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Friday, November 28, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 17.0° F  Overcast
The Daily
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4 Brothers Blended Beer is a labor of love for one Wisconsin family
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To start, 4 Brothers Beer is offering four brands.
Credit:Robin Shepard

"We're four pretty normal guys who love beer, love making it, and love sharing it," says Jimmy Gohsman, who makes up one-quarter of 4 Brothers Blended Beer Company. Jimmy and his brothers are taking a different track than most breweries, which turn out beers that fall within standard styles. The four Hartland, Wisconsin natives launched their company last November with a concept based on blending beer recipes. 4 Brothers made an appearance at this year's Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest, around the same time its six-packs started appearing in Madison.

"We wanted to come out with different beers, not just a small twist on a wheat beer or a porter," explains Gohsman in an interview after the festival. "We wanted to come out with unique flavor profiles."

To start, 4 Brothers Beer is offering four brands. Sibling Rivalry is a reddish amber beer based on the characteristics of blonde ales, brown ales and red ales. Relative Madness is a dark beer made with a combination of blonde ale and porter elements. The Prodigal Son combines the hoppiness of an IPA and smoothness of a cream ale. The lightest of the company's beers is Whipper Snapper, based on a combination of wheat ale, helles (pale lager) and amber ale characteristics.

4 Brothers Beer is based in Waukesha; however, its beers are made on contact by Sand Creek Brewing Company in Black River Falls. "We are recipe brewers. We come up with the recipe and then work with Sand Creek to make the beer," says Gohsman, who is the only brother currently working full-time for the company.

This relationship with Sand Creek has allowed 4 Brothers to work at developing a statewide footprint for its beers, which are distributed by Johnson Brothers Beverages of Milwaukee and Saint Paul, Minnesota. All four are currently available throughout the Madison area, and run $7-$9 per six-pack.

Gohsman says he developed an appreciation for craft beer during his college days in Colorado. "I started out like a lot of homebrewers do," he explains. "I bought a kit and shortly after I was doing my own recipes from scratch."

All four Gohsman brothers, who range in age from 26 to 35, picked up this interest. Jimmy takes the lead on recipe development and works with brewers at Sand Creek on production. Andy, who likewise became a fan of craft beer as a student in Colorado, currently works as a trader on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange while assisting in sales and marketing decisions for the company. Robin, also a trader on the Chicago Board Options Exchange, serves as company president. The fourth brother, Tommy, is well known in the local restaurant scene as co-owner of Madison's on King Street.

The family involvement in the company extends beyond the four brothers; two sisters are also a part of the enterprise. Kristy Mueller is the chief fiscal officer, and Jenny Hanley provides administrative and accounting support. And, when various needs arise, their father Robin lends a hand.

"We're four brothers -- we obviously get along, but we do have our moments when running a business together," laughs Jimmy. “Despite occasionally testing each other's patience, we always seem to come to an agreement."

Those family relationships inspired the name Sibling Rivalry for the company's amber-like beer that has become an early favorite for being very approachable among a range of beer drinkers. Prodigal Son has the most bitterness of the initial releases. It is made with four different hops and finishes at around 41 IBUs (International Bitterness Units). "It was a fun one for me to design as my ideal hoppy beer with citrus floral bitter notes and the smooth finish of a cream ale," says Jimmy.

4 Brothers is hoping to add a summer seasonal this June, and a winter seasonal by 2015.

The Gohsmans credit their family atmosphere as inspiration for their joint brewing venture. Jimmy explains: "We had a lot of family get-togethers where we’d start off with just one or two craft beers. We'd always bring a new six-pack and after a few craft beers, we found ourselves switching to lighter beers." Such experiences led the Gohsmans to believe there might be a gap in the market for brews with the flavor of craft beers, only with lower alcohol content and more sessionable qualities.

"That's why we started toying with the idea of blending beers," says Jimmy. "We pull proportionally from different styles and come up with a master recipe."

The Gohsmans eventually hope to have their own working brewery.

"That's a nice goal looking two to three years down the road," says Jimmy. "It's been a labor of love, and we're excited to see it all up and running now."

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