What’s brew­ing in Bay View?

Wisconsin Gazette - - Opinion - By Michael Muck­ian Con­tribut­ing writer

For Mil­wau­kee na­tive Kyle Vet­ter, “ur­ban farm­house” de­scribes the style of the beers he pro­duces at 1840 Brew­ing Co., the lat­est of four craft brew­eries to sprout up in Mil­wau­kee’s Bay View neigh­bor­hood in re­cent years.

Vet­ter’s process — one he learned while at­tend­ing col­lege in Colorado and pol­ish­ing his skills at the Aspen Brew­ing Co. — repli­cates as­pects of the tra­di­tional Bel­gian farm­house brew­ing style, but with 21st cen­tury twists. The blend of old and new re­flects the rapidly gen­tri­fy­ing neigh­bor­hood the brew­ery calls home.

In ad­di­tion to Vet­ter’s two-month-old en­ter­prise, Bay View’s brew­ing ranks in­clude:

so named for the al­der­manic dis­trict in which it stands.

lo­cated in the Lin­coln Ware­house, a build­ing that serves as a busi­ness in­cu­ba­tor for en­ter­prises seek­ing wide-open

spa­ces at lower prices.

also lo­cated in the Lin­coln Ware­house.

On a re­cent Fri­day night, a friend and I went on a pub crawl of the neigh­bor­hood and found a va­ri­ety of brew­ing and busi­ness mod­els, as well as some very im­pres­sive brews.

Come along …

ROLL OUT THE BAR­RELS

A small crowd gath­ered Sept. 8 in­side the burn­tor­ange store­front on East Ward Street that houses 1840 Brew­ing Com­pany. They were there for the in­au­gu­ral meet­ing of the brew­ery’s VIP club — and one of the first pub­lic tast­ings of its beers.

Ex­cept for a small sign by the front door and a back bar of beer-filled Cham­pagne bot­tles vis­i­ble through its open garage-door-style win­dows, there were few in­di­ca­tions of an in­no­va­tive brew­ery at work.

The rea­son for that in a mo­ment.

Vet­ter, his wife Stephanie Vet­ter — a na­tive of Fort Collins, Colorado — and their black lab wel­comed mem­bers to the tap­room.

So far, about 100 club mem­bers pay an an­nual fee of $175 (or $200 to in­clude a plus-one) for a va­ri­ety of ben­e­fits, in­clud­ing ac­cess to two of three tast­ings sched­uled each month. 1840 Brew­ing is one of the few area brew­eries with such a club.

The name 1840 is an homage to the year Mil­wau­kee’s first brew­ery — thought to be the Owens Brew­ery, opened by Welsh im­mi­grant Richard Owens — be­gan op­er­a­tions, six years be­fore the city of Mil­wau­kee it­self was in­cor­po­rated.

The brew­ery — lo­cated in a for­mer book bindery — is all wood and steel beams, with ta­bles and chairs scat­tered over its paint-spat­tered con­crete floor. The back of the room, lined with at least two dozen for­mer wine and liquor bar­rels, also is dis­tin­guished by the lack of any brew­ing equip­ment.

That seem­ing la­cuna is be­cause Vet­ter em­ploys what he calls the “re­lease model,” adapted from his days man­ag­ing Aspen Brew­ing’s bar­rel op­er­a­tion.

Un­der that model, Vet­ter con­tracts with Mil­wau­kee craft brew­eries to pro­duce wort, the foun­da­tional mix­ture of wa­ter, malted grain and hops best de­scribed as un­fer­mented beer. He then fer­ments and bar­rel ages the beer in the 1840 bar­rel­house, in­oc­u­lat­ing the wort with his own dis­tinc­tive yeast va­ri­eties and al­low­ing it to in­cor­po­rate fla­vor nu­ances from the bar­rels, some of which are from Ge­orge Dickel and Heaven Hill whiskey dis­til­leries.

