Author Archives: Mitch_j

Intro to Malt – Beer 101

As complex and varied as the flavor of beer is, it is actually only made up of just four key ingredients: Malt, Hops, Water and Yeast. Each of these ingredients has a role in the final product, and we’ll be reviewing each piece as a part of Beer 101. The first ingredient we’ll be discussing is malt.

Malt plays several roles in beer, from providing the sugars that allow for fermentation, to providing a base for the flavors. Before I go into more details about what malt does, let’s talk about what malt is.

When discussing malt in beer, the most common kind you’ll find is malted barley. Though it’s not the only malt suitable for making beer, barley has become the preferred grain for several reasons. One of the primary factors that made barley the malt of choice is that it’s not very good for grinding into flour. I’ll cover this in more depth in a future post in Beer 101 where we talk some beer history. We’ll also cover other grains used in beer in a future post.


Two Row Barley

Barley is a grain member of the grass family that grows in three varieties. Two, four and six row varieties refer to the number of seeds on the stalk. Two and six row barley are the only ones that are suitable for brewing, and brewers choose which type they will use in their beer for different reasons.

Two row barley is often selected because it malts better, and because it has a higher ratio of starch to husk than six row barley. Six row barley is used because it is cheaper than two row, and it produces more enzymes for converting starch into fermentable sugar during the malting process. This extra enzyme production is key when using other ingredients that don’t produce their own enzymes or don’t produce enough for effective brewing. Two row barley is the traditional brewer’s favorite, but six row barley is very common among U.S. craft brewers.

Barley by itself is not suitable for brewing and it must be malted before it is used in beer. Malting is the process that converts the starches in the barley into soluble starch, reduces proteins and generates yeast nutrients and enzymes that are important to brewing. Barley is malted by taking the harvested grain and soaking it in water to activate the dormant kernel. The kernels are then allowed to start germinating (sprouting roots). This germination is where the seeds naturally convert starch into soluble starch which would be used as food for the new plant. Since brewers are only interested in the malted barley, it is at this point that the grain is heated in a kiln to stop the further growth and dry it out.

Roasted Malt The next step in processing the barley is to roast it. Much like coffee beans are roasted, there are varying degrees to which the grains are roasted. If the barley is simply roasted to the point that it stops the germination process, it is considered pale malt. This pale malt is the lightest form of malt in terms of color, and has the most enzymes remaining. Pale malt is used as the base malt in many beers and many breweries add pale malt to every beer they brew because it provides a solid malt sweet backbone to the beer and is much cheaper than malts that have been roasted further. The high concentration of enzymes remaining in the malt is also very important to the rest of the brewing process.

As the malt is roasted further, it becomes darker and different flavors are introduced. Amber, brown, chocolate and black malts are different varieties that are produced by heating the malt to a higher temperature. When the malt is further darkened, caramel and roast flavors come out, but the enzymes are also burned away.

After malting and roasting, the malt is ground into grist. This grist is then added to water and heated. This heating process starts the enzyme reaction and the starches in the grain are turned into sugar. This sugar is important because it is what the yeast will turn into alcohol and carbon dioxide later in the brewing process. The product of adding the grist to the water is known as sweet wort (unfermented beer).

Malt is a crucial ingredient to the flavor of the beer. It adds the sweetness of the beer and provides a balance to the bitterness introduced by the hops. Malt also provides the sugars that are used in fermenting and allow for the creation of alcohol in the beer. The malt that is used in a beer is the most obvious difference between a pale beer and a stout beer.

I hope that you learned something by reading this, and that you have a clearer understanding of one of the four main ingredients in beer. Stay tuned as my next Beer 101 post will cover another one of the main four ingredients of beer: hops. Again, if you have any questions, or clarifications, please feel free to comment, or send me a tweet.

#BCFT to Milwaukee Brewing Company

This site has been inactive for a while, but that doesn’t mean that #beerclub is done for. We’re still going strong, and each week we’re still drinking a new beer. In the last year, we’ve had field trips to different bars, beer fests, and brewery tours. With the new year, we have no plans of slowing down.

With that in mind, we’re planning an exciting field trip for January. One of our more popular field trips in 2011 was to Milwaukee Brewing Company for their tour. It was so popular that we’re doing it again.

Brewery tours are a facet of the industry that I just can’t get enough of. A mix of entertainment and education that is uniquely beer. Wineries often open their doors to the public, but usually through a tasting room. The drinker isn’t able to get the full experience and see behind the curtain and into the of the soul of the producer. Many times the breweries have such a small staff that you’ll be taking your tour with one of the head brewers or people who are working the line and know the business better than anyone.

