Thursday, September 27, 2018

Barrel 41 Brewing will Open this Fall in Neenah

Barrel 41 Brewing has an origin story that epitomizes how small breweries come to be these days. It begins with three friends gathered around a homebrew kettle. As tends to happen in that setting, the idea of opening a brewery is entertained. Now, about two years later, those three friends are on the verge of going pro.

Neenah natives Lance Goodman, Matt Stubing, and Nate Sharpless have known each other since they were kids. "We were friends from high school," says Goodman, "but after that, we all went our separate ways." Goodman landed in Madison. Sharpless and Stubing headed for Milwaukee.

"Then we bought some equipment and started making beer together," says Sharpless. And that's where the "41" of Barrel 41 comes in. "We always had to get on Highway 41 to get back home and get together," Goodman says.

From left to right, Nate Sharpless, Matt Stubing, and Lance Goodman of Barrel 41.
These days, the three of them are together most of the time. "We all kind of kicked it into gear this past June and started working full-time with it," says Stubing. "The last month especially has been pretty crazy."

They leased a vacant storefront at 1132 South Commercial Street in Neenah and then gutted it. The interior remodeling is well underway.

1132 South Commercial Street, Neenah. Barrel 41 will occupy the space on the right side of the building.
Yesterday they took delivery of their cooperage and brewing system – a seven-barrel electric brewery from Stout Tanks and Kettles of Portland. They have their federal permit in hand and their state permit being reviewed. "We should be able to brew by the week of October 15," says Goodman. That’ll put Barrel 41 on track for the fall opening Goodman, Sharpless, and Stubing have been anticipating.

Sharpless, who has been an assistant brewer at Bare Bones in Oshkosh and has worked at Lion's Tail in Neenah, will be the head brewer for Barrel 41. The seven-barrel brewery will feed five seven-barrel fermenters. He'll also have a one-barrel pilot system to work with.

From the September 26 delivery of the Barrel 41 brew system. 

Recipes for the beer that will come out of those kegs were developed at the Sunday brew sessions that inspired Barrel 41. The plan is to present a wide range, from Continental European ale styles to modern ales that showcase American hops.

"We'll kind of feel it out and see how the first beers go over," says Sharpless. "We'd like to continually introduce new beers as we go along. We're going to have a lot of variety. We plan on covering all the bases."

The taproom will open with 16 draft lines. "We're shooting for eight of those being our own beer, with three of them being experimental, pilot batches," says Sharpless. "We're hoping we can round out the rest of the taps with beer from other local breweries along with a gluten-free beer from Alt Brew in Madison."

Most of Barrel 41's beer will pour in the brewery's own taproom. "We'll do a limited amount of draft distribution locally," says Sharpless, "but not over the top, just a handful of places." They'll also sell canned beer directly from the brewery in 25.4 and 32-ounce crowlers. The projected taproom hours are Monday through Thursday, 3-10 pm; Fridays, 3-midnight; and Saturdays, noon-midnight. Light snacks will also be available there.

When completed, the 3100 square-foot brewery and taproom will include a lounge area between a window bar and the main “L” shaped bar made up of 24 and 14-foot sections. The brewery will be visible at the back of the space.

"I think what we're bringing aesthetically to the taproom is going to keep people interested," says Sharpless. "Our commitment to this is over the top. We've put so much thought into every square inch of the place. Everything in here is going to be a talking piece. We'll have murals, a wood-pile wall; the bar is going to be made up from a couple of massive slabs of white oak."

The brewery is bound to bring a boost to a part of Neenah in need of new blood. "Everyone in the area seems to be pretty excited about it," says Stubing. "We're hoping this will help spur the revitalization of South Commercial Street. Maybe this could be the start of a facelift for this stretch."

You can track the progress of Barrel 41 Brewing by signing up for their email list or by following the brewery's Facebook and Instagram pages.

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