Author Archives: Brian Kaufenberg

Suds: August 6

Curiosity. It’s the fuel that propelled us into space in the first place and will fling us headlong into the future of our understanding of the universe.

If this photo isn’t a good enough reason to fund NASA, than there is none.

– Let’s start with some great news. Here are the mid-year volume numbers from the Brewers Association.

MPLS release at Town Hall Brewery tomorrow in Mpls. Oh wait, I see what they did there…

– Congrats to Sprecher Brewing for winning six medals at the US Open Beer Championship.

– Michigan’s UP Fall Beer Festival has tickets still available. Check it out here.

New Glarus’ lambic beers are as good as gold and this article proves it!

Big Dawg Brewhaus wins in Indiana.

– Let them drink beer: Alabama lifted its ban on Dirty Bastard.

If you’ve got a telescope, I’ve got some beer. Let’s look for Curiosity!


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Brew for Thought: Lake Superior Brewing Kayak Kolsch

Summers are hectic, possibly more than any other time of the year. Even though the warm weather conjures up visions of lying on the beach or going to the baseball game, in truth the weather is the perfect excuse to get all of those chores done that piled up during the winter. There is a place in Minnesota, though, where you can truly get away from the endless noise of engines drumming down the highway and the constant ringing of cell phones: the Boundary Waters.

In the northernmost reaches of the state lies a quiet sanctuary of lakes and islands, whose only visitors use a paddle rather than an engine. While the term pristine wilderness is an idealistic statement, spending a week in the BWCA is as close to unplugged as our society gets. There is something wonderful and a little terrifying to know you are relying on only the items you’ve packed in to your kayak or canoe: one misstep and you could be up a creek without a paddle, so to speak.

The solitude the Boundary Waters offers a person is unmatched by any convenient amenity we can buy in a store. Waking up the first morning in camp is uplifting, as though Emerson himself sloughed the knapsack of custom from your shoulders. The air is crisp and clean and it feels like the first time you’ve ever really taken a breath.

This place and mindset demand a quality beer free of gimmicks and heavy-handed witticisms in their names. It demands something light, crisp and refreshing as the morning air. In my mind, Lake Superior Brewing Kayak Kolsh is the perfect choice for a trip to the Boundary Waters, so grab a six-pack, (oh hell, grab two six-packs) and make a grand portage to a little peace of mind.

Best Enjoyed: Quietly, at a campsite on the lake.

Best Paired With: A shore lunch of freshly caught walleye.

Where to Find: Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin

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Suds: June 27

It’s hump day, which means at the end of the day we’re all going to say, “Hey, pass me a beer.” Crack open your favorite stress relieving brew, mine is Bell’s Two-Hearted and check out this great video.

New Holland’s beer dinner at Amsterdam Bar and Hall is tonight!

– I had Badger Hill for the Growler Release Party, but don’t miss the official release at Senor Wong tomorrow.

Beer for dogs? I can’t feel my legs anymore…

University of Minnesota is heading up research on growing hops. C’mon Wisconsin, where were on that one?

– Brewmaster in the Wisconsin Dells names his brewery after Michigan town he’s never been to. The MwBC does not condone such actions since brews should have honest regional pride.

O’so Brewing’s creative growing along with the brewery as they hire a graphic designer for their brand.

Want Nickelback to endorse your beer? Well, they’ll have the time since Dark Horse shot them down.

Meet the brewers of the Fulton & Wood Series Black Mission at the Beer Bistro in Chicago.

– It’s time for the Red Scare from Revolution Brewing.

Need more than just Suds? Tweet @MidwestBeer or check out our other great features to get your fix.

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Brew for Thought: Bell’s Oarsman Ale

Call me a sucker for sour ales, but Bell’s Oarsman Ale is the hidden gem of the Bell’s lineup. While it’s understandable that Bell’s superb stout list take up the spotlight when the winter rolls around and it’s no wonder that Oberon and Two Hearted highlight the summer, I am floored that Oarsman Ale hasn’t made a bigger splash (pun very much intended). If you are taking a trek to the lake for the weekend or having an impromptu sailing excursion a six-pack of Oarsman Ale is a necessity in the icebox.