Join us on January 28th for what promises to be a special field trip, worry of the history books. We will be meeting at the brewery at 1:00 for a special #beerclub private tour. This tour is before the doors open to the public, so we’ll have our run of the place. The tour will be as good as you can get from any brewery tour anywhere. Count on it.

If the tour wasn’t enough to grab your attention, there’s an extra special surprise in store for us. As many of you know, Milwaukee Brewing Co. is undergoing a rebranding. As a part of this rebranding, they are rolling out a completely revamped, and very cool new website. One special feature of this site is a place for #beerclub to chime in on their beers. After our tour, we’ve been invited to a special #beerclub only tasting session where we can add our thoughts to their website. It will be an event not to miss!

We’ll most likely head over to a bar after the tour, so if you’re not able to make it early enough to do the tour, feel free to tweet us to see where we end up.


RSVP and find more information here:

Take it in the Can?

I love beer from cans. There are so many advantages to the canned beer that I find it hard to believe that more breweries aren’t installing canning lines. There is still a common perception that craft beer must come in bottles. Because of this I wanted to investigate the differences myself.

Louie's Demise Immort-Ale

There are several advantages to beer in cans:

  • Light Protection: Beer does not like light. Dark brown bottles do a decent job of keeping light out, but aluminium cans do a better job. One just needs to look at a glass bottle and a can to know why.
  • Oxygen Protection: Cans get a tighter seal and keep oxygen out of the beer than a bottle cap can.
  • Cans are cheaper for the brewery to produce. Bottles usually have two labels applied to them One on the neck and one on the main bottle. Cans are painted at the factory and come pre labeled, saving the brewery the costs of attaching the labels. In addition
  • Cans don’t break as easily. It is possible to damage a can to the point that a hole can form in the packaging, but it takes a lot more force than a glass bottle to break.
  • Cans are stackable. It’s tough to stack a longneck bottle, but cans are designed to be stacked.
  • Cans take up less space. Comparing a 12 oz bottle with a 16 oz pint can it’s easy to see that the can takes up a much smaller space while still managing to hold more beer.
  • More fit in the fridge. Since they take up less space, and are easily stackable, they fit in your fridge at home better. This is good news, not only for you, but also for liquor stores who can fit more product into their coolers. Distributors can fit more cans in their trucks which should also keep prices lower.
  • Cans are more portable. Because of their higher tolerance for abuse, their smaller space, and restrictions on glass at certain venues, cans are a better option to take with you when you’re drinking out and about.
  • Cans cool down quicker. Aluminum is a better conductor of heat than glass, therefore a caned beverage will chill quicker than a bottled one.
  • Cans are more environmentally friendly. Aluminium is easier to recycle than glass, and the small plastic pieces used to hold the cans together is much smaller than the box used to keep a six back of bottles together.

Why Bottles?

If there are so many advantages to cans, why do most craft breweries still bottle their beer? The answer here is easy. Most small breweries don’t have a huge amount of cash available to them when they start out, and they buy used packaging equipment. There are more used bottling lines on the market than there are canning lines, so the equipment for bottling is much cheaper.

As cans take hold of the market in a bigger way, I expect to see more breweries follow in the footsteps of Oskar Blues, Surly and other breweries that only sell their beer in cans.

Testing, Testing, 1.2.3.

In an effort to determine the differences between canned and bottled beers for myself, I purchased some cans and bottles of Louie’s Demise from Milwaukee Brewing Company. They offer a few different beers in both cans and bottles, which makes for a good test bed so I can compare apples to apples.

I started out looking at the packages themselves. First the bottle:

Louie's Demise Ale Bottle

As you can see, the bottle has a very attractive drawing on the label. Other details on the packaging are sparse. The neck label includes the brewery’s name, a barcode, and the states where there is a deposit available for recycling. The main label lists the size of the bottle, the name of the beer, the URL for Milwaukee Brewing’s website, and the Government Warning about not drinking while pregnant, or driving a car. There isn’t room for a description of the beer, or any other information on the bottle’s labels.

The can has drastically different packaging however.

Louie's Demise Ale Can

The beer’s name is far more prevalent on the front of the can. In fact, on the back of the can, the beer’s logo is reproduced and this reproduction is only slightly smaller than the logo was on the bottle. It appears that there are some color limitations with the painting process because the background around the name, and the clouds in the drawings are very pixelated in order to reproduce the color variations present in the original drawing. Unfortunately the gravestone drawing was reduced in size and due to the paint limitations, I found it very difficult to even make out what it was supposed to be a picture of. If I didn’t have a bottle here for comparison, I wouldn’t have been able to point out that it’s a gravestone with a glass of beer and a rose on it.

