You might have heard that a CSA-style brewery is coming to Madison's east side. The good news? The House of Brews is operational and has started offering its beer in several area taverns. The bad news? Those CSA-style shares, in which consumers will be able to buy subscriptions to the brewery to get a variety of brews weekly or monthly in half-gallon growlers, are on hold.
In September, House of Brews owner/brewer Page Buchanan started selling his first beers on tap accounts. Vintage, the Old Fashioned, Dexter's Pub, the Malt House, Maduro, the Coopers Tavern, Alchemy and the Mason Lounge are some of the takers. The inaugural batch, his flagship brew, is called Prairie Rye, based on the German Kölsch style. The light-bodied, golden-colored ale is bubbly and crisp with about 4.5% ABV. Rye malt enhances the sharp flavor and body. It's a nice beer for getting to know House of Brews - and it's a nice representation of the style, only a bit dryer than well-known imports like Gaffel Kölsch.
For hoppy beer lovers, Buchanan's second beer style out of the tanks is Full House, a bold 7% ABV pale ale made with four varieties of hops for a solid bitter flavor and aroma.
On the darker side is Cellar Dark, a rich brown porter that is malty, slightly dry and finishes at a modest 5.5% ABV, making it a good session beer. By November, Buchanan hopes to release his fourth beer, a Scotch Ale named Standing Stones. Its exact release time is uncertain because Buchanan has only a limited number of kegs, so he must rely on empties to be returned from bars.
That's not too surprising, given that Buchanan's brewery has been constructed on what some might consider less than a shoestring budget. Buchanan, 46, has relied on his home-brewer mindset to construct the 4,800-square-foot brewery at 4539 Helgesen Dr., in a warehouse that was once home to the small black-light theater called Luma.
Most of the brewing equipment is experiencing its second or third life. The brew kettle and mash tub are made from used dairy equipment purchased in salvage yards or from farmers. The tanks are from Lake Louie and O'so, a keg washer is from Great Dane-Wausau, and a filtering system is from a brewpub in Chicago. It's what brewers affectionately call a Frankenstein system.
"The build-out has been incredibly hard. It took twice as long and cost twice as much" as the original estimate, says Buchanan.
Because of that, his plans to sell individual shares are still unfolding. He'll focus for the next several months on getting beer on tap in Madison; the community-supported beer membership side will eventually happen, but most likely not until 2012.
However, Buchanan hopes to finish construction on a small sampling area in the front room of his brewery much sooner than that. There, those interested in tasting the latest offerings from House of Brews can get to know the city's newest brewery.