The craft beer scene continues to explode in the Madison area, but its growth across the state is just as breathtaking. Brewery expansions, broader distribution footprints, growth in sours and barrel-aging programs, and collaborative brewing projects all promise to make for a great 2015 in Wisconsin beer.
Here's a look at what to look forward to in 2015 among craft breweries in Milwaukee, the Fox Valley, central Wisconsin and elsewhere around the state.
Badger State Brewing of Green Bay
Central Waters Brewing of Amherst
Central Waters is hosting its 17th anniversary party on January 24, and as in past years, is releasing a special beer to mark the occasion. Named 17 to commemorate the birthday, this brew is a blend of multiple bourbon barrel-aged stouts. An advance ticket purchase is necessary to reserve the right to purchase this beer at the party.
Door County Brewing of Baileys Harbor
The brewery has two new releases planned for late spring that will join its year-round lineup of six-packs. Brewmaster Danny McMahon is not providing many details, but both beers will be hop forward. He does note tastes may be available at Isthmus Beer and Cheese Fest on January 17, and bottles may appear in time for Madison Craft Beer Week in early May. For those who enjoy visiting Baileys Harbor, the brewery hopes to expand its experimental and pilot brewing program for taproom enjoyment.
Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee
The brewery's My Turn limited-release line of four-packs will feature four new beers in 2015. Owner Russ Klisch says the only style that's currently set is an oak-aged red farmhouse ale called Matt that will be released in late January. My Turn releases are developed by Lakefront employees to try their hand at recipe development and brewing. The brewery is also planning to expand its line of organic beers with a Belgian-style farmhouse ale, and will add a new gluten-free beer in the first quarter of the year. Lakefront topped 48,000 barrels in production over 2014, double what it made just two years ago. Recent expansion in warehouse and storage space also supports the brewery's growth, and Klisch is negotiating the purchase of additional land next to the current facility for even more growth. Lakefront is currently available in 35 states, and its national distribution is slated to expand.
Lucette Brewing Company of Menomonie
This past year was a busy one for Lucette. The brewery installed a canning line and started releasing several of its beers in six-packs of 16-ounce cans. In the fall, it announced a 4,000 square-foot expansion of the brewery and its tasting room. Fans should watch for a more regular presence around Wisconsin, especially of its most popular brews like Hips Don't Lie (a hefeweizen made with rose hips) and Slow Hand (an American stout).
Milwaukee Brewing Company of Milwaukee
Milwaukee Brewing will be shifting some of its regular offerings around in 2015. Litta Bitta White IPA, a lighter IPA at 4.8% ABV, moves to the brewery's year-round lineup. Both this beer and Booyah (a saison) may appear in cans in 2015. Taking a break from six-packs will be Pull Chain Pale Ale. Meanwhile, the brewery is also planning to increase production of its Destination Local 750 ml bombers, a series that is expected to include more barrel-aged beers. The brewery also plans to again offer the seasonals Doppelvision Doppelbock in February, Walk Off Tripel in April, Recombobulation Imperial Black Ale in the autum, and Elf's Lament Spiced Belgian Dubbel next winter.
O'so Brewing of Plover
Over the last couple of years, O'so owner and brewmaster Marc Buttera has been venturing into sours, some of which are made in collaboration with Levi Funk of Funk Factory Geuzeria. They're hosting a Coolship Party on January 23, which will feature the release of a bourbon barrel-aged version of Convenient Distraction, a bourbon barrel-aged imperial version of Night Train with coconut and cacao nibs, and another Funk Factory sour. Buttera also says he just brewed a coffee sour that will debut in early 2015. However, O'so's release of new sours may slow somewhat because of limitations in space at the brewery, and because Buttera says he's exploring other sour production methods. Meanwhile, it seems surprising that O'so doesn't have an IPA in its year-round lineup, but that will change in 2015. The brewery is also planning to debut Grandpa's Got a Gun, a brandy barrel-aged version of Spike, a new dark beer named Sweet Lady Stout, a smoked imperial stout aged in brandy barrels that's named Goldie's Revenge, and Wheat You Talkin' 'Bout Willis, a barley wine-style wheat beer aged in brandy barrels. Buttera is also exploring options for relocating his brewery to a space elsewhere in Portage County that will allow the development of a much larger facility.
Pearl Street Brewing of La Crosse
The brewery's 16th annual Winter Ball is set for February 6-7, with five special beers planned for the party. Pearl Street is also stepping up production of its barrel-aged brews in 2015.
