House of Brews
The inaugural Mob the House is on Friday, August 8 at the House of Brews.
If you've attended a craft beer event in the Madison area over the last few years, chances are pretty good for an encounter with House of Brews founder and brewmaster Page Buchanan. The guy is everywhere, and he's always good for a quick -- or not so quick, if you get him going -- chat about his beers or any others you might wish to discuss.
In fact, Buchanan has been integral in the recent growth of the city's brewing scene, particularly when it comes to fostering innovate approaches to the business. Beers like the quirkly lineup of crowd-sourced creations from MobCraft and the new gluten-free line offered by Greenview Brewing are all produced at the House of Brews facility at 4539 Helgesen Dr. in Madison. That bustling, crowded shop will play host to perhaps the biggest pre-party in advance of this year's Great Taste of the Midwest.
Called Mob the House, this celebration running from 4-10 p.m. on Friday, August 8 is perhaps the most ambitious Great Taste Eve celebration, and will offer food, music, art, and of course beer. Look for the beers produced in-house -- House of Brews, MobCraft, and Greenview -- plus guest pours from Vintage, Next Door, Karben4, Lake Louie and the new Second Salem Brewing in Whitewater.
Buchanan says the idea for this party started germinating after last year's pre-Great Taste open house. "I always had the intention to have tap takeovers at other bars, which I did a couple of years, but they weren't that well-attended,” he explains. "I think that was because I'm right here in town and offer special beers on tap periodically throughout the year, and there are so many other out-of-town breweries that have events."
The addition of a pop-up art gallery, which will flow from the taproom into the brewery area, was thanks to connections fostered by Henry Schwartz of MobCraft. "My friend Alex Hanley runs satellite art galleries and had just put on a huge [event]," he says, "so I asked if she wanted to do one at the brewery."
In the parking lot, a large tent will hold the outdoor portion of the party, including beer service and a music. Scheduled acts include Big Band String Thing, Sir! No Sir!, The Apologists, Lazy Dead Poet and Jack Selmer Band.
If this seems like a lot to coordinate in a parking lot of a brewery that isn't exactly sprawling, Buchanan and Schwartz are used to close quarters.
Schwartz recalls particularly cozy days when malt and bottle shipments arrive, or when there's a lot of barrel aging going on.
"It's very hard to share your shop," Buchanan adds, "but they not only help me pay the bills, but with keeping the brewery running as well."
Schwartz notes that both breweries are growing, which begs the question: how much longer will these two be partying under the same roof? He is about as circumspect as you'd expect an upstart brewer to be.
"Page will always be our brew-daddy," Schwartz says with a laugh. "We'll phase out of here as we move into our new spot."
Buchanan shares the father/son perspective. "They are practically half my age, so it sets up some interesting dynamics," he says. "I often feel like a parent. I love 'em, but sometimes I gotta scold 'em! At the same time, their youthful energy and enthusiasm is fantastic." Buchanan's in no hurry to see them go, adding, "Building out a brewery takes a lot of time."
I didn't get the chance to speak with Trevor Easton, the brewer behind Greenview, the third in-house operation at House of Brews. Both Buchanan and Schwartz, however, had praise for the gluten-free operation. "Greenview is doing very well," Buchanan says, noting that its beers has a waiting list of interested retailers.
Schwartz agrees, and perhaps spills the beans on a new Greenview release making an appearance at Mob the House, saying, "[I] just tried an IPA he made this morning, the nose is just fantastic, almost passion fruit-like... He's making some good stuff. Rumor has it he's releasing the IPA at the party."
In addition to that debut, expect to see House of Brews' Bungalow Gone Arye (a soured version of Bungalow Rye ESB), and both a bourbon barrel-aged stout and Scotch ale. MobCraft's special offerings should include its new Sour Support (a barrel-aged sour with ginger and blackberries), a brandy barrel-aged version of Rabbit's Bounty, and other creations. Tickets for beers are $4.50 individually, or $20 for a set of five.
With live music, food, drink, and art, this event has all the trappings of a party that doesn't need to pin itself to the Great Taste. Neither Schwartz nor Buchanan seemed primed to move Mob the House to some other summer weekend, though.
"I'll always have some sort of pre-Great Taste event," Buchanan says. "Depending on how [Mob the House] goes will determine its size in the future."
"Only time will tell," Schwartz agrees, "but we hope to do it year after year."