The Next Beers to Make Milwaukee Famous

Schlitz-Beer-Made-Milwaukee-Famous
Inage: Coasters Rule

Beginning in 1902 and for about 40 years, Schlitz Brewing Company was the largest brewer in the world. And it was brewed just blocks away from Pabst Brewing Company, which was once the second largest. By the later half on the century, they were both overtaken by Miller Brewing, based just 2 miles away. Global beverage industry consolidation and shifting tastes have taken their toll on Milwaukee’s reputation as the brewing capital of the world. Though Miller Brewing is still based in the city, the merger with Coors, and the subsequent re-organization on a global scale has diminished it’s attachment to the city of it’s birth. There are a number of well-establish, great craft brewers in the city (Lakefront Brewery and Sprecher Brewery have been proudly carrying the banner for the last few decades), a new generation of craft brewers and taprooms may finally bring Milwaukee squarely into the craft brewery revolution. Better late than never, I guess. Hopefully, this next generation revitalizes the city’s well-deserved reputation as a Brew Town. We thought a quick run down of the activities of 2016 would be helpful to our readers:

MobCraft Beer, which crowdsources it’s beer selections, will appear on Shark Tank on March 11th, 2016. Mobcraft is planning to open a brewery and taproom in Milwaukee summer of 2016. Founded in Madison in 2012 by Henry Schwartz, Andrew Gierczak and Giotto Troia, they make some of the funkiest, coolest brews around and the nature of the operation makes many of them one-off creations. The national exposure should be awesome for them.

Bavarian Bierhaus Brewpub plans to open spring 2016 on the grounds of the former Bavarian Inn. The brewery will be located in the beer hall and will be able to produce eight different beers at one time. Created as an independent operation after several German breweries declined to move forward. let’s hope the independence allows for some creativity to flourish as we already have Old Town Beer Hall in Germantown and the Old German Beer Hall in downtown Milwaukee which both feature Hofbrau products. It’s worth noting that the Bavarian Soccer Club has hosted an annual Oktoberfest on these grounds for years which served the second tastiest spanferkel in the city (top honors go to this Bunzel’s Meats), so they have a tradition to live up to at this site.

Westallion Brewing Co. is planning to open spring of 2016 in West Allis, WI, a southern Milwaukee suburb. Erik Dorfner, brewmaster and formerly with Lakefront Brewery, expects the brewery’s signature beers to be a Scottish Ale, a Vienna Lager, a Pilsner-style and a Hefeweizen, and hopes to offer seasonal and historical beers as well.

Enlightened Brewing Company is expanding at their 2018 South 1st Street location in Milwaukee, to open a tap room and increase production space. Hoping to open in spring or early summer of 2016. They have played around with American Wild Ales, Belgian Blondes and a Dark Wheat, but the standard offerings are an American Pale Ale, a Common Ale, and a Stout.

Black Husky Brewing, a microbrewery originally from Pembine, WI and brewers of a number of creative spruce-infused beers, will open a taproom at 909 E. Locust St. and convert the building at 2872 N. Bremen St. into a brewery. They will be located in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, which is also home to Lakefront Brewery, a tremendous training ground for many of the local brewers in Milwaukee.

Third Space Brewing plans to open a production brewery, a tasting room and an outdoor beer garden in summer of 2016 in a re-purposed factory at 1505 W. St. Paul Ave. which is near the Marquette University campus. It will be lead by Kevin Wright, a brewer who spent six years at Hangar 24 Craft Brewery in Redlands, CA.

City Lights Brewing is planning on opening in the old City Lights building at 2200 Mt. Vernon Ave. in summer of 2016 with brewery operations separated by a glass partition from the tasting room as well as a special event space and an outdoor beer garden. The historic buildings, which overlook the Menomonee River, were designed at the beginning of the 20th century by noted architect Alexander Eschweiler. First offerings will likely include summer and winter India Pale Ale styles, and a Brown Ale, according to Jimmy Gohsman, brewmaster.

Good City Brewing  will open summer or fall of 2016 at 2108 N. Farwell Ave. with a 17-barrel brewhouse. Co-founder David Dupee of crowdfunding platform CraftFund, said the brewery will start out at about 2,000 barrels per year, under leadership of brewmaster and co-founder Andy Jones, formerly the plant manager at Lakefront Brewery. The planned line-up includes an IPA, Double IPA, and Imperial Stout variations, and most offerings will be vibrant, hop-forward versions.

