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Thursday, Sept. 29, 2011

When Less Is More

Wisconsin microbreweries challenge the major brewers

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Based on TV advertising, any alien unfortunate enough to be subjected to an entire weekend of sporting events would report back to the mothership that Earthlings apparently have a choice between one of three beers, each of which makes one irresistible to the opposite gender. Fortunately, around these parts, there are plenty of small, independently owned microbreweries that eschew lowest-common-denominator marketing campaigns and let their beers do the talking. Following is a collection of local (and some outlying) companies channeling our region's shared passion for quality beer into a tavern near you.

Ale Asylum

www.aleasylum.com

Call them crazy, as in “crazy about beer,” and, indeed, the lunatics are running the asylum. Since opening five short years ago in Madison, Dean Coffey and Otto Dilba have seen Ale Asylum's lineup of flavorful, potent and creatively named brews leap to the top of regional beer-enthusiasts' shopping lists. Favorites include Madtown Nutbrown, the potent Sticky McDoogle, a Scotch ale, and the über-hoppy Satisfaction Jacksin, a double IPA with an alcohol content of 8.5%. A taproom attached to the brewery offers the brave and thirsty a comfortable space in which to sample the wares.

Big Bay Brewing Co.

www.bigbaybrewing.com

While their tasting room and brewery store are located at 4517 N. Oakland Ave., newcomer Big Bay Brewing Co. leases equipment and space from the Milwaukee Brewing Co., where they ferment and bottle their beverages. Their initial offerings consisted of two ales, Boatilla and Wavehopper. A limited batch of Long Weekend India Pale Ale was recently released over Labor Day, the first of several seasonals, including an upcoming porter. Big Bay has also entered into the local craft soda market with Pierjumper Twisted Citrus and Oh Buoy! Cherry Cola.

Capital Brewery

www.capital-brewery.com

Middleton's Capital Brewery produces a full range of beers, readily available throughout the state, under the eye of brewmaster Kirby Nelson. Supper Club lager, Capital Pilsner and Island Wheat (brewed with wheat grown on Washington Island) are among the brewery's year-round offerings. Seasonals include an Oktoberfest, Maibock and Winter Skal.

Central Waters Brewing Co.

www.centralwaters.com

Founded by Mike McElwain and Jerome Ebel in 1996 in a former Ford Model A dealership, Central Waters is now owned and operated by Paul Graham and Anello Mollica. More than 1,000 square feet of solar panels power the new brew-house in Amherst, where such reputable brews as Ouisconsing Red Ale, Glacial Trail IPA and Satin Solstice Imperial Stout are made. Shine On, a red ale, commemorates the company's partnership with the Midwest Renewable Energy Association and its status as a “green” brewery.

Chameleon Brewing

www.chameleonbrewing.com

Launched by Randy Sprecher, founder of Sprecher Brewing, and produced at the company's facility in Glendale, Chameleon's artisan brews include Hop on Top, a non-bitter ale, the pilsner-esque Witty, and Ryediculous, an IPA/rye hybrid ale.

Horny Goat Brewing Co.

www.hghideaway.com

When owner Jim Sorenson offered former local chemistry student Dave Reese the chance to become brewmaster at Horny Goat Brewing, Reese jumped at the opportunity. By any standard, Sorenson and Reese have been immensely successful—since bottling the first batch two years ago, output has grown exponentially. Amusingly named brews like Red Vixen, Horny Blonde and Stacked Milk Stout are best enjoyed fresh from the tap at The Horny Goat Hideaway (2011 S. First St.). Bottled product, available statewide, is produced at the Stevens Point Brewery.

Lakefront Brewery

www.lakefrontbrewery.com

From its humble beginnings in a former Riverwest bakery, Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery now ranks as a regional brewing behemoth. Its award-winning lineup of brews includes Cream City Pale Ale, Eastside Dark, Fuel Café Stout and Organic ESB (extra special bitter) Ale. Owners Jim and Russ Klisch also put out a revolving line of seasonals, the most famous of which is Pumpkin Lager, currently available at a liquor store or tavern near you. Tours of the brewery (1872 N. Commerce St.) are led by entertaining, knowledgeable hosts, and are immensely popular with both locals and out-of-towners.

