Saturday, July 21, 2007

Pink Boots at New Glarus

"Let your dream lead you." ~Henry David Thoreau

July 18: Drove to New Glarus from Middleton. Kirby Nelson was kind enough to lead me about half the way there so I could take the local's secret shortcut. Parked next to New Glarus's horse field where their two Fresian horses were undergoing training to pull a beer cart. (Photo of horses below.)

Assistant Master Brewer Jean Hengstl met me and I shadowed her for most of the day. Jean worked at the old Val Blatz (now Leinenkugels) brewery in Milwaukee about 20 years ago. Then jobs in the brewing industry dried up and Jean used her brewery experience in various food processing jobs. About 15 years ago she overheard some people talking about a new brewery they planned to start in New Glarus, and 5 years ago she went to work for them.

Jean manages all aspects of production, and she had me work with various people throughout the day. I spent an hour or so with Stephen Itzenhuiser in the Brauhaus (brew house). Stephen used to work at The Grumpy Troll brewpub in Mt. Horeb, Wisconsin, where he was also a substitute teacher. Stephen needed one of those two careers to become full-time and lucky for us, brewing won out. I had a lot of fun discussing how we did things at Steelhead versus how things work at The Grumpy Troll and at New Glarus.

Owner-Brewmaster Dan Carey and his wife, Deb Carey, Owner-Mastermind, took Jean and I out to lunch at Puempel's Olde Tavern in downtown New Glarus. New Glarus is a Swiss-themed town that is cute without being cloying. I didn't see too many tourists, but I hear they are about. (Photo above, L to R: Stephen, Jean, Teri, Dan and Deb.)

Dan wanted to know what topics or themes were coming up for discussion during my tour. Only a few came to mind:
(1) The price of stainless is killing everybody.
(2) The loss/theft of stainless kegs is killing everyone.
(3) There is a lot of capacity being built: I'm seeing new breweries built by experienced 35 year old brewers, and small distributing craft breweries upgrading to 30, 50 or 100-barrel batch size.
(4) Some distributing breweries wanted to know if it was true that brewpub brewers cut corners on quality control because the beer is consumed so much quicker in a brewpub.
(5) Some southwest and midwest brewers wanted to know why west coast brewers are too lazy to filter, and how they managed to convince the public that unfiltered beer is somehow better for you, as if it was whole wheat bread.
I won't report on those conversations here. I'm just reporting that these topics have come up for discussion during my trip.

After lunch Dan and Jean took me on a tour of the new brewery they are building. The buildings' exteriors will show off the New Garus area's farming history and Swiss roots. Inside will be a state of the art 100-barrel brewery. Dan said he's keeping the batch size small at 100 barrels so that New Glarus can continue to produce its huge line-up of beers.

Dan is doing two very cool things in this new brewery: One is that he will be using authentic German open-topped hefeweizen fermenters with yeast-collection overflow tanks. The second cool thing is that Dan shopped around for some beautiful old copper brewhouse vessels, then had his stainless tank manufacturer make custom high-tech stainless tanks to fit exactly inside the antique shells.

Dan is all about tradition but he's not afraid to stretch outside the style box. New Glarus's beer line-up covers one of the broadest spectrums I've seen. (Photo above.) I really enjoyed tasting his "Unplugged" series beers that were aged in Bourbon barrels.

After a full day, Dan gifted me with two mixed cases of New Glarus beer and a bottle each of his two sour fruit beers. Then I drove off to Sleepy Hollow, Illinois (near Elgin) to visit my college roommate from my University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire days.

1 comment:

Steven said...

So where'd they take you for lunch? New Glarus is a favorite spot for my friends and me, It'd be fun to know Dan & Deb's favorite!