Pabst Brewing Company new owner Eugene Kashper will try to revive the historical beer recipes with new small-batch beers based on Pabst’s archived recipes. Most, if not all, will be made by other brewers, but a taproom is planned in the historic renovation occurring in the Pabst development here in Milwaukee. The location is reportedly the former First German Mothodist Church on the historic Pabst campus, which had been used by the firm as a community gathering location after the church no longer used the building. It has great history and great architecture so it will be great to see it re-open as a beer hall. Also, the holding company that includes Pabst also includes Stroh’s and Schlitz. It would wonderful to get each of those brands going in Milwaukee once more.

Finally, Milwaukee Brewing Company will be taking over the former Pabst warehouse on the same campus, giving them a substantially larger footprint. They offer some of the most innovative brews coming out of Milwaukee right now (I’m looking at you O-Gii!) so a major expansion is great news for the Milwaukee beer scene.

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Central Waters Beer – Root Cellar Dinner

A recent barrel-aged beer throwdown occurred at my local drinking establishment between Central Waters Brewing and Potosi Brewing, two Wisconsin breweries enjoying most-favored-brewery status in my house. Seven offering from each, ranging from their respective ambers and IPAs to fully loaded, barrel-strength stouts. They were glorious.

They were also inspirational. An recent dinner gave us the perfect opportunity to pull out a selection of old favorites from Central Waters (and one extravagance from O’so) and pair them with seasonally inspired fare. Seasonal fare for the Great Lakes in winter would be root cellar offerings – the hardy remains of the late fall harvest, which were traditionally kept in cellars dug into hills throughout the region. We’re talking preserved meats, root vegetables, and anything dried. Our dinner used those elements as inspiration, rather than rigid restrictions, because…well…I can go to the store. We focused on freshly smoked meats, rather than salted or fully dried offerings. We did make everything on the grill, actually on a Green Egg, which is a bit like cooking in a old cast iron oven. Here’s the run-down:

First Course: Smoked Whitefish Dip with Central Waters Honey Blonde Ale

Lake Superior whitefish is a very light, small flake fish without a particularly strong flavor profile. The texture is often fairly soft, similar to an Icelandic cod. Once plentiful throughout the Great Lakes, it was over-fished and can now really only be found commercially in Lake Superior. We sprinkled a fresh skin-on fillet with sea salt and lemon, let it sit for about 30 minutes and then on to the grill for a slow smoke. The grill was at 250 degrees and we used mesquite chips, though I prefer applewood for this application when available. The fish was smoked through in less than 30 minutes, but we allowed it to firm up on the grill for another 15 minutes for our application. The fish was allowed to cool, then removed from the skin and flaked into a bowl. In an electric mixer went cream cheese, mayonnaise, spritz of lemon, then whipped until well blended. The cheese mixture was then folded in with the fish and a handful of diced scallions and chilled for over an hour.

We served the smoked whitefish dip on pumpernickel rye toasts with house-made yellow zucchini pickles on the side. We paired our initial offering with the Honey Blonde Ale. The beer is really bright and refreshing, with just a hint of sweetness from the honey. It is an easy opener and cleansed the palate between each bit of the whitefish. Simple, complementary flavors.

Second Course: Wild Rice, Roast Vegetables with Central Water Horicon Session IPA

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Early in the day, rainbow carrots and pearl onions were slow roasted on the grill in butter and kale was later dried on the grill until crisp. At time of service, cooked wild rice was heated with butter and shredded Sartori Family Heirloom Parmesan and the carrots were caramelized in buckwheat honey and malt vinegar. The sweet carrots were offset by the savory kale and the rich, nuttiness of the wild rice. We paired this with Central Waters Horicon Session IPA, looking for the more pronounced hop flavors to harmonize with the earthy flavors of the dish. A lovely combination, the slight bitterness in the beer made every bite of the carrots sing.

Third Course: Smoked, Maple-Glazed Chicken Thighs, Corn Puree, Roasted Mushrooms with Oisconsing Red Ale

We adapted our Smoked, Maple-glazed pheasant approach to chicken thighs and then served them on the corn puree we recently featured, inspired by Morel Restaurant. The corn was caramelized on the Green Egg for about 45 minutes, yielding a puree that was reminiscent of summer corn on the cob. The Oisconsing Red flavors tend towards the caramel malts with enough hop balance to keep it interesting. A nice pairing, though we might have considered something a bit more contrasting to set the smoky, sweetness of the dish off to a greater degree.