I first encountered Bell’s Oarsman Ale when I added it to a six-pack of my choice at one of my favorite shops, the Ale Jail in St. Paul, and I had no idea that it was a sour ale. By the label and the name, I assumed it was a summer ale with a bitter bite from a heaping of hops, but it was what the label failed to intimate that I found most pleasing about this beer: the tart finish from the sour mash process.

But sour ales are so intensely lip-puckering and palate-challenging, how could you drink one or…(gasp)…more than one in the heat of summer?  Don’t fret my friends, Bell’s utilized the sour mash methods in a balanced way to produce a slight palate-cleansing tartness that continues to dance even after the band has stopped playing. This is no intimidating Rodenbach Grand Cru, but instead a wheat ale packed with tart citrus flavors perfect for a day on the water.

Best Enjoyed: Cold and on a boat

Best Paired With: Fresh oysters

Where to Find: While Bell’s is distributed all across the Midwest, visit the Bell’s website to find where the nearest location that carries Oarsman Ale is to you.

Need more beer? Not to worry, there’s a new edition of Suds right around the corner. 

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Suds: June 18

The Twin Cities have been a source of some of the best underground hip hop in the nation for the past decade. Thanks to the national success of Atmosphere, artists like Brother Ali, Toki Wright, Doomtree (and its individual artists SIMS, Dessa, Lazerbeak, and POS among others) and Eyedea and Abilities are now on the map. The collective Doomtree has been making a big splash this past year and looks to be taking the banner from Atmosphere who had led the Twin Cities movement thus far. Their latest album, No Kings, was well received and for good reason–it’s a great album. But there is one hip hop group that continually garners shoulder shrugs and quizzical looks whenever I mention their name.

Heiruspecs, out of St. Paul, meld jazz and rock into some of the best live hip hop I’ve ever seen. If you have never heard of them, check out their music video for “5ves” and crack open a St. Paul brew, Summit Saga.

Now for Suds:

Summit Beer dinner at Cocina del Barrio tonight. There are only a few tickets left.

The Better Beer Society is selling tickets for its Brown Bag Blind tasting #2 event. Get them before they are sold out!

Hopped Up Caribou Beer Festival is sure to be one of the coolest (Get it? It’s up north.) beer festivals around!

Beer Here: Three Kings Ale from Stevens Point Brewery

Entrepreneur from Chicago to open Strange Pelican Brewery.

– Tickets are on sale now for Michigan’s Summer Festival.

– Who’s got better beer? Minnesota or Wisconsin? It’s a battle royale.

Boulevard Brewing gets a much deserved honor.

– If you haven’t seen it yet, the folks at the Beer Dabbler have just published the first edition of The Growler, a bimonthly beer magazine.

Have Suds withdrawl? No worries! We’re back in full-force for all your craft beer needs! Tweet @MidwestBeer, we’d love to catch up.

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Interbrew: Growing a Brewery from Midwestern Roots with Shane Welch of Sixpoint Brewery

Editor’s Note: …and we’re back! Thanks for your patience during our prolonged intermission, we are ready to begin publishing once again and bring you the good word on Midwestern craft beer and culture. This project has been a fun, albeit daunting one for two craft beer lovers with full-time jobs, but with your support it has made it all worth it. We can’t thank you enough for being a part of the MwBC and we look forward to what the future holds! To reward your patience we are proud to bring you a brand new Interbrew with the founder of Sixpoint Brewery, Shane Welch! Cheers and remember–there’s still more to be explored.

How did you get started brewing?

I started brewing on my stove top when I was 19 years old and in college at the University of Wisconsin.  I actually purchased my homebrew kit from the Wine and Hop Shop on Monroe Street.

What was your first homebrew? How did it turn out?

It was a hoppy Brown Ale.  It turned out quite well as I remember it, but that was probably my biased “made-it-myself” perspective.  I’m sure if I tasted it nowadays I’d find dozens of flaws in it.

