When beermaking returned to Potosi last summer, it had been over three decades since the local brewery had mixed malt and hops to make a brew. The opening of the Potosi Brewing Company and National Brewing Museum in July 2008 marked a return to beer making that extends back to 1852, a heritage that includes well-known brews like Good Old Potosi, Holiday and Pure Malt Beer.
Today, the new brewpub has a version of all three of those, but the one addition to that very old lineage is an IPA called Snake Hollow. The name is a reference to the area of town where the old Potosi Brewery was born, died and now lives again.
What is it? Snake Hollow IPA from Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wisconsin.
Style: The American version of the India Pale Ale (IPA) is a beer with a pale golden to deep reddish amber color and a floral hop aroma. The flavor emphasis centers on bitterness from lots of hops. All, or at least the majority of the hops used to make it are varieties grown in the United States, making for the "American" style distinction. Contemporary IPAs are based upon a traditional style that emerged in the 1700s, when British brewers found that using a large amount of hops would help preserve their beer during long sea voyages to India and elsewhere around the British Empire.
Background: As an IPA, Snake Hollow fits the American distinction of the brew. It's made with three U.S. varieties of hops: Galena, Cascade and Centennial. Potosi brewmaster Steve Buszka says he adds nearly a pound of hops for every barrel he makes. The beer takes a significant amount of its hoppy character from a dry hopping process, where hops are added directly into the primary fermenter. It takes about 12 days to make a batch of Snake Hollow from the brew day to when it goes on tap.
Buszka just recently became brewmaster at the Potosi Brewery. This past May he took over the duties from Steve Zuidema, who returned to Davenport, Iowa, where he owns Front Street Brewery. Buszka most recently worked for Liquid Manufacturing of Brighton, Michigan. Prior to that, he had been with Bells Brewing of Kalamazoo for over 11 years.
Buszka says his interest in making beer emerged early, in a 10th-grade biology class. "One day the teacher was going on, blah, blah, blah and you can make beer -- so I was like, hold on, I've got to start listening here because there might be some pertinent information," Buszka recalls. Not long after, he tried making his own home brew and quickly determined it was something he wanted to do into the future.
Snake Hollow is a hearty IPA at 70 IBUs (International Bittering Units) and 7.1% ABV. It sells for $3.25/pint, $5/22 ounce bottle or $14/growler ($10 refill) at the brewery in Potosi. It's currently on tap at the Old Fashioned in downtown Madison, where it sells for $3.75/pint.
The brewery will host its first annual Port of Potosi Brewfest on Saturday, August 22, and subsequencly sponsors its OktoberFest Bike Tour on Saturday, September 19. (Ticket info is available here.)
- Aroma: Light floral hoppiness.
- Appearance: Hazy copper color, with a thick, soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and crisp texture.
- Taste: A mild initial maltiness with a firm bitter background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Firm, medium dryness.
Glassware: This beer is great in a glass mug or schooner for better presentation of the vivid copper color, while also offering a firm grip for tipping a few.
Pairs well with: Snake Hollow offers enough bitterness to stand up to flavorful dishes. At a recent visit to The Old Fashioned, it paired well with their House Burger's cheddar cheese, garlic sauce, hickory-smoked bacon and easy-over egg. On the lighter lunch side, a pint with a hunk of New Glarus Landjaeger sausage made a tasty snack!
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Snake Hollow is an IPA with a hoppy dryness that builds in the finish. Overall, it offers some balance from a firm malty beginning, while the bitterness comes in stronger in the end. And it is not so bitter that a pint will stain the taste buds and distract from a good meal. You can even follow it with another style of beer, but why would you want to?