Since taking on the lead brewer position at Next Door Brewing in May, Bryan Kreiter has been making subtle changes at the east-side brewpub that haven't gone unnoticed by its fans. Keeping the regulars happy has meant that Kreiter has kept up with demand for the mainstays like Wilbur (cream ale) and Sevex (English strong ale) while turning out a half-dozen new beers based on his own recipes. Among those, a handful cater to those with a taste for hops -- like his Hammerhead Belgian IPA and the West Coast-inspired Rockets Red Ale. Kreiter's latest hoppy creation, Eastside APA, makes Next Door a must-stop.
What is it? Eastside APA from Next Door Brewing of Madison, Wisconsin.
Style: The pale ale is a medium-bodied beer known for its firm, yet medium to high hop bitterness in flavor and aroma. American pale ales feature American hop varieties that lend strong floral, fruity, citrus or resiny character. English versions often have an herbal hop character, while American style tends to hold the maltiness more in the background while allowing the hops to stand out. These beers commonly range from 4.5% to 5.5% ABV.
Background: Bryan Kreiter joined Next Door Brewing last fall. He was promoted to lead brewer in late May when former brewmaster Keith Symonds abruptly left to pursue other opportunities, most recently as a consultant for emerging breweries like the soon-to-open Viking Brewpub in Stoughton.
Kreiter is originally from Eldridge, Iowa, and while growing up spent summers in Sauk City. There he often visited the Wisconsin River, where his great-uncle, Eugene McCubbin, was a longtime captain of the Merrimac Ferry.
After graduating in 2002 from Iowa State University with a degree in wildlife ecology, Kreiter worked about 10 years for the Nature Conservancy in Florida and Mississippi as a preserve manager and controlled burn specialist. During that time, he developed a love for homebrewing.
While in Mississippi, Kreiter joined a homebrew club and through friends became involved in helping start the Crooked Letter Brewing Company in Ocean Springs. When his girlfriend, Tracy, took a job at UW-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, Kreiter moved to town and used the transition to focus on brewing. He enrolled in an online brewer's program with the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago and began working locally for Brew and Grow, a homebrew supply store on Madison's east side. While there, he became acquainted with several of the professional brewers in Madison and eventually met Pepper Stebbins, general manager of Next Door Brewing.
The variety of styles and the challenge in designing new beers are what makes the new job fun for Kreiter. "We started out at Next Door with just three regular beers, and there are very few others that we have repeated, so there's lots of experimentation," he says.
While developing Eastside APA, Kreiter was inspired by several of Next Door's recent collaborative brews that offered distinctive hoppy character. Earlier this year for Madison Craft Beer Week, Next Door made pale ales with Karben4 and One Barrel Brewing, and in early June, Kreiter brewed a pale ale named No Egrets in collaboration with the Madison Audubon Society. The brewery donated 50 cents to the the organization for every pint sold.
Eastside APA was designed to be a hoppy beer with big aroma, yet without intense bitter flavor. "When people tell me they don't like hoppy beers, I generally assume they don't like bitterness," says Kreiter. "I'm trying to show them a hoppy beer can mean other things. They can be citrusy, piney, and even perfumy."
The special blend of hops that goes into Eastside APA makes it among the most expensive beers that Next Door has made. That's mostly because it's dry-hopped with Mosaic hops, a new variety that can be pricy and is difficult to acquire on a regular basis. Mosaic hops are known for their citrus and crisp tropical bitterness. Kreiter adds about a pound of Mosaic per barrel of Eastside APA, and also uses Cascade and Centennial hops.
The beer is unfiltered, with a bright golden-amber color that is slightly hazy. It ends up at 6% ABV and about 40 IBUs. It's available only at the brewpub, where it sells for $5 per pint and $13.50 per growler refill.
Next up at Next Door, Kreiter is working on an American wheat beer in collaboration with the AIDS Network; it will be released on July 30. In August, he'll be tapping a Belgian tripel. Over the next several months, Kreiter's influence will be become even more evident as he tweaks the brewpub's standard lineup and begins rotating in seasonal offerings.
- Aroma: Very aromatic with citrus-floral hoppiness.
- Appearance: Golden-amber color. Slightly hazy. Medium soft, tan head.
- Texture: Medium-bodied and crisp.
- Taste: A bright citrus hoppiness that is solid and found throughout a pint.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Lingering dryness.
Glassware: Next Door will serve this beer in the Willi Becher, a wonderful glass for focusing the hoppy aroma.
Pairs well with: Eastside APA is a great food companion, with just the right bitterness to blend with spicy foods; it's especially nice with Cajun or Mexican entrees. From the Next Door menu, it's a good match for the sauerkraut sausage balls with remoulade sauce.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Next Door Eastside APA is nicely hopped, and fans of the style will appreciate its aromatic assertiveness. It's a beer to enjoy as fresh as possible, when the hops are most noticeable. That's the advantage to making beer in small batches and with high turnover.
I feel Kreiter has achieved what he set out to make -- a beer with a pleasant combination of hops that lend firm citrus notes to the nose with firm medium hop flavor. It's not a brutal attack on the palate with bitterness. It's a well-done, middle-of-the-road APA, with plenty of hop character and a finesse to the bitterness that will appeal to a range of hoppy beer lovers. I hope Eastside APA will make the standard list of Next Door brews.