Word on the street is that you are a Badger. Where is your favorite place in Madison?

I am a Badger indeed.  I have many favorite places – each one of them contributes to the eccentric patchwork and culture of Madison, which is an entirely unique city.  Some of these places are iconic, whereas others are a bit under the radar.  For a place to have a beer when the weather is nice, it is hard to top the Terrace at Memorial Union.  For a place to throw the Frisbee on a sunny day I still go to James Madison Park.  For awesome vegetarian food served by righteous folks, it is hard to beat Himal Chuli.  There are tons of great dive bars in Madison, but I usually like to venture off the beaten path a bit.  The Willy Street neighborhood has several great places, like Mickey’s Tavern, Crystal Corner, etc.  And of course I love the ‘Bou as well.  If you know what I mean when I say ‘Bou then you are definitely down with a cool spot.  There are really so many great places – downtown, west side, east Johnson street, Monroe Street, Schenck-Atwood – too many to name.  It’s just a great city.

I read that you worked under Dean Coffey, now of Ale Asylum, at the old Angelic. Tell us about that.

One of the best experiences of my life actually.  Whenever I look back upon those days, I look back with a lot of positivity as it was a time of learning, exploration, and breaking new ground – and all of this was influenced by Dean’s mentorship.  Keep in mind when I worked for Dean, I was 20-23 years old.  So I was an adult at the time, but definitely still impressionable and not nearly as enlightened as I probably thought I was.  Dean’s path to making beer as his livelihood is a great story, and his passion for great beer is clearly evident in the brews he creates.  When I was working with him, we did talk about beer frequently, but we also spent a lot of time philosophizing about music, politics, literature, anarchy, film, food, and having a rip-roaring good time.

I think beer was our destiny, and it was great to see our paths converge for a period of time.  In that sense, I think beer brought us together, and I hope it keeps us together too.

What would you say is the biggest lesson you took away from Dean?

Follow your passion, listen to your heart, and don’t be afraid to stand up for what you believe in – even in the face of ridicule, torment, and persecution.

What do you think it means to be a brewer, especially one trained in a distinctly Midwestern tradition, on the East Coast?

I’d like to believe that Midwestern brewers, and all Midwestern manufacturers for that matter, have a reputation for solid engineering, quality, and craftsmanship.  Also, Midwesterners are supposed to be polite and courteous.  So if I am sharing those qualities with folks out East, I’d say that is a solid and well-needed contribution!

What’s your take on the East Coast craft brewing scene and what changes have you seen since you opened Sixpoint eight years ago?

Well, the “East Coast” is really too large of a classification, because Florida is as much of an East Coast state as Maine is.  Similarly, San Diego and Seattle are both West Coast cities, but they have drastically different beer cultures.

That being said, New England is home to some of the oldest craft breweries in the country, but when I arrived on the scene in 2004, they were not making the types of brews you’d commonly see on the West Coast or in the Midwest, with a few exceptions of course.  Things have changed drastically since then.  You see a lot more daring and bold beers, and ones made with more aggressive flavors.  Palates have woken up.

Clearly, we at the MwBC think the Midwest has some really great beer, but we’re curious: how are Midwestern beers and breweries received on the East Coast?

Well, in the beer community, they are received very well.  They may not have the sales figures to back it up, but among the beer heads, many of them are some of the most highly esteemed breweries out there.

How much beer are you producing each year?

We are growing each year, but this year we will make around 35,000 barrels.

What was the biggest challenge in opening your own brewery?

Too many to name!  Probably the biggest nagging and ongoing problem was our constant state of destitute hustling, and hemorrhaging cash flows.

What beer are you most proud of from your time at Sixpoint?

All of them, but I have a special spot in my heart for the Beer For Beasts beers, because of the disproportionate positive effect they have.

Any interesting new recipes you are working on that you could tell us about?

