“It’s like a beer brewing dream team,” says Mark Garthwaite, executive director of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild. That’s a darn good description for the many brewers who congregated last Saturday at Madison’s Ale Asylum to make this year’s Common Thread collaboration beer.
“It’s a common thread among us; we all work for the same common cause and that’s great beer,” says Garthwaite.
This is the sixth installment of Common Thread, a beer that’s made by brewers from throughout the state. Each year the beer is a different style, making it a fresh addition to the annual Madison Craft Beer Week.
The 2017 Common Thread will be a Baltic porter. “I wanted this year’s Common Thread to be a beer style that everyone could sink their teeth into,” says host brewmaster Dean Coffey of Ale Asylum.
It’s a lesser-seen style of beer that originated in the region surrounding the Baltic Sea, and it shares traits of both ales and lagers. Being a porter, it’s akin to ales; however, it’s fermented with lager yeast and allowed to condition and mature for several weeks, much like a lager. Baltic porters are dark, robust beers with smooth chocolate maltiness and layers of sweetness and roast. “Porters are one of my favorite styles of beer,” says Capital Brewery’s Ashley Kinart, who took part in brewing. “But I also enjoy lagers, so it’s the best of both worlds.”
Common Thread brewers and brewery staff in the Ale Asylum brewhouse.
Nearly 70 people attended Saturday’s initial brew, most of those being brewers and/or their staff. It was one of the largest gatherings of brewers for the making of Common Thread of the past six years. The environment at brew day is always incredibly collegial and inviting, despite the inherent competition that exists in the craft beer industry. Justin Bohn, head brewer at the South Shore Brewery in Ashland and Washburn drove nearly six hours to be part of the collaboration brew. “We’re so far up north that we’re kind of isolated,” says Bohn. “To come down to Madison and hang out with all the other brewers helps me see what they’re doing and what they’re doing differently.” Bohn’s South Shore Brewery supplied the base malt that was used to make the beer; that barley was grown on farms in northern Wisconsin.
Kinart agrees that Common Thread creates a lot of collegiality among brewers. “I like the idea that all of these brewers from across the state come together to make a beer. It just seems like the right thing to do,” she says.
This is also the first time for Common Thread to be packaged in six-packs as well as draught. Common Thread’s release has become the capstone brew for the annual Madison Craft Beer Week, which runs April 28-May 7 this year.