Pecatonica Beer Company
Pecatonica Beer is based in Gratiot, Wisconsin, and started distributing its debut release, Nightfall Lager, in June.
Pecatonica Beer Company, named after the southwestern Wisconsin river, is one of the latest new brands to appear on Madison shelves. Its flagship Nightfall Lager just started turning up on draught in late June, and bottles followed by mid-July. It's the first of a half-dozen brews that the company plans to release over the next year.
Pecatonica is based in Gratiot, Wisconsin. You might wonder where Gratiot is. It's a small village, population 236, in southern Lafayette County, about five miles from the Illinois border, and an hour's drive from Madison. (Locals pronounce it Grawsh-it.)
The company is owned by twin brothers Tim and Tom Quinn, who grew up on a dairy farm about three miles east of Gratiot. Tim lives in Monroe and runs the company, while Tom still lives on the farm. They have six other partners in the business.
"There are a lot of breweries that go by the town they are from," says Tim Quinn. Living near the Pecatonica River in his youth provided that inspiration. "Most of our founders grew up close to the Pecatonica River and we all have connections to the region," he says. The Pecatonica flows through southern Wisconsin and northwestern Illinois before joining the Rock River.
Tim says the word "Pecatonica" in the Sauk language means "slow moving water," so he sees symbolism in the name, relating to being patient and perfecting his brews.
Tim attended UW-Madison where he earned a bachelor's in biochemistry before going to work in sales for a biochemical company in St. Louis. In 2001, he and his wife moved back to Wisconsin. Tim's been a homebrewer for more than 20 years. In fact, Nightfall started as one of his homebrews, and features local hops grown on the Gratiot farm that his brother manages.
While recipes are developed by Tim, the beer is made in 200-barrel batches under contract by Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe. Tim says he personally goes to the brewery to take part in the process, from brewing to filtering to transferring and bottling: "The contract with Minhas allows us to start out with a more modest investment, but we may build a brewery."
Tim and Tom Quinn also own a small three-story brick building in Warren, Illinois, a little more than five miles south of the farm where they grew up. By November, they hope to open a taproom there that will serve their beer.
"We do have plans for a small research [pilot] brewery there, but it'll take a few years," says Tim.
Tim says he likes malt-forward beers and Nightfall is full-bodied, with a soft-smoothness from lots of chocolate malt that also lends sweet coffee-like dominance to the overall flavor. Nightfall finishes at 5.9% ABV and 24 IBUs (International Bitterness Units).
For his second beer, Tim is planning an Oktoberfest to be released by early September. He hopes to follow that with Alp Horn Pale Ale, a beer that commemorates the Swiss heritage of southwestern Wisconsin. Later in the fall he hopes to add an amber ale to the lineup. Other beers he wants to release in 2014 include a Kölsch, an oatmeal stout, and a toasted coconut chocolate porter.
Tim Quinn also is co-owner of the Illinois-based Hypothesis Beer Company that started up last fall with an IPA, which was followed by Drafty Window Farmhouse Ale. Hypothesis beers are also produced in Monroe under contract with Minhas.
Both Pecatonica and Hypothesis brands are distributed by River City Distributing of Watertown and can be found in many liquor and grocery stores in the Madison area. Six-packs sell for around $8-$9. Pecatonica Nightfall Lager also just made its debut on tap at the Old Fashioned.