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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Big Bay Brewing Opens Shorewood Tasting Room

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Big Bay Brewing Co., the North Shore craft brewer that launched last year, has made it easier to sample its products. The company has opened a tasting room (4517 N. Oakland Ave.) on an increasingly developed strip of Shorewood's main street, near such other recently opened businesses as Three Lions Pub, Thief Wine Shop & Bar and a new Alterra café.

The room, which holds about 60, is painted in aquatic blues and adorned like a boathouse to mirror Big Bay's water-themed branding. The company takes its name from a neighboring Whitefish Bay park on the lakefront.

The tasting room currently has three Big Bay beers on tap:  Wavehopper Kölsch Style Ale and Boatilla Amber Ale, both of which are also sold at local bars and liquor stores, and a porter that is in development in advance of a limited-edition release this fall. The beers are brewed off-site at the Milwaukee Brewing Co., 613 S. Second St.

Big Bay co-founder Jeff Garwood, a 21-year veteran of Miller and MillerCoors, began the company with hopes of creating a family business. He says Big Bay's brews balance the character and complexity of craft beer with the drinkability of mass-produced beer.

"That's for selfish reasons," Garwood says. "When I'm having a craft beer, I want to be able to drink more than one."

The Wavehopper Kölsch tastes much lighter than its 4.8% alcohol content. It's a light-bodied German-style beer with an agreeable hop flavor and an exceptionally clean finish. The Boatilla Amber Ale is brewed with the same yeast and hops as the Kölsch and is similarly drinkable.

"We wanted to make them complements of each other, so you could move between the two beers without a shock," Garwood says.

The porter introduces more complex hops flavors, but is very mild—its bitterness subtle and its toasted notes understated. Garwood says he's still tweaking the porter's formula to make the hops flavors linger longer.

Big Bay is also developing an India Pale Ale and two gourmet sodas: a twisting citrus soda and a spicy cherry cola.