Fourth Course: Smoked Beef Short Ribs, Dried Cherries, Rutabaga Puree with Mudpuppy Porter

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Our Door County cherries make an appearance in this dish, with a marinade based on the spices we used for our Epic Beef Short Rib we had a few summers back. The dried cherries had been re-hydrated in a reduced beef broth and the then marinated the beef overnight. The ribs were then slow smoked over mesquite wood on the Green Egg at 275 degrees for three hours. We placed it on a puree of yukon gold potatoes and rutabaga, which we boiled until soft, then into a food processor with almond milk and butter. We finished it back on the stove top with brie and Creama Kasa from Carr Valley, which is a triple cream, adding a real richness to the dish. We paired Central Water Mudpuppy Porter with the dish to offer a deep, dark note, accenting the smoky beef flavors.

Fifth Course: Blueberry Slump with O’so Convenient Distraction (Imperial Porter with Coffee and Vanilla Bean)

A slump is basically a pie filling topped with dumplings. As we were cooking everything on the Green Egg, this was a easy way to finish the meal. We took about 4 cups of blueberries, added a dash of vanilla extract and about a 1/2 cup of maple syrup. Then we made a dumpling dough with flour, baking soda, butter, and water. We hand flattened the dough and tore irregular pieces to layer on top of the blueberries in a heavy enameled pan. Onto the Egg for 45 minutes at 300 with a top and it was perfect. We paired it with Purple Door Vanilla Ice Cream and O’so Convenient Distraction – an Imperial Porter with Colombian coffee and Madagascar vanilla bean. The bright fruit flavors were a superb complement to the dark chocolate nuances of the beer.

Beer and Cheese Pairings

On a recent evening, we challenged ourselves to put together a tasting comparison between California and Wisconsin cheeses and beers. We’re happy to share our pairings below.

1st course: Clock Shadow Creamery Maple Quark on whole grain rye toasts

Originating in Germany, this fresh, soft cheese tastes like a mix of soft goat cheese and ricotta. We served the Maple Syrup Quark on whole grain rye toasts, consistent with the German heritage and matched it with a traditional German brew, Ale Asylum’s Unshadowed. A Hefeweizen style brewed in Madison, Wisconsin, it was a very nice, bright, citrusy opening to the evening.

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2nd course: Cypress Grove Midnight Moon goat cheese and Columbus herb salami along with Sartori Limited Edition Extra-Aged Goat cheese and landjaeger dried sausage

Aged at least six months, an ivory-colored cheese with a lovely smooth texture, nutty and a slight caramel finish. Only after we selected this cheese did we discover it is made in Holland for Cypress Grove, which is based in California. Perhaps unsurprisingly, it was a perfect example of this Dutch classic, with an extra bit of complexity from goat’s milk. We paired it with a traditional San Francisco salami with herbs. Our beer pairing was Ballast Point Calico, English Pale Ale brewed in San Diego, California. One of my personal favorite combinations of the evening.

We had a direct side-by-side comparison for this course, with Sartori’s Extra-Aged Goat. The aging has enhanced its caramel notes and created a dense, dry texture with some mild crystallization. We paired this with a traditional dried, European-style sausage from Wisconsin and a big, bold red ale. Lakefront Fixed Gear is a Red IPA brewed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and the additional hops creates a lovely complement to the grassy flavors a goat cheese can bring to the party.

 

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3rd course: Cypress Grove Humboldt Fog goat cheese

In this Cypress Grove offering, we’re getting the tang of a goat cheese, similar to the flavors of buttermilk with floral and herbal overtones. As it matures,  the area closest to the rind gets softer and develops a more intense flavor, perfect for the big flavors in a classic West Coast IPA. We choose Lagunitas IPA, an India Pale Ale brewed in Petaluma, California. For some of the guests, these flavors were a bit too much, but together, these partners danced beautifully. The bitter hops of the IPA tamed the tang of the ripe goat cheese. Surprising…in the nicest way.

4th course: Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam with house-made California Golden Fig spread

A smooth and creamy triple-cream cheese made with organic milk, Mt Tam is firm, yet buttery with a mellow, earthy flavor. The mouth feel is luscious. We served it on almond thins with a house-made golden fig paste. We paired this with barley-wine flavors found in Ale Smith’s Grand Cru brewed in San Diego, California. Though they complemented each other well, a contrasting flavor may have brought more interest. A previous pairing with Cracked Wheat from New Glarus Brewing worked very well. The Grand Cru is a great, Belgian-style beer, but not our favorite pairing.

5th course: Hook’s Blue Paradise and Wisconsin Honeycomb

This is a double cream blue with a smooth, creamy texture that simply melts in your mouth. We doubled the decadence by adding a bit of honeycomb and then provided a perfect set of contrasting flavors in the big, malty, sour fruit beer – Serendipity from New Glarus Brewing in New Glarus, Wisconsin. We’ve done this combination before and it is a show-stopper, which is why we place it here to finish the evening.  The creamy rich flavors of the cheese are both accentuated and then washed away in the big tart flavors of the beer.

