Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Visit to Milwaukee Ale House

"Time cools, time clarifies; no mood can be maintained quite unaltered through the course of hours." ~Mark Twain

July 11: My brother Eric and his wife Marie packed the girls off to a neighbor's until 10:00pm, and joined me at the Milwaukee Ale House at 4:00pm. We met with Brewmaster Jim Olen, who has been working there since the Brewpub opened 10 years ago. Jim and his brewer Robert Morton are especially busy these days. Jim handles brewing at the busy 400+ seat brewpub, and Robert is busy at the construction site of their soon-to-be-opened packaging brewery.

Jim gave us a complete tour of his spread-out brewery in the old Sadlery building. Then he lead us on a tour of his beers, describing the malt and hops and his thought-processes in designing each beer. My brother was very impressed with Jim's friendly manner and candidness. It was a great beer tour. Jim's Solomon Juneau Ale was an interesting hybrid of a beer, in that Jim designed this ale to appeal to the local lager drinkers by incorporating noble and Saaz hops into the recipe. (Photo above, L to R: Eric, Marie, Jim, Robert and Teri.)

I knew Jim only by email and the Brewers Forum, so it was nice to finally meet him. Jim agreed, and was kind enough to point out how much he had enjoyed specific posts of mine, including my recommendation for the book, "The Emperor of Scent" that I posted to the Forum several years ago. Jim also thought it was a good book with an interesting true story and a great theory of our sense of smell.

Gary Luther joined us during the final rounds of beer tasting (photo at left). I met Gary back in 1991 when he was a very experienced brewer working for Miller, and I was a new judge at the Great American Beer Festival. Gary is one of the all-time nicest people you'll ever meet. He was also one of the first "old-style" traditional brewers that embraced and welcomed us new, young craft-brewing upstarts. Gary's semi-retired now. He not only consults with breweries around the country, he collects beer steins, and he is very involved in Milwaukee's future Museum of Beer and Brewing.

I have donated a few items to the Museum from my 19 years as a professional craft brewer, such as my limited-edition (numbered) Craft Brewers Conference speaker gift steins. The Museum is in the fund-raising stage now, but they hope to be able to buy a building soon. It doesn't say so on their website, but I believe they are always looking for charitable donations as well as quality beer and brewing-related artifacts that demonstrate beer and brewing in America. Help them out if you can!

After our little sioree broke up, Eric & Marie and I walked Milwaukee's new River Walk down to Rock Bottom. I say "new" because it wasn't there when I was a kid growing up nearby in Wauwatosa and West Bend. It was nice to see Milwaukee's formerly gritty and industrial riverfront transformed by a pedestrian-friendly walkway and river-side dining.

Rock Bottom was packed at 6:15 pm, so Marie and I commandeered some chairs while Eric waded through the crowd to the bar to get us beers. He came back with plastic cups full of IPA. "Guess what?" He said. "The beer is free until the keg runs out. That's why it's so crowded."

I'd never heard of that before, but apparently Rock Bottom in Milwaukee periodically gives away a keg of beer to its patrons. Hey - I'm unemployed: free is my favorite price!

Then we drove back to Cedarburg and stopped in at the Silver Creek Brewpub. The photo above is of Eric and Marie posing in front of their tanks. No glass partition keeping the patrons at bay in this brewery. However, with limited hours of operation, it's safe to say the customers are safe from idustrial injury as they probably can't watch the brewer during working hours.

I wanted to take a photo of the outside of the brewpub because it is on a creek, but there is no imposing entrance. In fact, you'd hardly know where the front door is. You have to walk around a building on a side street, and then turn left at the creek, following the creek till the path dead ends at a building. Once inside the front door, you walk across a skybridge over a small dam that looks like it once ran a mill. The humidity is great here, as the creek tumbles over the dam inside of the building shell; the creek runs under the skybridge that brings you to the interior front door of the brewpub. It is all smaller and more compact than this description sounds.

We tried a few beers, the Imperial Maibock being the one that stood out for its impressive alcohol level. It reminded me a little of a wheatwine, but with lager yeast and European hops.

No comments: