You may have noticed the beers of Door County's Shipwrecked Restaurant & Brewery washing ashore in Madison lately. The Egg Harbor brewpub, located just a few hundred feet from Lake Michigan, is one of several Wisconsin breweries to expand distribution in Madison over the past several months. While its bottled products are somewhat new to the southern part of the state, Shipwrecked has actually been producing beer for over a decade.
"It's a great craft brew market, and there's a big draw in the Madison area, so it was a no-brainer to offer our beer there," says Shipwrecked owner Rob Pollman. He was the original brewmaster at Shipwrecked, which his parents opened in 1997. Today, it's not only a production brewery, but a restaurant and an eight-room inn as well. Pollman also owns Door Peninsula Winery and the Door County Distillery, the latter scheduled to open next month. He also operates restaurants in Fish Creek and Sturgeon Bay, along with two others in Key West, Fla.
Over the last couple of years, Shipwrecked has experimented with having its beer contract-brewed by other breweries and distributed mostly in northeast Wisconsin. Rich Zielke signed on as brewmaster at the brewpub in 2008. Originally from the Midwest, he had been brewing in Colorado when he responded to an ad placed by Pollman in ProBrewer. Last year, Shipwrecked expanded its brewhouse and installed its own small bottling line.
Shipwrecked beers that regularly turn up in Madison are led by the brewpub's signature creation, Door County Cherry Wheat. It's made with juice from cherries harvested by Seaquest Orchards in nearby Sister Bay. This wheat ale is medium-bodied, light golden copper-colored, with lots of fruity nose. While offered year-round, it's especially popular during the summer tourism season in Door County. However, it's also just a nice summer beer to have handy in the fridge for those who enjoy a cherry edge to their wheat beer.
Other Shipwrecked beers include: Bayside Blonde, a light golden ale that is crisp with a light hoppiness; Captain's Copper, modeled after an English ale and with a firm maltiness and clean finish; and, Peninsula Porter, dark and medium- to full-bodied with a firm chocolate maltiness and roasted finish. All four of these beers are bottled and can be found in Madison for around $8-$9/six-pack. They are distributed by General Beverage.
Pollman notes that over his 13 years of brewing and running Shipwrecked, he's seen a growing interest in local food prepared with local ingredients, including beer and wine. "They come to Door County and want to take something home, or they see it here and want to get it back home," he says.
If you do go to Egg Harbor for a visit, the special brews to consider tasting there occasionally include an India pale ale, an oatmeal stout, and a fall seasonal called "Pumpkin Patch." Visitors can even "walk the plank" with a wooden taster tray of beer samples. The menu at Shipwrecked features traditional brewpub fare (burgers, sandwiches), but it also boasts a smoker, used for house-prepared ribs, brisket and chicken wings.
The building that is home to Shipwrecked dates back to the late 1800s, when it was a popular hangout for loggers and sailors who worked the Great Lakes. In the 1920s, it was rumored have been a favored hangout for Al Capone while hiding out in Door County. Its owners and employees even suggest that it's haunted by a handful of ghosts, including the legendary gangster's illegitimate son, Jason, who was found hanging from the rafters in the building's attic.