So how fun was doing research for this book?
What changes in brewing have you seen since your first edition of this book (published in 2006)?
Also, though appears there are even more breweries than in 2006, have you seen any that closed since the first edition?
The book touched on all kinds of breweries, from larger corporate breweries to very small-scale producers like Brown Street in Rhinelander. What is it about breweries that makes them such an attraction for people, no matter how large or small. I know we all like the samples at the end but there seems to be something larger at work.
People like to see how things are made. It’s the “magic” of nature that takes what looks like breakfast ingredients and makes such an amazing beverage as beer in all its styles and potencies. That’s fun to see and sample. Beer is the drink of the people, too. So there is a camaraderie of strangers going on tours together. The corporate breweries impress us too just for the amazing scale of the operation.
I thought I had a pretty good handle on all of the microbreweries in the state but there were at least a dozen places I had never heard of (and now have to visit) in your book. Were you surprised at how many breweries there are in Wisconsin, particularly in smaller towns?
I am always surprised. As I said it is a tough business to survive in, and places like Rowland’s Calumet Brewery supported by a town as small as Chilton for over 20 years? That’s just awesome. A microbrewery inside a University of Wisconsin student center? Ah, Wisconsin…
Were there any truly surprising or unique beers or beer styles that you discovered during the writing of this book?
Always. The creativity out there is impressive. South Shore’s Coffee Mint Stout? Who’d’ve thunk? With White Winter Winery they revived Brackett as well. More brewers are pulling out imaginative recipes, throwing in hop alternatives, smoked malt, beets (Furthermore), peppers (Great Dane and others), coffee, whole hop buds in the beer bottles (O’so). Titletown gave us India Ink, a sort of IPA-stout hybrid I think? Whatever. It was great. Saison, I’ve read, was almost a dead style in Belgium. Now it seems a lot of American brewers have picked up on it for summer (although the recipes vary greatly). Double IPAs, bourbon-barrel-aged stuff. The sky is the limit.
Were there any beers or styles that you didn’t like?
Of course. I’m still not a Pilsner fan. I know, I know, horrifying to hear. Yet occasionally someone comes along with one that gives me pause (Hinterland’s Euro Pilsner a while back). But it’s the style that I don’t care for, not an issue of quality.
This being a site that talks about food too, were there any memorable food experiences you had during your travels (either at the breweries/brewpubs) or at nearby restaurants?
So many of these places are also serving great food. I am a big fan of the foods that use the beer, the sauces, marinades, the beer batters. But also just set me up with some deep-fried cheese curds on the side and I am good to go. Hinterland with its gastropubs in Green Bay and Milwaukee, really turns it up a notch with the fancy cuisine. But the other brewpubs – Titletown, South Shore, Blue Heron, Great Dane, etc. make beer and great food almost an expectation. And one can never forget the Lakefront Friday-night fish fry with polka band after a brewery tour. Quintessential Wisconsin.
What are your favorite foods to pair with beer?
Cheeses. Take that wine geeks!
If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring 1 six-pack filled with your favorite Wisconsin Beers, what 6 would you include?
Don’t get me in trouble here. Let’s just say I’d need a good oatmeal stout, coffee stout, an IPA, a bourbon-barrel aged somethin’, something sour, and maybe another stout or IPA. And then some kind of signaling device so I could get myself the hell off that island before finishing number 6. Scary thought.
I noticed that you do a lot of travel guides, what are you working on next?
I am just finishing up a hiking guide for Grand Rapids, Michigan, but I have a lot more in the works. An e-book about my year in Southern Italy. And also an iPhone app version of the Wisconsin Beer Guide which I am putting out under my new imprint “Pilsgrimage.” I like traveling for beer and will start keeping track of the places I find it on my travels at www.pilsgrimage.com.