We have some epic stuff in the pipeline.  I wish I could share it with you, but I cannot at this time.  You’ll have to follow us for updates…this is a beer we’ve been working on for over a year, and it’s still probably 9 months from being released…

We also are finishing up an imminent release – a type of beer that has never been done before, in a can.  It’s called the Apollo and it is brewed like a true Bavarian Wheat beer – but with a twist.  I can’t wait to share that one with people.

What is it about beer that means so much to us as a society?

Society is an interesting phenomenon.  It brings us together in cities, but then makes us uptight, focused, and stressed out due to the competition and scrambling to get things done.  I think beer breaks down barriers in this sense.  Sharing a beer with someone and loosening up a bit is a great way to really just break the ice and swap stories, laughs, and thoughts.  It truly is a social elixir.  On a deeper level, one could say that beer actually is what created society, for people first started settling in cities when agriculture was invented.  And since the first crops that were grown were cereal grains and they were used for fermented beverages, you could say beer is the cornerstone of our civilization.  Or you could simply say it the way we say it, “Beer is Culture.”

What are your other passions in life? Do they influence your brewing?

I am very passionate about many things, but recently I have been most passionate about creating long-lasting and meaningful relationships with those people closest to me.

Favorite beer and food pairing?

Nothing can top the selfless, delicious home-cooked meals that Cathy prepares on a routine basis with a fresh growler from the brewery.

What are you reading right now?

I have three books in process.  I am finishing up Autobiography of a Yogi and this is the third time I’ve read it.  I’m halfway through Dethroning the King and it is fascinating.  And I just started The Wind-up Bird Chronicles because I needed some good fiction for balance.

What are you listening to right now?

Honestly, I am listening to the soft hum of a 747 Jet as I’m en route to Munich, Germany.  The woman next to me is trying to sleep.  But if you are asking to what I’ve been listening to lately at home, I collect vinyl and recently I have been listening to some great old Woody Guthrie albums I scored.  I also have been listening to some classic surf albums too.  The clang and reverb from the guitar sounds from those albums are indelible, and for some reason, goes really well with a nice IPA too.

Since this Interbrew was conducted Sixpoint founder, Shane Welch, and brewmaster, Jan Matysiak, have returned from a trip to Bavaria and released their much-anticipated summer ale, Apollo. Follow their journey and find out where to pick up a pack of Sixpoint’s brews by visiting their website.

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Brew for Thought: Summit Dunkel Weizen


Photo courtesy of the Summit Brewing Co. website.

I have a special place in my heart, and stomach, for German beers. It could be from my love of sausages, or my affinity for polka, or maybe I should look no further than my last name. Whatever the reason, I find myself time and time again at a German pub with a boot of beer in hand, sharing a night of drunken revelry with a group of close friends. The toughest part of all this is the fact that very few local brewers dabble in my favorite German style–dunkel weizen.

Summit Brewing Company to the rescue! The 9th installment of their Unchained Series, Summit Dunkel Weizen is the creation of brewer Eric Blomquist, who was “inspired by a memorable brew [he] enjoyed while on his honeymoon in Bavaria.” Often American versions of hefeweizen, dunkel weizen’s lighter cousin, come off clunky and lack the subtle touches that true German hefeweizens exhibit, so when I first picked up a six-pack of Summit’s dunkel weizen I was a little skeptical. All of my apprehensions disappear, though, after I poured it into my pint glass.

The nose was full of banana and toffee. The color was chestnut-brown and cloudy with a thin layer of head. The mouthfeel was smooth all the way through and the banana tasted subtler than it smelled, lingering pleasantly on the palette. In short, it was a great interpretation on the authentic German style. But there was something else that was beneath all the layers of flavor that escaped me at first taste and then I figured it out–the spirit of a homebrew. You could taste Eric’s individual creativity in it as though he brewed hundreds of batches in his kitchen. A true inspiration to a German beer-loving, homebrewer like myself. Prost!

Best Enjoyed: While brewing a batch of homebrew.

Best Paired With: Bratwursts and other sausages.

Where to Find: Only in Minnesota, sorry Wisconsinites.

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