says Steve McCoy, director of brewing operations at the current Potosi Brewing Company. One of those differences was that the original brewery roasted its own malt. "What they used back then were different [malts] than what we have today, and brewers also had to do a lot of the work that maltsters do for us now," he explains.

Good Old Potosi is a blonde ale brewed with the spirit and character of a lager. Its recipe is based mostly on two-row Pilsner malt, and it's lightly hopped with Cascade and East Kent Golding hops. While this beer is made with an ale yeast, it holds a colder fermentation temperature -- similar to lager conditions -- which results in cleaner and crisper flavors.

Good Old Potosi is a year-round release. It finishes at about 5% ABV and tame 14 IBUs. It's a standard tap beer produced by brewpub in Potosi, while the bottled version is currently made at Stevens Point Brewery. Six-packs sell for around $7-$8 each.

Steve McCoy, 37, recently took over the brewing responsibilities at Potosi. He replaced Steve Buszka, who left last February to take a position at O'so Brewing in Plover. Before coming to Potosi, McCoy worked for City Brewery in La Crosse for five years. While there, he worked in various capacities, including production planning, supervision and management. McCoy grew up in Prairie du Chien and went to college at UW-La Crosse, where he received his bachelor's degree in biology in 2003.

"I like the old styles and thinking about what traditional brewers did," says McCoy. That appreciation for history makes Potosi Brewing a good fit for him. "This is a special opportunity, with a strong commitment to craft beer, and along with that Good Old Potosi label there is the museum," notes McCoy. "That opens up a lot of doors to do some things that other breweries might not be doing."

One idea that McCoy is kicking around is an "Old World Series" of beers. "I'd like to do the kinds of beers that immigrant brewers brought over, the kind of styles you didn't see after Prohibition. It would be fun to reinterpret those," he says.

For those considering a road trip to Potosi, McCoy's summer tap list currently includes a white IPA and a Bavarian hefeweizen. This fall, he will release the brewery's first Oktoberfest lager. That beer and this year's Pumpkin Ale are expected to be out just before the annual Potosi Brewfest on Saturday, August 23.

Tasting notes:

  • Aroma: Lightly malty, just a hint of biscuit tones.
  • Appearance: Clear, bright golden. A medium soft, white, head.
  • Texture: Light to medium bodied. Bubbly and soft.
  • Taste: Clean, balanced. A light grainy maltiness.
  • Finish/Aftertaste: A light crisp and clean ending.

Glassware: The classic short pilsner glass will highlight Good Old Potosi's golden color. This is also a beer to serve very cold to accentuate the crisp clean nature of its flavor.

Pairs well with: Good Old Potosi is nice with lighter foods, and summer lunch fare like BLTs, chicken, fish and clubs sandwiches. For cheese, try it with Monterey Jack or a brick.

Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)

The Consensus: 81 (good) at BeerAdvocate and 17/12 (overall/style) at RateBeer.

The Verdict: Good Old Potosi is fun to share over the barbecue and Independence Day festivities. For those who are not familiar with craft beers, it's a brew most can find favor with, as it's not huge or aggressive. This beer is light, pleasant and sessionable. Good Old Potosi offers many of the qualities that mainstream big brewery lagers have, like a crisp and clean flavor profile. There's a touch of grainy maltiness in the background, while its light kiss of hops give it a clean finish that doesn't linger. It's best when served very cold to accentuate that crispness.

Good Old Potosi is really a great standby, especially for those gatherings when you need a beer in the cooler that you know will satisfy a range of palates. It's also a nod to history, as we take a few moments this Fourth of July weekend to remember what's great about this country -- and its brewing traditions.

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