However, as you turn the can around and look at the back, this is where the packaging shines. Because of the increased area for printing, they were able to reprint the logo, a description of the beer, and a suggestion to pour the beer into a glass before drinking.

Can Details

Apart from the color limitations on the front of the can, I find the cans packaging to be much more attractive than the bottle. I only wish they were able to better reproduce the gravestone drawing from the bottle because I really like that imagery.


The blind taste test
Because I wanted to keep this a blind taste test, I asked my wife to pour the two beers into identical glasses. After she poured I came over to investigate, and I found the appearance to be very similar. The glass she had poured second had a slightly larger head, but it quickly receded and both glasses became nearly indistinguishable. The beer in glass number 2 (which was later revealed to be from the bottle) was slightly darker in color, but this may have been a trick of the lighting since I can’t see evidence of it in the pictures.

Which is which?

The taste

There is a common belief that beer from a can tastes more metallic than the beer from a bottle. Modern packaging techniques include applying a coating to the inside of a can to remove any possibility of the metallic flavors intruding the beer, but does it work? Let’s face it, if there is a significant flavor difference between the two packaging options, then the argument is settled.

The results of the taste test actually surprised me a little. At first I couldn’t taste any differences between the two glasses. I let the beer warm a little and sampled again, and I still couldn’t taste any differences. When I was almost finished with both beers, I made a guess. I guessed that the contents of glass number two was the can. I thought I detected a slight metallic flavor that although it was hidden in the background, seemed to be just noticeable. I told Angie my guess and she was glad to tell me that I was wrong.

Since I’ve checked the bottle and there was no signs of a chunk of metal inside, I can only say that I’m pretty sure the metallic flavor was due to my own psychological expectations of tasting something slightly off in one of the two beers. In the end however, I’m confident to say that the flavor was not adversely effected by the canning process.

In this experiment I was able to prove my suspicions that there is no difference between the flavor of a canned beer. I will continue advocating for craft beer in cans, and I’ll continue drinking beer from a can (in a glass of course). Next time you’re in the liquor store and you’re deciding what to drink, I encourage you to take your next beer in the can.

*** EDIT***

Shortly after posting this article originally, I was told that I missed a crucial point. During the packaging process the beer is exposed to Oxygen. This is bad for beer, and should be minimized. Bottling lines have either a snifter or a knocker to help reduce the amount of oxygen in the bottle before it is sealed.  A snifter injects the bottle with water, and a knocker, well it knocks the bottle. As the beer is bottled, these tools help cause a foaming of the beer (fobbing) and that drives out excess oxygen from the bottle.

A canning line can’t do either of those steps to cause the beer to foam, so the brewer must use undercover gassing to prevent air exposure. This is the process of injecting a blanket of CO2 into the can before the package is sealed at the seam. Many cheaper canning lines don’t include this undercover gassing equipment, and therefore beer canned in one of these lines is exposed to more oxygen during the canning process.

Minimizing oxygen exposure is crucial to the quality of the beer, and an additional argument in favor of the bottling process.

Yellow, Fizzy, and Tasteless: Further Analysis of the Brewing War

I’ve received lots of responses to my previous post Wisconsin Craft Brewers Under Attack and decided I should post a follow-up to answer some questions and clarify some other aspects of my original post.

Aren’t They Exempt?

Ale Asylum Bedlam

Ale Asylum Bedlam

One question I’ve heard a lot is “I’ve seen talk about breweries with production levels of under 300,000 barrels a year are exempt, isn’t this true?” From my interpretation (I am not a lawyer) it appears that there is one provision of the motion that allows for self distribution for those breweries under 300,000 bbls. However, as outlined in the proposal on page 4 near the bottom, in order to self distribute the brewer must:

[comply] with the requirements of laws governing restrictions on dealings between brewers brewpubs, wholesalers and relatilser and laws governing distribution restrictions on wholesalers, brewers, brewpubs, and out-of-state shippers, including those imposed on wholesalers.

This seems to say that the brewery must abide by the same requirements as a wholesaler in order to self distribute. That seems fair, until you take into account existing laws and other provisions outlined in this motion that govern wholesalers.

