The upcoming year stands to be a big one for beer makers around southern Wisconsin. That's likely to mean not just new beers, but more of your favorites too, as a number of breweries in the region get set to expand their capacity in 2011. Here are a few hopes and wishes for the next twelve months.
1. More special releases from New Glarus Brewing are planned for 2011. Brewmaster Dan Carey will change the name of his limited release beers from "Unplugged" to "Thumb Print" to reinforce that they have become a "signature product." He plans six editions of the four-pack series, up from four in 2010, starting with a Smoked Rye made from barley that is kilned (roasted) by burning apple wood. The entire schedule for the Thumb Print series isn't set, but there's a good chance that the cranberry brew Wisconsin Cran-bic will be back. Carey will also debut Two Women Lager in six-packs, which was initially distributed in 500 ml bottles last summer at the brewery's Beer Depot. Its name calls attention to two women who run the companies that make this beer possible -- Dan's wife, Deb, who is also brewery president, and Sabine Weyermann, who runs the Weyermann malting company of Bamberg, Germany. The beer features some of the best malt New Glarus could buy from Weyermann, and should be among the most watched-for brews of the year. "Everything I know about brewing I put into this beer," says Carey.
2. Lake Louie Brewing of Arena will expand production in 2011. Owner Tom Porter just added new fermentation and conditioning tanks at the end of 2010, enough to increase capacity by 40% and allow him to keep up with the demands for Kiss the Lips IPA and Warped Speed Scotch Ale. He will also consider restarting production of more seasonal brews (such as the Prairie Moon Farmhouse Ale and Milk Stout), something he's not been able to do over the last year because of this demand. The extra capacity will also allow Porter to make more of his boldest brew, Louie's Reserve, which will start appearing earlier in the fall than in years past. Additionally, the brewery just released Mr. Mephisto's Imperial Stout for its winter run.
3. The new east-side Great Dane Pub opened to a very good start in late 2010. In the weekends leading up to Christmas, its beer sales rivaled the original Great Dane in downtown Madison. Since it doesn't have an on-site brewery, the pub gets most of its beers from the Hilldale location, where Don Vasa has been planning a few special beers just for the new location. Two ideas are Jupiter Amber and Jupiter IPA, both named for the pub's address. Downtown brewer Eric Brusewitz has his own out-this-world brew in the fermenters right now, a black IPA named Parallel Universe, made with six different hops and lots of black chocolate malt. In the year ahead, don't be too surprised if you hear rumors of another Great Dane opening somewhere in the Milwaukee area, and even talk about the Wausau brewpub bottling specialty beers in 750 ml bombers. Let's hope the Dane's imperial red or Hop Rush is seriously considered for that honor.
4. Sand Creek Brewing of Black River Falls is adding fermention tanks that could allow a doubling of production in four years. This March, it will start offering a special batch of Double Oscar's Stout in four-packs.
5. O'so Brewing of Plover is about to outgrow its 2,500-square feet of space in Marc Buttera's homebrew store. The brewmaster says he's making progress on his plans for a new location. In late spring, Spike, a beer made with maple sap and named his grandfather, is scheduled for release after a year's hiatus.
6. Central Waters Brewing of Amherst is hinting about more big bottled beers in 2011. The brewery has also been venturing into sour beers, so expect 750 ml. bottles of a tart Flanders Red Ale, made from local cherries.
7. Kevin Eichelberger of Wausau's Red Eye Brewing occasionally sends beer to Madison, and the Old Fashioned and Malt House vie for who can get it on tap soonest. For 2011, Eichelberger has worked up Up Nort Brew-ski, a bock made with Madagascar bourbon vanilla beans and Glacier hops. The initial batch was just unveiled at a special tasting party.
8. For those beer fans looking for another southern Wisconsin-brewed option, construction has started on Port Huron Brewing in the Wisconsin Dells. Its brewmaster, Tanner Brethorst, is no stranger to Madison beer fans, as he's a former brewer at both Lake Louie and Capital. Let's hope for a grand opening by the time snow leaves for good.
9. Capital Brewery brewmaster Kirby Nelson created Island Wheat in 2007, using wheat grown on Door County's Washington Island. Nelson is now talking about using local hops in a special brew. Last fall, he acquired about 40 pounds of hops that were harvested on land that once grew product for Milwaukee's Schlitz Brewery. Could those hops possibly be slated for another Capital collaboration with the Great Dane? Hey, that's how we got the popular Supper Club, when Nelson and the Dane's Rob Lobreglio put their brew-paddles together in 2008.
10. Vintage Brewing opened almost a year ago and brewmaster Scott Manning quickly captured the attention of local beer enthusiasts with recipes that reflect a flair for unique flavor and history, like its Sahti Finnish Farmhouse Ale. This coming year, expect a hibiscus saison that Manning has been working on with homebrewer (and Vintage bartender) Robin Klinge.
11. Hoppy beer fans can look to Mark Knoebl of the Grumpy Troll Pub and Brewery in Mount Horeb, who is planning an aggressive rotation of India Pale Ales in 2011. The brewer says he'll tap about a dozen hoppy beers in the year ahead.
12. Ale Asylum in Madison celebrated its New Year's Eve party with the annual release of Ballistic, an assertive IPA. And, let's not forget about a favorite brew from 2010: Here's hoping that Bedlam! Trappist IPA returns this spring.