Ale Asylum and Karben4 made the biggest beer news last week, but it's still a good time to catch up on some other brewery happenings from around the state.
A Wisconsin farmstead brewery completed an expansion this winter and is aiming to bring its beer to Madison and Milwaukee by late summer.
Duesterbeck’s Brewing opened in late 2019 in the countryside between Elkhorn and Delavan on the pig farm where co-founder Laura Johnson (nee Duesterbeck) grew up. It’s been in her family for more than 150 years.
She and her husband, local dentist and longtime homebrewer Ben Johnson, built a brewery and taproom modeled on, and with a lot of salvaged materials from, a barn on the property. The pandemic soon followed, but Duesterbeck’s nevertheless managed to build a strong following, quickly doubling the brewhouse to an eight-barrel system to meet demand.
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The business initially focused on pouring pints at the taproom, which features regular live music on the weekend and an expansive outdoor area for kids to run around while mom and dad have a beer.
Eventually, Duesterbeck’s began canning its beer in-house, and now its standards — like Crop Duester cream ale, Roosterbeck amber ale, Pig Farmer pale ale and Nutty Bill’s peanut butter porter — are available at restaurants and grocery stores in Lake Geneva, Delavan and Elkhorn, as well as the Woodmans and Hy-Vee in Janesville.
In mid-January, the Johnsons finished their second upgrade, expanding brewing capacity nearly sevenfold with a new building on the property.
It’s that expansion that sales representative Dan Duesterbeck — a fourth cousin of the Duesterbeck farm family — believes will allow him and the Johnsons to grow into the state’s biggest markets. It’ll also help to keep the 18 or so tap lines filled with beer for the taproom crowds, which are augmented with visitors from Illinois via Lake Geneva in the summer.
“We’re doing quite well,” Duesterbeck said. “The acceptance from the community and how much people liked the beer has been just great.”
Brewing at Potosi
Leading a host of updates at Potosi Brewing, which rolled out a packaging refresh last fall, is a new hazy IPA called Hazy Bluff that drops this month. It packs a not-shy 7.5% ABV, and the brewery’s Maddie Fritz describes its profile as “Driftless tropical.”
Potosi is also joining the nonalcoholic beer fray this spring with Golden Brew, a “radiant and crisp” offering. It doesn’t take more than a cursory look at the label to recognize that it takes great pains to avoid the word “beer.” The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau — the feds who approve alcohol and related beverage labels for interstate commerce — balked at that word on Potosi’s label, Fritz said, noting Golden Brew’s label also lacks the brewery’s “Brewed in beer’s hometown” slogan. “That was interesting,” she said.
Lastly, one of my longtime favorites from Potosi, Tangerine IPA, is moving into its regular lineup format with six-packs of 12-ounce cans. That beer will also join Potosi’s variety 12-pack this summer.
Lakefront all cans
Lakefront Brewery began canning some of its beer in 2017, but this spring it’s joining a host of breweries by making the switch to entirely cans.
As anyone who’s experienced the popular tour at the Milwaukee brewery can attest, Lakefront is a pretty compact operation. It cannot accommodate both bottling and canning lines, so this winter the brewery began swapping out its bottler.
The current seasonal, the fantastic Maibock, will be the last in glass, and the core beers will transition to cans as their stocks deplete.
The benefits of cans over bottles are many. I’ve come to prefer them not just for the portability when I’m bringing beer out on the lake or golf course but in my fridge as well.
But if consumers prefer cans over bottles, breweries absolutely love them. Consider that a case of four six-packs of 12-ounce bottles is nearly twice as heavy and about three times the size of the same amount of beer in cans. That translates to a roughly 50% increase in shipping efficiency, according to Lakefront brand manager Michael Stodola.
Cans are better for the beer inside them, too: They fully block light and are usually more airtight — reducing two of the most problematic agents that can prematurely age beer. There are also meaningful factors such as less surrounding packaging and a shorter lead time and smaller minimum orders for can labels.
If you want to get a sense of how valuable the can option was to Lakefront — how badly its consumers wanted at least some cans — consider how it had been canning its beer these past several years.
That beer was canned at Stevens Point Brewery. Yes, Lakefront was trucking tankers of Milwaukee-brewed beer some 2½ hours for packaging. So not only will the carbon footprint of every truck carrying Lakefront beer be reduced, there’ll be a few tanker trucks removed from Highway 41, too.
Got a beer you’d like the Beer Baron or Draft Queen to pop the cap on? Contact Chris Drosner at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @WIbeerbaron. Contact Katie Herrera at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @CellaredKatie.