For example, this bill mandates that new wholesalers must establish “at least 25 retail licenses or to other wholesalers that do not have any direct or indirect interest in each other or in the wholesaler” before they can legally obtain a wholesalers license. The wording of the self-distribution provision doesn’t clarify if a brewery must also have 25 customers lined up before they are allowed to self distribute, but it’s a fair reading of the bill to assume that they would.

New Glarus Enigma

New Glarus Enigma

In addition, these self distribution provisions seem to mean that a brewery can opt to distribute their own beer while foregoing the wholesaler option in a territory. Currently breweries can maintain a relationship with a wholesaler in a territory, and do some limited self distribution when it makes sense. This allows the brewery to send most of their beer to market through the wholesaler but to self distribute as necessary. To self distribute under these proposed regulations, the brewery must wrestle away distribution rights from the current distributor, and behave like a wholesaler. This makes the barriers to self distribution too high for small breweries to actually take advantage.

Double Speak

The motion has a lot of double speak in it, there is a whole section devoted to making it look like the provisions will benefit small breweries, but in fact the section does the exact opposite.

On page six we can see this language:

Repeal the following current law provisions:

  • A brewer that, together with its brewer group, manufactures not more than 50,000 barrels of beer in a calendar year in any location may be issued a wholesalere’s license for wholesale premises located on brewery premises.
  • A  brewer that together with its brewer group…

The key word in this language is repeal this is a list of rights that breweries currently have, that will be removed with passage of this motion. It’s easy to gloss over that one word, but that word is absolutely crucial to a correct understanding of the adverse effects laid forth in this motion.

Later in the document, page 7 paragraph 3 section c states:

“Instead, provide and an exemption from these provisions for small brewer sales to retailers and restaurants operated by a brewer.”

This language needs to be clarified. In its current syntax, it’s easy to say there’s an exemption here. However, nothing in this document explains/defines/clarifies what this exemption is. All we have is an indefinite article, “an exemption,” which tells us little. Also, one could easily interpret the sentence to mean the exemption only allows small brewers to sell to retailers and restaurants operated by a brewer. In other words, small brewers are not allowed to sell to establishments (retailers and restaurants) not operated by a brewer, basically, the majority of the marketplace.

Legislators Response

Upon sending an email to my representative, I got this response:


We have recently gotten a few e-mails on this issue and here is what I know. I think that there may be some mis-information floating around but these are the facts.

GOP Sen. Glenn Grothman and Dem Sen. Bob Jauch were the only two members to vote against the motion that you reference that makes changes regarding the wholesale distribution of beer.

Among other things, the motion regarding three-tiered beer laws gives licensing authority over wholesalers for the sale of beer from premises to the state Department of Revenue. Currently, municipalities can issue the permits. Under the motion, people holding unexpired municipal wholesaler’s licenses prior to Jan. 1 must be treated as wholesalers holding valid licenses until Jan. 1, 2013, whereupon all municipal licenses will be voided.

The motion deletes a current provision that prohibits the consumption of beer on a wholesaler’s premises. The motion specifies that a wholesaler’s permit may not be issued to a person who holds a brewers permit. It also eliminates a grandfather provision that allows a person to hold a wholesaler’s license, a retail beer permit or license, an industrial beer permit, or a brewpub permit.

It also eliminates a provision that allows a brewer to hold a wholesaler’s license and a Class “B” license for on- or off-premises sales of beer. While a wholesaler is prohibited from holding a retail license, a wholesaler is allowed to sell or give beer to its employees under the motion.

Any wholesaler issued a retail license prior to Jan. 1, 2011 may continue to sell the beer at retails as permitted under the retail license. The motion eliminates the current fee for a municipal wholesaler’s license, but instead requires DOR to determine a beer wholesaler’s permit fee in an amount sufficient to fund one special agent position dedicated to alcohol and tobacco enforcement in an amount not to exceed $2,500 per year.

The motion also specifies that a wholesaler may not hold an ownership interest in any brewer unless that interest was established prior to the effective date of the bill.

Something to keep in mind also is that this legislation does not affect breweries that produce less than 300,000 barrels a year and, for to put this into perspective, New Glarus produced 92,000 in 2010. This legislation just keeps Anheuser-Busch from monopolizing the beer market in Wisconsin.

This motion passed 12-2 and I am not aware of nor do I anticipate any detrimental impact on small businesses but please let me know if you have a specific concern.

Hope this helps,


It’s clear that Rep. Kapenga is missing the true effects this legislation will have on small breweries. As I outlined in my previous post, and further explained in this one, there are very real consequences for these small brewers, and I haven’t covered every aspect of the motion.