“We brew to cre­ate a ‘house-sour’ cul­ture with a lot of barn­yard funk,” Vet­ter says in ref­er­ence to his beers’ Bel­gian-style. “I’m a self­ish brewer and brew to my own taste, tak­ing one type of beer and turn­ing it into many dif­fer­ent things.”

Four beers were on of­fer, and they all re­flected Vet­ter’s per­sonal pref­er­ences while show­cas­ing his brew­ing prow­ess. They were pro­duced from wort brewed at Third Space Brew­ing on St. Paul Av­enue, Green­dale’s Ex­plo­rium Brew­pub and Com­pany Brew­ing in the River­west neigh­bor­hood.

The Ge­orge Dickel bar­rels were put to good use in ag­ing the Stone Cas­tle Sai­son (5.8 per­cent al­co­hol by vol­ume), which could eas­ily be­come 1840’s flag­ship beer. The farm­house-style brew’s funky fla­vor — fu­eled by sac­cha­romyces and bret­tanomyces yeasts — was bal­anced by the bar­rel’s in­flu­ence, which lent notes of oak, vanilla and other fla­vors to the beer.

The bour­bon in­flu­ence was re­mark­ably sub­tle, but like a fine spirit, it gained greater pres­ence and aroma as it warmed to room tem­per­a­ture.

The other three beers (all 6.4 per­cent ABV) were vari­a­tions on Vet­ter’s Sume­rian Ori­gin Wheat Ale, aged ei­ther in Chardon­nay, Caber­net Sau­vi­gnon or bour­bon bar­rels. The wine va­ri­etals added a vi­nous nose and sub­tle fruit fla­vor to the beers, which lacked the funk of the Stone Cas­tle Sai­son but of­fered com­plex palates of their own.

The bour­bon once again es­tab­lished a sub­tle pres­ence, only to be­come more pro­nounced as its re­spec­tive beer warmed.

“I build my beer recipes to stand up to the bour­bon,” Vet­ter notes. “It’s all about bal­ance for me.”

TRY BE­FORE YOU BUY THE CU­CUM­BER BEER

From 1840, my buddy and I wan­dered around the cor­ner to Dis­trict 14 Brew­ery & Pub. Opened in 2014, Dis­trict 14 is the old­est of the four new brew­eries.

Brewer Matt Mc­Cul­loch’s small three-bar­rel sys­tem, lo­cated in a win­dowed room just off the tap­room, brews a sur­pris­ing num­ber of in­ven­tive beers.

The first one to catch my eye on the chalk­board beer menu was Cuker Brah (4.6 per­cent ABV), a cu­cum­ber sai­son. The bar­tender’s ad­vice: Try it be­fore you buy it.

We did. It was well bal­anced, re­fresh­ing and, well, very cu­cum­ber-y. We were glad to have tried it and checked it off our bucket lists. The flight we pur­chased was no less in­ven­tive, but much more in line with my per­sonal tastes.

The Sec­ond Ses­sion Bel­gian Sin­gle (5.3 per­cent ABV) was nicely made, bright and smooth on the palate with a sur­pris­ingly flo­ral nose. The Cho­co­matic Love Ma­chine (6.9 per­cent ABV) lived up to its name, of­fer­ing a dark beer with a rich, choco­late palate filled with bright fla­vors and char­ac­ter­ized by a dry fin­ish.

The Love Ma­chine, the first higher al­co­hol beer of the night, was fol­lowed in short or­der by the Oaked Bel­gian Quad (10 per­cent ABV), pro­duced in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Ex­plo­rium and MobCraft, a rel­a­tively new ar­rival from Madi­son to the Walker’s Point neigh­bor­hood. Clean and smooth with a malty sweet­ness, the beer wasn’t as strong on Bel­gian char­ac­ter­is­tics as it

Dis­trict 14 Brew­ery & Pub,

En­light­ened Brew­ing Com­pany,

Ea­gle Park Brew­ing Com­pany,

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