While major expansions among Wisconsin's high production microbreweries will likely continue to top beer headlines in 2014, growth among smaller breweries and brewpubs will be just as noticeable to beer enthusiast. The year ahead will continue to see these breweries offer more of their limited releases, one-offs and 22-ounce bombers. Special releases appeal to ardent beer aficionados and those who look at a beer menu seeking whatever is new or a style they've never had before. Smaller breweries and brewpubs can more easily make such beers, in manageable quantities, and include local ingredients.
Here is a look at some upcoming beer releases and brewing developments to watch for in 2014 among Wisconsin's smaller craft beer makers, with an emphasis on Madison and the surrounding region.
Central Waters Brewing of Amherst
Up in Amherst, Central Waters is considering both a new spring seasonal and a new summer seasonal. Co-owner Anello Mollica isn't offering specifics, only that the brewery recently purchased a three barrel pilot system for developing test batches. That small system will also be used to supply limited releases and one-offs for the Central Water's taproom. The brewery is also planning to expand seating for the taproom, which will include a demonstration kitchen and education center for classes on beer and cooking.
Central Waters also is looking to double its barrel aging program. That means more bomber releases in 2014 and beyond from Central Waters, including the return of Exodus in the year ahead. On January 25, Waters celebrates its 16th anniversary with a party. The beer that's been made to mark the occasion is named, appropriately enough, "Sixteen." It's an imperial stout that's been aged for two years in bourbon barrels and is quite big at 11% ABV. Sixteen will be for sale that day on tap. However, for 22-ounce bottles, tickets are being sold for $5 to secure a spot to purchase up to eight bottles at $15 each.
Door County Brewing of Bailey's Harbor
This small beer company started making its beer under contract with the Sand Creek Brewing Company of Black River Falls. First released in Madison stores late in 2013, expect to see more in the year ahead. The brewery plans to open its own production facility near Bailey's Harbor by mid-year. Its first brews include Polka King Porter and Little Sister Witbier; as the brewery becomes more established, watch for Goat Parade Smoked Imperial Stout in 650-ml bottles.
Furthermore Beer of Spring Green
Owner and brewmaster Aran Madden's newest beer, Viking Afternoon, was made as a collaboration brew with the Comet Café in Milwaukee. It was released there in early December. However, watch for it to turn up at festivals and tastings attended by Furthermore in 2014. Furthermore beers are made under contract with Sand Creek Brewing and Milwaukee Brewing Company.
Great Dane Pub & Brewing of Madison
Early this past autumn, several of the Great Dane's brewers traveled to Germany for a week of research. Brewpub owner Rob LoBreglio says that as a result of the trip, "we're going to be doing a lot more experimental lagers and more bock beers." Look for more than 10 bocks at each Great Dane location during the brewpub's annual Bockfest, which begins on Fat Tuesday (which falls on March 4). Before that event, one beer not to miss will be an imperial pilsner. It was made the first week of December and is expected to be released in mid-to-late January.
Future growth also is on LoBreglio's mind. He's been looking into possible locations in Milwaukee. He's not revealing any specific location he's interested in; however, he says there's a 50-50 chance of a deal happening that would put a Great Dane there by 2015. That would be the sixth location for the popular mini-chain -- which is the maximum number of brewpubs under one owner allowed by state law.
Grumpy Troll Restaurant and Brewery of Mount Horeb
Brewmaster Mark Knoebl has been working on an imperial stout aged in rye whiskey barrels. He's also collaborating with Mark Duchow of Sweet Mullets in Oconomowoc on a sour beer they are calling "Common Funk."
House of Brews of Madison
Owner and brewmaster Page Buchanan plans to double the size of his taproom in 2014, and also intends to release more of his beers in 22-ounce bombers. Over the last year, he helped a number of other breweries establish themselves by lending his time and equipment. Those included MobCraft and Next Door Brewing. Buchanan says he'll also continue working with Trevor Easton to get his new gluten-free Greenview Brewing products on the market.
Karben4 Brewing of Madison
Karben4 will celebrate one year in business with an anniversary party on January 17. The party will include a bourbon-barrel-aged version of NightCall, a smoked porter.
