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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Milwaukee’s New Brew in Town

Randy Sprecher launches Chameleon Brewing

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Here in Milwaukee the Sprecher name is a familiar one. It can be found all over town, from the labels on the gourmet soda and craft beer produced at the Sprecher Brewery in Glendale, to the signs that show sponsorship of a number of local events and charities. The brewery’s founder, Randy Sprecher, is known for using Old World brewing traditions to create year-round, seasonal, premium reserve and limited release European-style ales and lagers. To stake a claim in the popular American craft brewing movement, Sprecher has formed a new brewing company, called Chameleon Brewing, to make American-style craft beers.

Randy Sprecher is one of the pioneers of the microbrewing movement that took the country by storm in the mid-’80s. He left his position as a brewing supervisor at Pabst Brewing Co. in 1984 and started Sprecher Brewing Co. a year later, making it Milwaukee’s first microbrewery since Prohibition. Sprecher has experienced resounding success in its 25-year history, winning medal after medal at various beer competitions, from humble county fairs to prestigious international beer competitions. The brewing company developed a reputation for expertly crafted beers that are almost too good.

“Drinkability” is one of those terms often uttered during a conversation among brewers or beer aficionados (often one and the same), though its true definition can be confusing. For some, “drinkable” refers to how full one feels after drinking said beer, and his or her desire to have another in one sitting. In the brewing industry, this is called "sessionable." A “session beer,” so called because one can drink many of them in one drinking session, typically is low-alcohol (4%-5% alcohol by volume, or ABV) and “lighter” in flavor, and doesn’t make the drinker feel too full. In other circles, a beer is "drinkable" if it simply leaves the drinker with the desire to have another, no time frame mentioned.

For many beer drinkers, Sprecher brews aren’t “drinkable” in the “sessionable” way—they have a reputation as full-flavored specialty beers that don’t lend themselves to all-day affairs, like an afternoon Brewers’ tailgate that unfolds into an evening baseball game. Those are the consumers Randy Sprecher is going after with his new brewing company. “We started Chameleon to appeal to the people who don’t drink our Sprecher products,” he explains.

In January, Chameleon Brewing bottled its first batch of beer, an American pale ale named Hop on Top (4.2% ABV). This light-bodied beer pours a clear and vibrant yellow, and, because of a special dry hopping technique, highlights the sweet, citrus flavor of its Cascade hops without leaving a bitter aftertaste. The formula for Chameleon’s second beer, Fire Light (4.2% ABV), was influenced by some of the recipes from Milwaukee’s early brewing heritage. Honey-colored with a foamy white head that quickly disperses, this is a simple, “drinkable” ale. Chameleon’s third brew, Witty (5.4% ABV), is the real charmer. It’s the most complex of the bunch with a strong wheat backbone accented with a peppery, ginger flavor. The packaging for all three beers features a stylized chameleon that Sprecher says will be designed by different artists in the future.

Chameleon Brewing’s Hop on Top, Fire Light and Witty can be purchased at the Sprecher Brewery gift shop, as well as the Piggly Wiggly in Cedarburg.