Friday, November 15, 2013

Wisconsin Brewing Co. Arrives in Oshkosh

The Wisconsin Brewing Co. is now up an running and this week its beers landed on stores shelves in Oshkosh. In case you missed it, WBC is the first Wisconsin craft brewer to start big. From its new, $11 million brewery in Verona, WI. the company is aiming to produce 20,000 barrels of beer in its first year of operation with an eye towards eventually outputting 250,000 barrels annually. Let’s put that in perspective: Wisconsin’s largest craft brewer, New Glarus Brewing, produced approximately 127,000 barrels of beer last year; while Central Waters Brewing – a mid-sized Wisconsin craft brewer – produced less than 15,000 barrels... and they’ve been in business 15 years.

Size isn’t the only thing WBC has going for it. Two of its principals, WBC president, Carl Nolan, along with Kirby Nelson, the brewery’s vice president and brewmaster, were a major part of the team responsible for building Capital Brewery into one of Wisconsin’s largest and most respected craft breweries. So when Nolan announced the launch of WBC last year, the start-up immediately gained a lot of attention.

Big deal. Is the beer any good? Depends what you’re looking for. A brewery that leaps out of the gate the way this one has needs to produce beers that will appeal to a wide base. And that’s what they’ve done. The four beers they’re leading with – Brown & Robust Porter, Amber Lager, Session IPA and American IPA –  are all familiar tasting brews. They may not be life altering, but they are well made, flavorful beers and there’s never anything wrong with that.

My favorite of the bunch is the porter. It has a chocolatey nose with a full-bodied, rounded malt flavor that sports plenty of roast and a nicely bitter finish. The American IPA is good, too. It’s a sturdy, Midwestern IPA with a chewy malt base that almost balances its wallop of hoppy pine and grapefruit flavors. The Amber Lager isn’t doing it for me. I wish that wasn’t the case. I'm a lager lover and this isn’t bad, but it has a little too much butter at the start and a little too much bitter at the end. As for the Session IPA... meh. I have no use for this style. If you want an IPA, drink an IPA, not some Shirley Temple version of a venerated ale. That said, this is as good as any of the other half-way IPAs I've tasted. If you'd like to try them all, Festival Foods is carrying the full flight.

Overall, I'd say it’s a decent start, I just wish they would have gone a little further out on a limb with one of their initial offerings. Shit, how about a good old Kellerbier or a Gr├Ątzer? I’ll bet Kirby Nelson could brew the hell out of either of those. Here's to hoping we find out.

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