Port Huron Brewing of Wisconsin Dells
Owner and brewmaster Tanner Brethorst will be setting up a new pilot brewing system that he'll use for limited-release experimental beers in his taproom. Well-received batches may appear as seasonal releases or even as new entries into Port Huron's year-round lineup. Also, watch for the release of an IPA in early 2015; this is a beer that Brethorst has been planning for a long time. The brewery gets its name from a Port Huron Steam Engine that Brethorst and his family restored several years ago. As a nod to that family spirit, Brethorst plans to host a special party that will coincide with the wheat harvest in mid-summer. This will feature the tractor and a threshing demonstration in which wheat provided by a local farmer will be processed for use in a special release.
Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi
Built over the last year, Potosi's new facility will start production in 2015. It's nearly operational now, with much of the equipment in place or set for a January delivery. Brewmaster Steve McCoy is planning his first test brews for early February, and the new packaging system should be ready by March. Among the new Potosi beers to watch for in the year ahead are a Belgian Quad, a barrel-aged Baltic porter and an Oktoberfest. Bitter beer fans will want to keep an eye out for Tangerine IPA, which will be released in four-packs of 16-ounce cans.
Rush River Brewingof River Falls
Expect more bombers from Rush River in 2015. Its most recent offering is Minion IPA, which was just released in 22-ounce bottles (and kegs). The brewery is also planning to package Double Bubble Imperial IPA and other limited-run beers in the large bottles. A barrel-aged version of Nevermore Chocolate Oatmeal Stout is also in the works. Additionally, Rush River will unveil its first hard cider in spring.
Sand Creek Brewing Company of Black River Falls
Sand Creek plans to increase production of Wild Ride, its barrel-aged American IPA. It gets a lot of love from hoppy beer fans who also appreciate barrel-aged treats. Late in 2014, the brewery introduced Bugler Brown Ale, with partial proceeds from its sales donated to help reintroduce elk in Jackson County. Madison saw very little of this beer, production and distribution of it is slated to expand in 2015. The brewery will also continue its partnership with Infinity Beverage Winery & Distillery of Eau Claire to make Beersky, a whisky made from Sand Creek beer. The current line includes one made with Chocolate Oatmeal Stout and another with Rye Doppelbock.
Sprecher Brewing of Glendale
It'll be a big year for Sprecher as the brewery celebrates its 30th anniversary. Not many party details have been unveiled yet, but there is a special anniversary beer in the works for April. Big beer fans should note that the brewery's Russian imperial stout will return in January. Sprecher will also offer its first cider later in 2015.
Stevens Point Brewery of Stevens Point
The brewery will introduce a new spring seasonal and bring back one of its storied winter brews in 2015. The debut brew will be Apricadabra, a wheat ale made with El Dorado hops and apricot juice. The returning label is Point Bock, a limited draught-only release that hasn't been distributed since 2002. Coast Radler will also return this summer; it was a new release in 2014 that was sold in 12-ounce bottles and was very limited in the Madison market. It's set to be packaged in cans too. And the brewery's venerable Point Special, an iconic Wisconsin beer, will get a little bit of a makeover as it will be released in a 1980s retro can.
3 Sheeps Brewing of Sheboygan
Owner Grant Pauly will be getting serious about wild fermentation in 2015. He's planning at least two sours that will be initially packaged in the Nimble Lips Noble Tongue series of 22-ounce bottles. Pauly is hoping that sours will eventually be released by 3 Sheeps in their own special line, though. Overall, the brewery will introduce at least a half-dozen beers in the Nimble Lips Noble Tongue lineup, with one of the first being a golden strong ale aged in Chardonnay barrels.
Titletown Brewing of Green Bay
This Green Bay brewpub expanded big-time in 2014 and developed a new $3.5 million production brewery. Over the last couple of years, Titletown brews have been found on draught in a limited number of Madison tap houses. As its new facility commences bottling production, more of its beers will be available on shelves. Among the beers to watch for is Green 19, an American IPA made with Cascade, Chinook, Citra and Horizon hops. Named as a nod to an audible hard count used by Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, it's expected to be out in six-packs by early spring and join Johnny "Blood" McNally Red and Boathouse Pilsners as Titletown's first bottled releases.
Valkyrie Brewing of Dallas
This small Wisconsin brewery stepped up its distribution in 2014. In the year ahead, it plans to add a new hoppy beer to its portfolio. Owner and brewmaster Randy Lee is still formulating a recipe that will showcase seven European hops, including German noble varieties. In late January, he will be bringing back Doppelbock, a beer considered to be a favorite of locals around Barron County.