As for new brews, brewmaster Ryan Koga says he's committing to making a coffee stout he's calling "Deep Winter." He's paired up with the Just Coffee Cooperative for the java element of the brew. It will debut on January 24 in the brewery. Koga also plans to take some of Deep Winter and age it in bourbon barrels for a later release.
Lake Louie Brewing of Arena
We can expect some very big changes across Lake Louie's line up in 2014. Brewery owner Tom Porter is hinting that he will be offering up to five new beers over the next year, and they will be presented across three different lines.
First he'll be introducing their Session Series, which will include Golden Booty at 4.8% ABV (formerly known as Coon Rock Cream Ale), a session IPA named 10-81 at 4.2% ABV, and Impulse Drive, which is a session version of a Scotch ale (based on their Warped Speed Scotch Ale). Porter is also working on a line of beers that will be hop forward and include two new IPAs (one of which might include strawberries) and its Mosquito Beach (a California common beer). And the third series of beers to be introduced will be called Dark Shadows, and feature Dino's Dark, Milk Stout, and a new beer based on an American brown ale that's made with locally sourced maple syrup. It's name: Maple Surple.
These beers will be available in six packs of 12-ounce bottles. Each will have their own unique artwork, which is a change from the current Lake Louie packaging. The brewery has also recently added 12-packs of bottles, including Warped Speed, Kiss the Lips IPA and variety packs.
Lucette Brewing Company of Menomonie
This western Wisconsin brewery was established in 2010, and its primary focus has been on the Twin Cities. However, it stepped up its presence in Madison in late summer by capturing a standard tap line at Dotty Dumpling's Dowry for The Farmer's Daughter Spiced Blonde Ale, and its Ride Again APA has been found at the Malt House. In 2014, look for its six-packs of 16-ounce cans to start appearing more regularly in Madison. (By the way, "Lucette" was Paul Bunyan's sweetheart.)
Next Door Brewing of Madison
Brewmaster Keith Symonds has really found his niche on the east side of Madison. He opened his brewpub in August, and within three months he made more than two dozen different beers and was adding additional fermenters to keep up with demand. In addition to his trio of core brews, Symonds offers limited one-offs. Between now and next August, he would like to introduce bourbon and rum barrel aging to the brew house.
Milwaukee Brewing Company of Milwaukee
Look for more limited-release 4-pack beers in 2014 from Milwaukee Brewing. "We've taken the reins off our brewers to allow them to play with some unique styles -- some doppelbocks, schwarzbiers," says Mike Christensen, the brewery's director of sales. "It'll be in smaller volumes, but you should see some pretty neat things." Next up will be Doppelvision Doppelbock in February.
MobCraft Beer of Madison
This new brewery launched last summer using a crowdsourced approach to beer selection and recipe development. MobCraft is betting engaging with supporters via social media to come up with brewing ideas and to create a following for its beers, which makes predicting what will be coming out in 2014 difficult. Its first batches proved unique and appealed to those who seek out one-off brews, some with ingredients like blood oranges and green tea. MobCraft just released its Chocolate Banana Stout, and next in January will be Hazelnut Amber, a brew made with 10 pounds of roasted hazelnuts.
One Barrel Brewing of Madison
Demand for One Barrel's beer has been strong. Owner Peter Gentry says he's planning to self-distribute his beers in Madison: "We're going to start doing double batches." He hopes to service about 20 other bars and restaurants around town with his brews.
In the weeks ahead, watch the brewery's Facebook page for details about its barleywine fest in late January. Gentry hopes to offer about six big brews for patrons, three of which will be made in-house and include an iced barleywine that he'll make by setting a keg outside to freeze and then remove some of the ice. That will strengthen the flavor and amount of alcohol in what's left. Also in the offing: Firkin Fridays. At the end of each week, a firkin (about 8 gallons) of beer will be flavored with such ingredients as rosemary, peppercorns, molasses, or bourbon.
Gentry is also getting close to opening the Star Bar in the new Constellation Building at 754 East Washington Ave. The grand opening is scheduled for Thursday, January 16. To mark the occasion he's making Sullivan's Irish Red, as a tribute to his business partner and mentor Hawk Sullivan, well-known among Madison bar and restaurant owners.