For a more complete rundown of the effects of this proposed legislation, check out this post on the Madison Beer Review, or this letter from Stacey McGinnis at Tyranena.

The Time is Now

We don’t have much time to fight back. The budget along with this motion is being pushed through at breakneck speeds, and we need your help to stop it. Keep up the pressure and please take action if you haven’t already. Again here are the steps you can take to support these small businesses:

  1. Ask your favorite bars and restaurants to take down their MillerCoors taps.
  2. Call or write your state legislators and tell them to stand up for Wisconsin brewers by opposing changes to Chapter 125.
  3. Call MillerCoors at 1-800-645-5376 and tell them to stop supporting this provision.
  4. Join the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild as a Wisconsin Beer Lover.

These proposals, much like the beer produced by MillerCoors show the true nature of the international conglomerate brewer. One of the most special things about the craft beer industry is the spirit of collaboration that it enjoys. These little breweries, even though they are in competition with each other, also celebrate victories, and join forces for the good of the beer, and the beer drinker. The big brewers share no such comradeship and are out to be as vicious as possible to this new competition.

These provisions are evidence of MillerCoors’ fear of the rise of craft beer. They are doing anything they can to make competition more difficult for the little breweries and hiding behind campaign donations to influence the laws and drive small businesses out of their market. Everything about this MillerCoors legislation leaves a bad taste in my mouth, just like their beer.


Mitch Jurisch

I had help with interpreting the legislation and writing this post from a representative of a local brewery who chose to remain nameless to prevent a possible reprisal.

Wisconsin Craft Brewers Under Attack

This post appears on the twitter #beerclub blog and on the Tosa Patch Beer Club Blog. These sites are here to help beer drinkers learn about their beverages and everything that goes into making them. Because of this, I’m delving a little into the background of the proposals. I am not a lawyer, a brewer, nor am I a journalist. I’m just a guy who loves beer and doesn’t want to see our lawmakers take away the thing I love. Because of my non-expert status I welcome any corrections, clarifications and comments.

The Background

We are living in a golden age in craft beer in America and Wisconsin. The big breweries and their tasteless yellow fizzy beers are losing market share while the artisan craft market is growing by leaps and bounds. In 2010 in the midst of our current economic climate, the overall beer market lost 1% in revenue. At that same time there was a 12% growth in revenue for craft brewers. Craft breweries are making a serious dent in the market share for the yellow fizzy beer producers that have had all the power in the industry for far too long.

Lakefront Bridge Burner

Wisconsin has been at the forefront of this beer revolution. There are more than 60 craft breweries in Wisconsin, and three of them are among the 50 largest craft breweries in the country. Wisconsin isn’t in a leadership position in the craft beer world by coincidence. Wisconsin is home to craft beer pioneers who have been brewing since well before craft beer was cool. Not many states have even close to as many well established, long standing craft breweries as we enjoy here. One of the reasons we have such a presence of small breweries is because of the laws we have governing them.

It wasn’t always this way. After Prohibition was repealed with the 21st ammendment, new laws were introduced to change the alcohol culture of the United States, and avoid a repeat of the events running up to prohibition. Chief among these laws was the establishment of the three tier system in an effort to do away with tied houses.

Sprecher IPA2

Sprecher IPA2

Pre-prohibition there were many “tied houses” which is a fancy way of saying a bar that was tied with a particular brewery. Breweries took advantage of owning the distribution channels and applied pressure to consumers to encourage more drinking. This in turn lead to overindulgence and abuse of the system by many consumers. When prohibition came and went, the government wanted to learn from their mistakes and designed a three tier system to limit the future possibility of these kinds of abuses.

The three tier system mandates that there are three entities that must handle our beverage before we get our hands on it. Under this system a brewer must sell any beer it produces to a distributor and that distributor must sell it to the retail establishment. This limits the brewery’s ability to have a tap room, restaurants, or self distribute. For more details about the three tier system I highly recommend that you watch Beer Wars.

Fortunately for Wisconsin breweries, there have been exemptions to this system. Under current law, a brewery can have ownership in up to two restaurants, hold a wholesaler license, self distribute their product and have a tap room at the brewery. These exemptions open alternate revenue streams and marketing opportunities for breweries that they wouldn’t have otherwise.

The Proposal

Capital Brewery Supper Club

Capital Brewery Supper Club

Now that I’ve explained a small amount of where we are, let’s get into the details of what’s happening in the state capital. Right now, MillerCoors and some powerful lobbying groups are engaging in a war on the small craft brewers under the guise of writing laws to prevent Anheuser-Busch from buying wholesale distributors in Wisconsin.

