Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Andrew Roth Takes Over at Fox River

For the first time in a decade, there's a new brewmaster at Fox River Brewing Company. He's 29-year-old Andrew Roth.

Andrew Roth in Fox River’s Oshkosh brewhouse.
Roth becomes the sixth brewmaster at Fox River since the brewery opened in 1995. He replaces Kevin Bowen, who left Fox River earlier this month. Although Roth may be new as brewmaster, he isn't new to Fox River. He's been the lead brewer there for the past 10 months. Before coming to Fox River, Roth had worked as an assistant brewer at Pearl Street Brewery in La Crosse.

Roth will be leading a brewery that has seen its fortunes rise significantly over the past four years. Production has more than doubled in that time. Much of that growth is attributable to the popularity of BLÜ Bobber, Fox River's flagship beer. Roth doesn't have any intention of tinkering with that success. "I think I'd be fired if I went to change BLÜ Bobber," Roth says. "The Bago Brews are not going anywhere, that won't be changing."

But there will be plenty of other changes. "You're going to start seeing a lot of new stuff coming through," Roth says. "I'm still figuring out the schedule, but we're going to introduce a series of new beers in the taprooms with new releases coming out on Thursdays. We’re going to have a more planned release schedule and give people advance notice when new beers go on. We need to get better about that."

Among the first of the new beers will be Hoppy Otter, a hop-forward lager that defies easy categorization. It's made from English malts, German yeast, and American hops. "I can't think of a style for it in all honesty," Roth says. "It doesn't fit most of the guidelines. It's one I've done at home a few times and it’s always gone over well."

Though he began brewing professionally in 2015, Roth's approach is still very much rooted in the homebrew ethos of experimentation and creativity. He began making mead in 2010 and then stepped into beer after his father gave him a homebrewing kit for Christmas. "I kind of just got sucked into it," he says. "It consumes you. After a year or two of homebrewing, I realized I was sticking inordinate amounts of my time and energy into it. I hit kind of a wall in what I could do. I mean, it's hard to afford things like a lab or filtration when you're brewing at home. So I figured, if I'm going to keep brewing this much, somebody is going to need to start paying me for it."

Roth was making plans to launch a nano-brewery when he was hired by Pearl Street in 2015 as an apprentice brewer. He moved from Fond du Lac, where he had grown up, to La Crosse, but still maintained his ties to the local homebrewing community. Since 2016 he's been teaching a series of weekend brewing classes at The Cellar Brew Shop in Oshkosh. He's also remained active in the Central Wisconsin Vintners & Brewers, a homebrew club based out of Fond du Lac. Roth says now he'll need to begin drawing back from some of those activities.

As brewmaster at Fox River, Roth will have five brewers working under him and breweries in Appleton and Oshkosh to oversee. He's already begun making changes in the brewhouse. "We have a very manual system and we operate it off a lot of old school methods," Roth says. "I'm looking to bring modernization and more modern techniques to the brewhouse. And we are definitely looking at getting a deeper amount of lab work done."

All of this signals something of a new direction for Fox River. The continuity of the brewery's approach has been one of its strong points. But it's also left Fox River behind the curve when it comes to attracting the attention of drinkers seeking something other than the tried and true styles. That should begin to change under Roth. “I'm enjoying bringing some modernity to the brewery,” he says.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent leader to work under. Exciting changes and experiments to come. The next couple years I think Fox River Brewing is where adventurous beer drinkers are going to see (more importantly taste & experience) something new & different. A brewer that isn't afraid of change or taking on more demand. They already have been. Time to crank it another notch! Come enjoy the palate party!