O'so Brewing Company of Plover
Production is expected to rise another 50% for O'so. To meet that demand, the brewery is planning to add additional fermenters.
O'so has also been expanding its sour beer line. Owner Marc Buttera says he's added a "coolship," a large, open fermenter that allows the wort to cool using outside air. While it cools, naturally occurring yeast can inoculate the wort. Buttera says the new sour brews are "lambic-like, fermented in French oak." He has several limited releases in mind, some of which will be only about 450 750 ml-bottles at a time. Watch for them marketed as collaboration brews between O'so and Funk Factory Geuzeria. The next one, made in the spirit of a traditional lambic, is scheduled to be brewed on January 24.
Port Huron Brewing of Wisconsin Dells
Beer drinkers in Madison don't see as much Port Huron beer as they would like. Owner and brewmaster Tanner Brethorst has big demand with tourist trade in the Dells. But Madison started seeing Port Huron beers more regularly in the last half of 2013, and Brethorst plans to expand his brewery's capacity by 50% in 2014.
In terms of new beers from Port Hurons, expect an IPA in summer. Brethorst says he's hoping to release a seasonal beer at least quarterly, including his Oktoberfest and Oatmeal Stout. He also notes that Port Huron will be hosting a Harvest Party next fall with beer made from grain harvested by the restored antique steam tractor that gives the brewery its name. This limited-release beer will likely be available in bomber bottles.
Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi
This fall, representatives of Potosi Brewing signed a lease for over 15,000 square feet of warehouse space in a building nearby its brewery. They plan to install a larger brewing system and expand production in Potosi by three times. That means more of brewmaster Steve Buszka's special beers, more of which will find their way into the Madison market.
"We have some core beers we brew all the time, so this is a way to increase our production," says Greg Larsen, executive director at Potosi. Larson and Buszka do not intend to change the arrangement with Stevens Point Brewery for packaging their products. Among Potosi's limited release line of brews made in Stevens Point, look for three new beers in 2014: a Black IPA, an ESB and a fall pumpkin brew.
3 Sheeps Brewing of Sheboygan
As 3 Sheeps approaches its second anniversary, it is rapidly expanding its production, jumping from 600 barrels in its first year to about 3,000 now. With new fermenters installed last summer, the brewery will have a capacity of around 7,000, far exceeding its original projections.
3 Sheeps is also turning its attention more to special releases. Founder and brewmaster Grant Pauly says the brewery getting ready to launch its 22-ounce bomber bottle series called Nimble Lips, Noble Tongue. The first one is an oak-aged IPA, and should be coming out in February, with plans for another four releases over the course of the year. "We're going to have a little fun here," he says.
The brewery releasing its next limited four-pack in March. Named Hello My Name is Joe, it's a coffee-infused imperial black wheat ale that won a silver medal in the 2013 U.S. Open Beer Championships. Says Pauly: "Now we're building our library of beer."
Valkyrie Brewing of Dallas
The foil-wrapped tops of Viking Brewing bottles were a common sight on Madison beer shelves for years. They disappeared, though, and the business itself relaunched in the fall of 2011 as Valkyrie Brewing. Based in Dallas, a village just west of Chetek, the small brewery's new lineup of beers have primarily only been available around northwest Wisconsin. That changed in November, though, when JAW Distributing picked up Valkyrie for Madison and Milwaukee. Expect to see more of its trio of year-round beers and rotating lineup of seasonals in southern Wisconsin over the next year.
Vintage Brewing Company of Madison
Brewmaster Scott Manning says he'll consider starting a limited bottling program of some of his beers by mid-summer for sales mainly at the brewpub's affiliated locations -- Vintage Spirits and Grill near the UW-Madison campus and the Woodshed in Sauk City, as well as at its mothership on the west side.
Among the new brews in the year ahead will be several barrel-aged beers. In early spring, Manning plans to offer "Bramble," a bourbon-barrel-aged blackberry strong ale. Later in the year he hopes to make several sour beers that will feature Brettanomyces (yeast). Manning also has a few ideas for lambic-style brews.
Kristian Knutsen contributed to this story.