The upcoming year will be another great one for craft beer enthusiasts. As breweries open and expand, trends in sours and barrel-aging take root, and new ideas emerge, 2015 will have plenty in store for those who enjoy beers made in the Madison area and elsewhere around the state.
With an emphasis on new releases, here are 15 beers to watch for in 2015, presented in alphabetical order.
1. Barrel-Aged Quad from Potosi Brewing of Potosi
Potosi's new production brewery is expected to start making beer in the first quarter of 2015. Brewmaster Steve McCoy will focus on his standard year-round lineup, but is hinting that he's got a few surprises in store. Look for his big Barrel-Aged Quad to be on draught at the brewpub in Potosi and in select tap houses around Madison by early fall.
2. Bock from Stevens Point Brewery of Stevens Point
This beer is not new, but it has not been made since 2002. Its original recipe goes back to 1938, and was recently re-discovered by Brewmaster Gabe Hopkins in the brewery's archives. Some longtime beer enthusiasts consider this a venerable seasonal that predates the current craft beer movement. A deep copper lager, it finishes at 5.1% ABV. Look for this beer on select taps beginning in January.
3. Bouquet from Vintage Brewing Company of Madison
Brewmaster Scott Manning always has something planned that pushes the boundaries of beer creativity. For May, he's planning the perfect bouquet for Mother's Day with a "pink" IPA. It's a hoppy white India Pale Ale (a lighter, session-style IPA) made with hibiscus and blood oranges that lend a pink color to the beer. It's the product of a collaborative project between Tex Tubb's Taco Palace and the Food Fight Restaurant Group that's intended to raise attention for breast cancer charities, with a portion of the proceeds going to the South Central Wisconsin Affiliate of Susan G. Komen. Look for a preview of this beer during Madison Craft Beer Week, and expect it to be around through Mother's Day.
4. Citadel from House of Brews of Madison
Owner and brewmaster Page Buchanan says 2015 will be a hoppy year for the House of Brews! He is planning four new beers, with one coming out each month beginning in January. Each brew will showcase a particular hop. The one on my must try list is a high gravity pale ale featuring Citra hops. Named Citadel, its release is planned for either March or April. These new hoppy beers from House of Brews will appear in bombers selling for $6-$8, and will be found in the Madison area only for the first half of 2015.
5. Common Thread: Tripel for Madison Craft Beer Week
Starting in 2012, southern Wisconsin brewers have come together every year to craft a beer that is the centerpiece of Madison Craft Beer Week. This year's fourth edition of the brew will be a Belgian-style tripel. For the first time, the recipe and brewing of the Common Thread beer will showcase the talents of southern Wisconsin's women brewers, including Rochelle Francois of Wisconsin Brewing, Ashley Kinart of Capital Brewery and Jamie Martin of Wisconsin Dells Brewing.
This beer is a well-timed collaboration between MobCraft and Badger State Brewing. As MobCraft owner Giotto Troia notes, "the name is in reference to a celebratory action from, quite possibly, the most talented individual to have ever thrown a lopsided ball in the city of Green Bay." However, neither breweries can state this individual's name, team or even sport. Suffice to say, this beer is insured to be good. It's a Belgian-style dubbel made with Czech hops, and is available in 22-ounce bomber bottles. For those who follow MobCraft closely, the beer was released in time for the Packers final home game on December 28. It should be available to enjoy watching them and Aaron Rodgers through the team's playoffs run.
7. Grandpa's Got a Gun from O'so Brewing of Plover
This is a special version of Spike, a limited-release seasonal that's made with Wisconsin maple sap. Starting as an American strong ale, it's aged in brandy barrels for nine months. Look for it in 750 mL bottles in early March.
8. Impending Descent and Impending Dissent from Ale Asylum of Madison
Brewmaster Dean Coffey talked about making this beer in 2014, and now it's fermenting in the Ale Asylum brew house. Two versions of this beer, a Russian imperial stout, are being made. The first, Impending Descent is a traditional take on the style, made with British yeast. The second, Impending Dissent, is made with Belgian yeast. "We often refer to ourselves a yeast ranchers because brewers make wort and yeast make the beer," says Ale Asylum co-owner Otto Dilba. "We worship our yeast strains." Both beers will be offered in 22-ounce bombers, and will be released at a special party on June 20. Because the beer is so limited, it will only be sold with advanced tickets that allow purchasers to buy it in sets. Ale Asylum is tentatively calling the event "Ferment Dissent."
9. IPA from Port Huron Brewing Company of Wisconsin Dells
Brewmaster Tanner Brethorst has been working on this one for a while. He's been getting pressure to make a hoppy beer since he opened in 2012, and had originally planned on making one last year. Should those plans come to fruition this year, it will be the first IPA in the brewery's lineup. It's expected to feature Wisconsin-grown hops, and Brethorst says he wants it to be more of a "Midwest IPA," which points to something on the level and bitterness and body of an English IPA. The recipe should result in a beer that's over 70 IBUs and finishes at 6-7% ABV. Look for Brethorst to start making test batches in February. It will initially be available on draught, with bottles expected later in 2015.
10. Matt from Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee
The latest the My Turn series, in which brewery staff get a shot at designing a beer, will be an oak-aged red farmhouse ale. It's named for Matt Krajnak, Lakefront's director of communications, who developed its recipe as a homebrewer. The beer is aged with toasted French oak spirals for six weeks. Matt should be out by late January in four-packs, with three more new My Turn brews to follow over 2015.
11. Nimble Lips Noble Tongue Golden Strong Ale from 3 Sheeps Brewing of Sheboygan
3 Sheeps is planning to expand both its sour and barrel-aging programs that are released in the limited Nimble Lips Noble Tongue series of 22-ounce bombers. Owner and brewmaster Grant Pauly says that given the popularity of sours, he's working on several new creations for 2015, and expects them to eventually evolve into a lineup of their own. Pauly isn't specifically saying which sours will be released or when, but he's hinting about a few surprises to come in late spring or early summer. He's using oak barrels and aging several sours in unused corners in the brewery's three-story building in Sheboygan. One release Pauly is willing to share some details about is a Chardonnay barrel-aged golden strong ale that will top out at 11% ABV. It’s expected to be out by March.
12. Red IPA from Capital Brewery of Middleton
Look for a new year-round IPA from Capital, this one based on a red ale. Brewmaster Ashley Kinart has been working on the recipe, with plans for this beer to hit shelves in six-packs by April.
13. The Twins from Lake Louie Brewing of Arena
Owner and brewmaster Tom Porter has been mixing things up over the last year with a bunch of new brews. In 2015, he’s planning at least three additional new beers. The one I’m looking forward to most is this rich and strong maibock that finishes at over 8% ABV. It gets its name from the astrological sign for Gemini. This beer will appear in four-packs in March.
14. Verily from Parched Eagle Brewpub of Westport
The Parched Eagle is scheduled to open in early 2015 on Madison's far north side. This small brewpub will have a half-dozen of its standard house brews on tap, in addition to rotating specialty brews and a few guest beers. Along with a pale ale, a kölsch, and a robust porter, brewmaster and co-owner Jim Goronson will offer a Belgian-style dubbel as his first house beers. The latter, named Verily, is rich in yeast, raisin and plum flavors at 7.3% ABV. This is the one I'm looking forward to the most.
15. Wiskator from Wisconsin Brewing Company of Verona
Kirby Nelson is getting ready to release a type of beer he's well-known for: a bold, rich lager. This Wisconsin version of doppelbock, hence the name Wiskator, is expected to be a draught-only release and out in limited quantities by early February. Nelson is also holding back some that he's aging in bourbon barrels for a May release.