Since Anheuser-Busch is such a large brewery, they often make up the majority of one distributor’s stock. They have the money and influence to keep small breweries off of store shelves. MillerCoors and the distributors are afraid that with this money, ABInbev (parent company of Anheuser-Busch) will start buying up distributors so they can be rid of the middle man and make more profits from the sale of their beers.

This particular proposal may or may not be good for beer drinkers, but that’s besides the point. Included in the legislation is a nine page motion that will revoke many of the rights that small breweries rely on to stay competitive against the big brewers.

This legislation was drafted, and passed through the joint finance committee without any input from the public, or the breweries that it would directly affect. Let’s look at some of the limitations that come from this proposed legislation:

  • Eliminates the current option of a brewer choosing to self-distribute or starting a Wholesale Distribution Company.
  • Eliminates a brewers current right to have ownership in two restaurants.
  • Protects (Grandfather Clause) current Wholesalers retail licenses, while eliminating that benefit for new start up Wholesalers.
  • Unfairly burdens new Wholesalers and breweries with a requirement of 25 separate independent retail customers before a Wholesale license can be granted.
  • Eliminates the ability of Brewers to sell existing retail or wholesale operations separately from the brewing operation.
  • Eliminates current Wholesale investment in privately held Wisconsin Breweries while allowing investment in out of state and foreign and publicly traded breweries.
  • Moves the power of licensing wholesalers from municipalities to the state level under the jurisdiction of the State Department of Revenue.
  • Only wholesalers are allowed to sample beer at retail (on and off premise) establishments, not the breweries. Consequently, the people who know their beer the best cannot do sampling. Furthermore, they are subject to the distributors’ schedule.

These proposals have a direct impact on the bottom line of small breweries. It’s clear that this legislation is designed to limit the growth of small breweries by removing the life lines they rely on. MillerCoors and the distributors are taking advantage of the political climate and making a power grab while they can.

To make matters worse, both of the large breweries at the heart of this legislation are foreign owned companies. SABMiller, parent company of MillerCoors, is headquartered in London, United Kingdon, and ABInbev, parent company of Anheuser-Busch is headquartered in Leuven, Belgium. These two global powerhouses of the brewing industry are crushing Wisconsin based businesses and threatening the artisan industry here in our state.

This legislation has passed the Joint Finance Committee and is now waiting to be tacked onto the full Wisconsin Budget Bill.

The Call To Action

We need to tell Wisconsin lawmakers that we’re not going to let them hurt local Wisconsin entrepreneurs and businesses just so they can help a conglomerate foreign owned brewery crush its competition.

O'So Lupulin Maximus

O'So Lupulin Maximus

While you could go to Madison and protest this legislation, there are actions you can take from home.

  1. Ask your favorite bars and restaurants to take down their MillerCoors taps.
  2. Call or write your state legislators and tell them to stand up for Wisconsin brewers by opposing changes to Chapter 125.
  3. Call MillerCoors at 1-800-645-5376 and tell them to stop supporting this provision.
  4. Join the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild as a Wisconsin Beer Lover.

Let’s show the Wisconsin Legislature that it’s the Fourth Tier that’s the most important, the drinkers!

If you’re still reading this article, you deserve a beer. Go get yourself one and pass this info along to the beer lovers in your life.

#beerclub gives back

When I started #beerclub I wasn’t sure what it would become. I had visions of trying a new beer each week, but the friendships forged over the virtual bar are what really make the club what it is. We’ve sampled beers from several breweries, been on brewery tours and been to a bunch of great beer bars. It’s been fun, but I’d like to take this club to a place we haven’t been before.

It’s time that #beerclub gave back to the community at large. Most of you in the Milwaukee area know Julie Larsen. She’s not much of a beer drinker, but she is a friend of #beerclub and she’s sat in on a few meetings. She’s putting together a huge fundraiser for the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network called PurpleStride Milwaukee.

PurpleStride is a two mile walk along our beautiful lakefront. Participants can make donations themselves, or get their friends and family to sponsor them.

Not only am I doing this walk because of Julie’s commitment, but I have a very personal connection to pancreatic cancer. My father-in-law was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July of 2006. I didn’t know much about that particular kind of cancer at the time but I did learn pretty quickly that it was one of the worst types of cancer out there.

We were lucky and his tumor was blocking his liver and he had symptoms far before most pancreatic cancer victims. It was caught early and he put up an amazing fight. He eventually succumbed and died in December of 2008.

