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Wisconsin beer and breweries: News and reviews
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Madison, meet Deschutes Brewery and Une Année
Two new entrants into the Wisconsin beer market, big and small
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Deschutes is the latest in a wave of big name out-of-state craft beers entering the Madison market.
Credit:Kristian Knutsen

Going hand in hand with Wisconsin's own thriving craft beer scene, the number of smaller breweries from across the country introducing their products to state is growing, too. It's something about the craft beer mindset; enthusiasts are constantly curious about new variations on old themes, and brewers from other states see Wisconsin -- and Madison and Milwaukee in particular -- as markets with drinkers who have sophisticated palates.

Dogfish Head, the well-known experimental brewer from Delaware, re-launched in Wisconsin this spring after several years' absence. This month, Wirtz Beverage Group is introducing products from two out-of-state breweries, Oregon's Deschutes Brewery, and Chicago's Une Année.

Headquartered in Bend, Oregon, Deschutes turned 25 last year and is the sixth-largest craft brewer in the U.S. as of 2013. (It was fifth in 2012; Lagunitas surpassed it in 2013).

Deschutes produces a wide array of beers, but Mirror Pond Pale Ale, Black Butte Porter, Twilight Summer Ale and Chainbreaker White IPA are the first introduced in Wisconsin. (Deschutes is credited with creating the white IPA style, a cross between a wit and an IPA, in a collaboration with Boulevard Brewing of Kansas City, Missouri.)

And they won't be hard to find -- six-packs are already on shelves at smaller shops like Vic Pierce as well as at grocery stores like Hy-Vee.

Oregon friends report that Deschutes produces their go-to beers in Portland -- "haven't tried one I didn't like" was the sentiment -- and while a little of the much-discussed hop-centric quality of Pacific Northwest beers is noticeable even in a beer like Mirror Pond, it's a long way from being overly hoppy or bitter.

Mirror Pond is an easily likable ale that could be seen as Deschutes' equivalent to New Glarus' über-popular Spotted Cow; however, the brewery's first brew and flagship product is its Black Butte Porter, made with Pale, Carapils, Chocolate, Crystal, and wheat malts, along with Cascade, Bravo, and Tettnang hops.

The Free House Pub in Middleton has had the Deschutes beers on tap since their introduction. "There wasn't the pent-up enthusiasm that there was when New Belgium came into this market, for instance," Free House owner Tim Thompson observes, "but it has been going well and they chose an interesting array of beers to lead with."

To further introduce Deschutes into the Madison market, several events will be held in mid-July.

Samplings will be offered 4-6 p.m. July 15 at Steve's Wine Beer Spirits, 3618 University Ave., and 4-6 p.m. July 16 at Riley's Wines of the World, 402 W. Gorham. There's more fun planned after each of those tastings, too.

At 6:30 p.m. on July 15, a Deschutes-sponsored bike pub crawl will start at Machinery Row, 601 Williamson St., head to Gates & Brovi, 3502 Monroe St., back downtown to the Tipsy Cow, 102 King St., and end up at Dexter's Pub, 301 North St.

From 7-10 p.m. July 16, a special "homebrewers" event (tickets are $20) at the Great Dane-Hilldale will feature six samples (three from Deschutes, three from the Dane), small plates, a commemorative snifter, and one full pour to cap off the evening. Deschutes recipes scaled down, presumably, for homebrewers, and Cascade hops will be in the goodie bag as well. Fred Swanson, founder of the Great Taste of the Midwest, will be on hand to lead a Q&A about the renowned festival.

Two special Deschutes brews will be sampled during the launch festivities. The limited anniversary brew Black Butte XXVI will be on tap at Dexter's, and its new Foray Belgian-style IPA will be on tap at both the Tipsy Cow and Dexter's, according to brewery representatives.

Other events (including a river cleanup work party and a "beerlesque" show) will be held in Milwaukee.

Another new introduction to Wisconsin this month is at the opposite end of the spectrum from Deschutes in size. Une Année Brewing, out of Chicago, has a nine-barrel system, with fermenter space to produce 1000 barrels per year. Its Belgian-inspired beers are unfiltered and 100% bottle conditioned.

Une Année is introducing three beers into the Madison market: Maya, a Belgian-style IPA with a 7.6% ABV;, Austere, a "classically inspired" saison that boasts fairly prominent yeast flavors and a 6.5% ABV; and Tripel, a Belgian ale of that style with an ABV of 8.7%.

Maya is Une Année's only year-round beer. "Seasonals are really the focus," says co-founder and head brewer Jerry Nelson. ("Une année" means "one year" in French and is meant to indicate the brewery's commitment to seasonality.)

Nelson says he chose to expand to Wisconsin instead of further into Illinois because "the beer culture is more sophisticated" in Wisconsin and that the two major markets, Milwaukee and Madison, are actually closer to Chicago than other areas in Illinois.

He also sees Belgians as a niche that's not fully occupied in Wisconsin.

The beers being released in Wisconsin are "the end of the spring releases," says Nelson, and soon the state should be seeing Une Année's summer releases: Enkel, a Belgian single, and Less is More, another saison.

Since opening in September of 2013, the brewery has produced four different saisons, three Abbey-style ales (including an 11% ABV quad) and six other beers of other styles, including a wit and a Russian Imperial Stout named Airing of Grievances that is 10.6% ABV. The brewery staff's sense of humor comes through with the name and description of this one: "After drinking this decadent beer, one may feel at ease to tell friends how they've disappointed in the past year."

Une Année beers are being sold at area Steve's stores as well as at Trixie's and Riley's.

The Free House Pub in Middleton will have Maya on tap starting Saturday, July 12, says owner Tim Thompson, and it so far it's the only local Une Année tap account.

The spring releases are available locally in singles and in 750 ml bottles, says Nelson, but those are the last 750mls, as the brewery has switched bottling systems. The summer releases will be available in 500 ml bottles, says Nelson.

Nelson says he hopes to do events in Wisconsin a couple times a month and hopes to schedule a Madison event before the end of July.

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