Tuesday, Feb. 18, 2014

Milwaukee’s ILB Beer Club Makes the Case for Home Brew

By Evan Rytlewski
ilb beer club taps
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As beer culture continues to flourish, so too have Milwaukee beer clubs. There are at least several public beer clubs, including popular meetups at Stubby’s and Comet Café, and they all operate more or less the same way: Beer enthusiasts and newcomers alike are invited to sample a menu of about 8 or 10 beers, all selected around the same loose theme, and discuss the differences. Where most restaurants' beer clubs feature exclusively commercial beers, though, Made in Milwaukee’s ILB Beer Club at Rumpus Room distinguishes itself with a twist: It puts the spotlight on home brews.

That makes ILB’s logistics a little trickier than other beer clubs. Under Wisconsin law, it’s illegal for a home brewer to sell their beer. It’s perfectly legal, however, for them to give it away, so long as they don’t profit from it. Each ILB meeting, then, features a selection of commercial beers from Rumpus Room and home brews from George Bregar of Company Brewing Co. “Our purpose is to record the culture of beer, but also to show that a local home brewer is capable of brewing home beer on par with the best in the business,” said club co-founder Chuck Watson. “There are home brewers producing amazing, amazing recipes, especially George.”

Bregar brews original beers for each event. Last month’s theme was yeast, for instance, so he brewed four identical beers, simply using a different yeast in each one. “It was super enlightening,” Watson said. “You get a sense of what a player yeast is in beer. So we have this chance every month to push this learning envelope by producing these special beers.”

For this month’s meeting themed around wood and oak-aged beers, Bregar has brewed two identical beers, aging one in oak to demonstrate how the barrel reshapes the beer. “We’ll taste a bunch of other wood-aged beers, too, from cedar planks to bourbon barreled,” Watson says. “When you get into aged beers, they’re bigger beers with higher alcohol, so they’re a little more difficult for some people.” The meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 19 at 6:30 p.m.; tickets are $20.

Watson is hoping to run with the home-brew theme for future Made in Milwaukee events. He’s ultimate goal is to throw a home brew festival, though current Wisconsin laws makes that difficult.

“Unfortunately, if we did it, it would have to be free,” Watson says. “Not that we mind doing a free festival, we just have to find a way to make that feasible. In the meantime, we’re enjoying doing this in the interim until we find a way to make that happen.”

For more information on the ILB (I Love Beer) Club, visit the ilbmke.com.
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