Overall, it was a successful evening and fun exploration of the many ways the flavors of cheeses and beers can dance together. We invite to make your own music.

In Praise of Rhubarb

Rhubarb means summer. Summer in the 12 year-old, off-of-school, complete freedom sense. Summer in the sleep-in, wake-to-warm-sunshine, go-play-in-the-field sort of way. When I was 12, we lived on forty acres of prairie grasses and wild flowers, bordered on two sides by a slow flowing river, which would sparkle like gold in the setting sun. We also had a garden with a gooseberry plant, an apple tree, and a pear tree. As summer closed, we could harvest all types of fruit and vegetables, but only one plant provided an unlimited snack in early summer – rhubarb. Mom gave us complete freedom to snap off as many stalks as we wanted to dip in sugar and enjoy long before anyone thought of sour patch kids.

Rhubarb

A recent article about freezing fresh food in the New York Times included a reference by Chef Tory Miller of L’Etoile and Graze in Madison to freezing rhubarb to use year round as “Wisconsin’s lemon”. That reference inspired a flurry of rhubarb creations, not the least of which was my daughter’s rhubarb crumble.

Rhubarb Crumble

Another creation captured a bit of that childhood essence of summer – a rhubarb radler. Radlers are a German creation which combines a lighter beer with a fruit soda for a lower alcohol, refreshing summer drink. Typically the fruit soda is lemon, though more recently grapefruit has become popular. Why not rhubarb? We simmered diced rhubarb in water and sugar, strained the solids out and then added sparkling water. That house-made “soda” was then combined in equal parts with Hinterland White Cap IPA. If you can’t get Hinterland in your area, Blue Moon’s White IPA would work or you could select another flavorful craft IPA that is not too heavy on the bitter flavors and not overly malty. The hop bitterness in the Hinterland White Cap is beautifully bold and the rhubarb soda accentuates the floral notes. The resulting drink reminds me of a fresh ruby red grapefruit. I recommend enjoying it this way:

Rhubarb Radler

The rhubarb radler got the creative juices going. These flavors combined really beautifully, so how might we create a dish with the same profile? We marinated boneless, thick-cut pork chops in 1 can of Hinterland White Cap with 5 cloves of smashed garlic, 1/2 cup of sea salt, and 2 tablespoons of chopped oregano flowers. Fresh oregano can be substituted, but the flowers are a bit less powerful in flavor and seem to bring a somewhat floral character. The chops marinated overnight and then were grilled. We topped them with a rhubarb compote made of 1 cup of diced rhubarb and 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup more beer slow simmered on the stove. When the rhubarb softened just a bit we removed the solids, reduced the liquid down to a very thick sauce and then added back the solids for a quick compote. The dish is topped with more oregano flowers and of course enjoyed with another Hinterland White Cap.

Rhubarb compote1

The compote was sweet but the IPA added the needed complexity to hold a bit of interest. My daughters claimed they could taste the beer in the pork chop, but only after I told them it was marinated in beer. The beer flavor is subtle, but different enough to make it a bit intriguing. Overall, a very nice blend of flavors. We enjoyed these with skillet browned baby potatoes and tarragon butter green beans. It tasted like summer.

Beer Dinner Breakdowns – Overview

In the coming months we will feature a number of Beer Dinner Breakdowns in which we will take a deeper look at craft beer dinners hosted throughout the Great Lakes region, specifically exploring how certain dishes offer complementary or contrasting flavors with their beer pairing. These beer dinners are based on publicly promoted information on websites and related social media outlets. In some cases, we’ll be working from actually attendance at the tasting, but in other cases it will be based on menu descriptions, beer overviews, and social media pictures and commentary. In each case we’ll give a quick analysis of why these pairings work and how to duplicate some of the flavor combinations at home.

Former Schlitz Offices

Our effort here has two broad purposes. First, consistent with our overall efforts here at Great Lakes Cuisine, we are seeking to explore and promote the flavors of the Great Lakes region. Second, we are hoping to offer a way for folks at home or who may not be locally based an opportunity to explore similar flavor combinations. We are not suggesting a quick paragraph of explanation will allow anyone to re-create a chef’s creation. We are intentionally simplifying to amplify flavor combinations and maximize the number of experiences. When we have been given a complimentary seat at the table, we will fully disclose that fact. Otherwise, this is just about exploring ideas, connections, and the emerging flavors of Great Lakes Cuisine. We welcome company on our journey.