Lake Louie Brewing

www.lakelouie.com

West of Madison in “blink-and-you'll-miss-it” Arena, Lake Louie distributes six-packs and kegs to area restaurants and taverns. You won't easily find their products in the Milwaukee area, but next time you're out west, make sure to seek out their Arena Premium pale ale, Tommy's Porter or Kiss the Lips IPA.

Milwaukee Brewing Co,

www.milwaukeebrewingco.com

Owner and founder Jim McCabe originally began brewing and selling his craft beers at a Third Ward brew-pub, the Milwaukee Ale House. Demand for the libations, which include Louie's Demise, Flaming Damsel Real Blonde and Pull Chain Pail Ale rose to the point where an off-site, full-fledged brewery was needed. The brewery's line is now readily available in most area pubs, and is commonly found in the coolers of local stores. Tours of the facility (613 S. Second St.) are available every Friday and Saturday.

New Glarus Brewing Co.

www.newglarusbrewing.com

The first woman to found and operate a brewery in the United States, Deborah Carey established New Glarus Brewery in the small town of the same name in 1993. Husband and brewmaster Dan Carey has worked in the industry since the early '80s, including stints at a microbrewery in Munich and as a production supervisor at Anheuser-Busch. Among the brewery's year-round offerings is the ubiquitous Spotted Cow, a cloudy ale found in bottles and on tap just about everywhere. Fall sees the rollout of Staghorn Octoberfest, one of 10 seasonals bottled annually.

O'so Brewing Co.

www.osobrewing.com

What began in 2007 as an offshoot to a home-brewing supply company in Plover, O'so Brewing makes up for in quality what they currently lack in capacity or distribution. Owners Marc and Katina Buttera aren't afraid to tinker with the recipes for their line, which includes some two-dozen different brews.

Rowland's Calumet Brewing

www.rowlandsbrewery.com

Brewed and served primarily out of the family's Roll-Inn Tavern in Chilton, 20-plus varieties mark an impressive output for Calumet Brewing, which consists of Bonita Rowland, son Patrick and daughter Kelly. The family distributes the beer themselves to several counties in the state, though Milwaukee unfortunately is not among them. A road trip to Chilton to pick up a growler of any of these locally legendary brews is definitely worthwhile to those who appreciate craft beer.

Silver Creek Brewing Co.

www.silvercreekbrewing.com

If quaffing a few craft beers in a picturesque, almost idyllic setting is your thing (and why wouldn't it be?), then you owe yourself a visit to Cedarburg's Silver Creek Brewing Co. Located in a former gristmill on the banks of Cedar Creek (which actually runs through the building), this micro-est of microbreweries offers four year-round brews and a rotating menu of seasonals and one-offs that can be enjoyed in view of the kilns or on an outside patio. You can also get growlers of the goods to go.

Sprecher Brewing Co.

www.sprecherbrewery.com

The pride of Glendale, Sprecher has been using Old World brewing methods to produce a full roster of refreshments since 1985. Founded by Randy Sprecher, a former brewing supervisor at Pabst Brewing, Sprecher makes its name with staples such as Black Bavarian, Hefe Weiss, Special Amber and Pub Ale. They are sold in distinctive 16-ounce four-packs and deserve a place of honor in any home refrigerator. Seasonals and a handful of particularly potent “reserve” brews cement Sprecher's reputation as one of the standard-bearers of local craft brewing. Tours are offered on an almost daily basis; reservations are required.

Stevens Point Brewery

www.pointbeer.com

Increasingly, much of the world's beer production is being bought and controlled by multinational entities. But the immensely successful Stevens Point Brewery has managed to remain independently owned and operated over its 150-year history. Walk into any local tavern and you're almost sure to find Point Special Lager. It's also worth trying to track down the brewery's many other craft and seasonal products.

Tyranena Brewing Co.

www.tyranena.com

Just a handful of full- and part-time brewers pour their hearts (and not a few hops) into the kilns at Tyranena Brewing, about an hour's drive west of Milwaukee in Lake Mills. Rocky's Revenge, Stone Tepee Pale Ale and Bitter Woman IPA are among their signature brews, which are finding a steadily increasing and thoroughly sated fan-base in the region. Designate a driver and make the trip to enjoy their pleasant tasting room and beer garden.