I'm a big fan of dark beer. I actually have a rule about picking a beer to drink: It has to be so dark you can't see through it. You likely can find me -- when I'm in a mood for a great beer -- in front of the porters or the stouts of the well-stocked beer coolers in our Wine & Spirits Department. For those like me who really like to taste their beer the ongoing craft beer craze is pretty awesome. Perhaps the phrase "craft beer" has become a bit overplayed (kind of like this summer's incessantly played "Cheerleader" by OMI), but if it means good beer made by people who are dedicated to their craft, sign me up. And what better to showcase the dogged determination to the lengthy process of beer making than a festival? At Festival Foods, we're thrilled to be the presenting sponsor of the Northeast Wisconsin Craft Beer Festival on Saturday, Oct. 3. You can buy tickets for the Northeast Wisconsin Craft Beer Festival at our Green Bay area locations including Suamico, De Pere and those on the city's east and west sides as well as our stores in Darboy and Appleton-Northland. At this event, people can try a wide variety of beer that's out there while getting the back story on how it got there. Just like each beer has its own flavor, its creation also has a very unique story. I found that out as I visited each of the four Green Bay area breweries developing a specially made firkin for the festival.
Stillmank Brewing Company Brad Stillmank admits his firkin for the event is "light and fruity," but the season is right for such a brew. The base of the firkin is Stillmank Brewing Co.'s new beer called Tailgater for football season, which is an English blonde and very light, along with apple cider from a farm in Luxemburg and blueberries from nearby Baird Creek. Stillmank's brewery is probably best known for Wisco Disco, a deep amber beer that has rich malt and hop flavors.
"I'm excited to pop it open. The fun part about these things is that you don't know what it tastes like literally until you open it up. ... You hope it's just what you want."
Titletown Brewery The firkin formulated by Titletown Brewery located in downtown Green Bay also was inspired by the fall apple harvest. Its Wisconsin Brandy Apple Blonde for the craft beer festival has apples from five different orchards in Kewaunee. Brewer Sam Hennessee also is using Titletown's Honey 400 Ale as well as brandy in the festival firkin. It also includes what is called cider lees -- the yeast, fruit and a little of the cider that is unfiltered and stabilized -- from another downtown Green Bay fixture: Captain's Walk Winery.
"What I've done is taken brandy and aged it on light oak chips, which will come off with a little bit of a coconut, light flavor," Hennessee told us standing on Titletown's new rooftop patio in downtown Green Bay.
It's an exciting time for Hinterland Brewery in Green Bay for a few reasons. They're working with the Packers to be part of the stunning Lambeau Field Titletown District in 2017 that also will include a Kohler hotel and a 10-acre public plaza. They've also got the wildly popular Packerland Pilsner that has is in such high demand the brewery had to install additional equipment to boost production. "We are a pilsner factor right now, we cannot make enough of it right now," Hinterland brewer Scott Kissman said about Packland Pilsner as he showed me around the downtown Green Bay brewery.
Kissman is super smart risk taker when it comes to developing different kinds of beer that not only push the envelope but find a dedicated audience. You can probably guess that a guy who calls a firkin his "Research and Development Department" knows a few things about making unique beers work. Here's what he's developing for the upcoming craft beer festival inspired by a flavorful breakfast of bacon and maple syrup.
Badger State Brewing Company The guys running the show at Badger State Brewing Company may be young, but you can tell right off the bat that they're a smart group dedicated to making good craft beer. They have an amazing facility to do it. Their high-tech brewery is new -- started in 2013 -- and the company is dedicated to doing things the right way. They've got a 10,000-foot brew house located just down the road from Lambeau Field. Their flagship beers include Green Chop Session IPA and and Bunyan Badger, which you can find in the Festival Foods' Wine & Spirits Department. They were inspired by chocolate and locally grown berries for their festival firkin.
Let us know what you think of these amazing brews at the Oct. 3 festival by using the #craftbeergb hashtag on Twitter.