Gary would have loved #beerclub even if he couldn’t partake. He was a member of AA for many years though the second A didn’t mean much to him personally. He was a very generous man who fought hard to help as many alcoholics as he could. He spent every Friday night that he could, going to detox in Minneapolis and talking to the inmates. He was always helping alcoholics and fighting alcoholism in any way he could.

Despite this alcoholic past and his personal crusade against alcoholism he was at peace with that part of his life. He loved going to the liquor store and seeing all the new flavors that were coming out. If the family was having a party or other get together he would be the one supplying the beverages. I will never forget him distributing drink tickets at our wedding. Lets just say that the bridal party had enough to drink that night and they had Gary to thank for it. As long as you were being responsible, Gary was glad to get you another drink.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is a great organization helping people who really need it. They provide funding to research, offer assistance and answers to families who are struggling to come to grips with this awful disease, and probably most importantly they provide hope to patients.

This is why it’s so fitting that we’ve created a #beerclub team for the PurpleStride walk. Raising money for the fight against Pancreatic Cancer and combining it with beer is perfect.

I want to personally challenge everyone who can to join in and support this cause. The day of the walk promises to be fun and you’ll feel great knowing that your efforts will be helping people who really need it. We’ve created a #beerclub team and would love to have you join in.

#beerclub Year in Review

It’s hard to believe that we’ve been doing #beerclub for a year now. When I started this little thing, I had no idea what it would become, and it’s grown in ways I never could have imagined. I’ve met friends, expanded my beer horizons, been to new bars and breweries, and had a lot of fun doing it.

The idea of #beerclub stemmed from public radio host John Moe’s now defunct #candyclub. They met once a week, ate candy and talked about it on twitter. I had participated in #candyclub a few times when inspiration struck me to create a #beerclub. If they could do it with candy bars, why couldn’t we do it with beers? I approached the guys at Blatz Liquor with the idea and they were on board. A week or two later, we were drinking and tweeting.

The first night of #beerclub we drank Point Brewery’s 2012 Black Ale. There weren’t many of us drinking that night, but I could tell that this was going to be something special. Over the next months we grew, slowly gaining attention from across the internet. As of today we’ve had almost 100 participants from all around the country, and sampled some great (and not so great) beers.

As the group got to know each other, we decided that we should meet in person. The first #beerclubfieldtrip happened in June of last year. We had sampled Lakefront Brewery’s Fixed Gear on one of the #beerclub nights and the discussion turned to the fact that several participants had never been to Lakefront for the tour. As an avid Lakefront tour fan, I knew that we had to do the tour as a group. The first field trip was such a huge success, we all knew we had to do it again.

Since that first tour, we’ve had several field trips. We’ve done the tours at Lakefront Brewery, Sprecher Brewery and Milwaukee Brewing. We’ve also met for drinks at the Glendale Oktoberfest, Roman’s Pub, and Sugar Maple. In 2011 we’ve made a point to have one field trip each month. Plans for future field trips range from big day long voyages to Chicago or Madison to gathering at local pubs. Be sure to follow this blog space for details of the future trips. There has even been talk of field trips especially for the South Central Wisconsin drinkers.

Since the demise of Blatz Liquor, I’ve been lucky enough to team up with Joel from The Wine Cellar of Wisconsin to help with selecting beers. Since they are primarily a wine shop we haven’t been able to source every beer we’ve sampled from them, but he has been very helpful in picking beers, and stocking the BOTW when possible. We even have some ideas that we’re kicking around for a future field trip to the shop. With the increased focus on beer at his store Joel has conscripted Dan to start a new BeerCellarofWI account on twitter. Stay tuned to this account for more #beerclub related news.

One of the things I want to emphasize is that #beerclub is more than just me. Without the active participation of you, the members of the club, this would be nothing more than me drinking beer on Monday nights at my house. I guess what I’m trying to say here is that I’m no more responsible for the success of #beerclub than you are. Because of that, I am very open to suggestions for how we can improve the club. Be it a beer of the week suggestion, a field trip you’d like to take, a blog post you’d like to write, or a even format change for Monday nights. #beerclub is what we all make of it, so please don’t hesitate to make your suggestion, ask me a question, or heck, just go out and make the changes yourself.

As we enter into the second year of #beerclub, I have some ideas to spur conversations, grow the club, and make it more educational. I don’t want to turn the club into Beer 101 class or take the fun out of drinking, but I do want to see more conversation, more active participation and more experimentation as we go forward. I’ll be posting some of those ideas here on this blog for feedback in the weeks to come. Again, if you have suggestions, or ideas please don’t hesitate to approach me.

