Geneva Lake Brewing
When Pat McIntosh started looking for a change after 28 years in a family-owned auto-parts-manufacturing company, he turned to something else he could do with his son. Both enjoyed homebrewing, so launching Geneva Lake Brewing Company has become a two-generation family business. Founded in late 2011, its first beer debuted on tap in spring 2012. Geneva Lake's 22-ounce bomber bottles started turning up in Madison last December, and have since become more regularly available in many specialty beer stores.
As indicated in its name, Geneva Lake Brewing is located in Lake Geneva. The resort community is an easy drive from Madison, Milwaukee and, of course, the suburbs of Chicago. The brewery's taproom has become a popular destination for weekends vacationers. "When you go to most tourist towns, it always seems like they have a brewpub or a brewery," says McIntosh. Now, Lake Geneva -- with its lake homes, cottages, quaint shops, boating, fishing, entertainment and dining -- does too.
When McIntosh has lived in the Lake Geneva area for over 33 years. Retiring at age 48, he decided to go back to college and complete a bachelor's degree in business administration from Aurora University's George Williams College in nearby Williams Bay. "It was on my bucket list," he said of getting the degree. Pat and his son, Jon, had been homebrewing together since about 2007, and during a father-son brew Jon suggested they start a brewery. By 2010, Pat had written a business plan, and a year later they leased space in a business park on Lake Geneva's eastern edge.
"I'm having a lot more fun doing this than I did making car parts," says Pat. "It's just a fun industry." Jon, 25, is co-owner and serves as head brewer. He's currently enrolled in a brewmaster's course at Chicago's Siebel Institute of Technology.
Geneva Lake Brewing is small but growing fast. In its first year of operation, the McIntoshes made about 400 barrels of beer. Now, after introducing bomber bottles, they expect to make around 1,000 barrels in 2013. Much of its seven-barrel system was previously used by a brewery in Traverse City, Michigan.
Later this year, Geneva Lake hope to move into canning its beers. The McIntoshes also signed on with Beechwood Distributors to start statewide distribution of their bomber bottles and draught beers.
One early standout from Geneva Lake that can be found easily in Madison is Cedar Point, a hoppy amber ale made with six different hops. Its name is a tribute to the cedar-lined northern shores of Lake Geneva.
Another popular option is No Wake, a solidly bitter India Pale Ale (IPA) made with eight different hops; it has some strength at 7.2% ABV. Pat, who considers himself an IPA guy, says No Wake is his personal favorite.
The Weekender is light-bodied and crisp, with just a hint of hops. It's a clean American Wheat style; there's not much of the clove or banana yeasty tones found in a true German Hefeweizen. While it's a year-round beer for Geneva Lake, it is especially nice as a summer beer at 4.6% ABV.
The Black Point Oatmeal Stout rounds out the standard brews. It's a deep black stout with medium body and soft roasted chocolate maltiness that comes off more toffee-like and semi-sweet than roasted or burnt. Black Point is what locals call the deepest point, at over 150 feet, of Lake Geneva.
Narrows is the name of the brewery's German Kölsch-style beer. Geneva Lake's version is bright yellow-golden, light-bodied and soft. It is very clean with a hint of fruity aroma and flavor from its traditional Kölsch yeast, but that light sweetness is restrained in the background of this nicely balanced and clean beer. Narrows was inspired by Pat's travels in Germany. In part because it's a style that many drinkers overlook, Narrows will be a summertime seasonal. If this beer is being served in the taproom, it's a great way to start a brewery visit.
This summer, Geneva Lake is releasing a Double IPA named Implosion, which will top 9% ABV and 85 IBUs. On the lighter side, there is also a raspberry wheat in the works.
Another beer that will be out later this year is Geneva Lake's Pumpkin Ale, which made its debut last fall to visitors at the brewery.
Geneva Lake's taproom is open Wednesday through Monday afternoons. However, it's best to check the brewery's hours or call ahead for any changes. Weekend visitors are likely to find Pat behind the bar pouring. Tours are pretty much on an "as requested" basis and are given when there's time for Pat or Jon to step away from the taps. Brewing generally occurs earlier in the week, and not during tasting room hours.