I appreciate everyone who has ever joined us on a Monday night, or at a field trip, but I do feel I need to make a special mention of Genevieve and Craig who have been with the club since the very first meeting. Genevieve in particular has the honor of actually managing to make it to more #beerclub meetings than I have (I missed once due to family obligations, and another due to a wicked hangover). Thank you both for helping mold #beerclub into what it has become.

With that, I’ll simply say Cheers! and here’s to many more years of drinking beers with good friends!


PS: don’t forget to join our Flickr group, our Facebook group, and to RSVP for the next #beerclubfieldtrip

#beerclub BOTW: New Glarus Brewery Cabin Fever

We’ve been cooped up indoors waiting for winter to pass for months now. Cabin Fever has set in and we’re ready to get back outdoors. Unfortunately Mother Nature isn’t cooperating and it’s still cold and snowy outside. This is when we need a special beer to break the monotony and help us make it till spring.

Thankfully, New Glarus Brewing is all too familiar with this feeling and they created Cabin Fever for this very reason. A honey bock, this beer promises to be sweet and delicious and just what we need on a cold February night.

From their website:

Cool days draw us close to the warmth of home fires. This is the season to sip away the chill and embrace quiet evenings with friends and family.

You hold a Wisconsin Style Honey Bock, easy going and more approachable than its traditional dark German cousin. Bock beers have existed in Wisconsin for over 150 years. This pale bock is brewed with an exclusive blend of Wisconsin two row barley that balances seamlessly with our special European hops. Naturally sweet Clover Honey was added in the kettle accenting warm flavor notes on your tongue.

Whether you reminisce the passing summer sun or thrill to squeaky steps through drifting snow one thing is certain about winter in Wisconsin, this too shall pass.

Style Pale Wisconsin Honey Bock
Flavor Naturally sweet Clover Honey was added in the kettle accenting warm flavor notes on your tongue.
Alcohol 5.50% by volume
Pairings Foods:BratsLambCurryGraham CrackersHamPorkBBQ saucesCheeses:Dunbarton Blue (Cheddar from Roelli Cheese)
Available in 6 packs, Cases, 1/2 Barrels and 1/4 Barrels

Join the #beerclub as we drink New Glarus Brewing Cabin Fever. Monday February 21st. 8PM Central. Don’t forget, we’re doing the February #beerclubfieldtrip this Saturday at Sugar Maple. Details and RSVP on the twitvite.

#beerclub BOTW: Bell’s Hopslam

Bell's Hopslam

Bell’s Hopslam

It’s that time of year again, Bell’s Hopslam is on shelves. This is the third highest rated Double IPA on, and another of the more highly anticipated beer releases of the season.

What makes it so special? It’s a 10% ABV beer with generous amounts of hops that maintains a balanced flavor thanks in part to the addition of honey to the brew.

From the Bell’s Brewery Site:

Starting with six different hop varietals added to the brew kettle & culminating with a massive dry-hop addition of Simcoe hops, Bell’s Hopslam Ale possesses the most complex hopping schedule in the Bell’s repetoire. Selected specifically because of their aromatic qualities, these Pacific Northwest varieties contribute a pungent blend of grapefruit, stone fruit, and floral notes. A generous malt bill and a solid dollop of honey provide just enough body to keep the balance in check, resulting in a remarkably drinkable rendition of the Double India Pale Ale style.

Alcohol by Volume: 10.0%
Original Gravity: 1.087
Shelf Life: 6 months
Dates Available: Winter seasonal
Available Packages: Bottle, draft, and 5 liter (1.32 gal.) mini-keg

Join us Monday night February 7th 8PM Central as the #beerclub drinks Bell’s Hopslam.

#beerclub BOTW: Hinterland Winterland

Hinterland Winterland

Hinterland Winterland

We’re not out of winter just yet, and there are several winter themed beers that we can sample from. Hinterland Brewing is one of the newer breweries to release their product into the retail market, and they’ve been making a splash with their beers. Last summer #beerclub drank their Cherry Wheat beer and it was generally well received. It’s time to revisit their brews and this time we’re sampling their Winterland porter.


Opaque, deep brown to black color. Rich roasted malt flavor. Generous hop bitterness and aroma. Reminiscent of a porter or stout with a surprising juniper berry finish.

Join the #beerclub as we drink this Wisconsin Porter, Monday Jan 31st at 8:00 PM central.