One of the latest breweries to set its sights on Madison is Stillmank Brewing from Green Bay. Its owner and brewmaster, Brad Stillmank, was born in Madison, so as he expanded distribution beyond the Fox Valley, his hometown was high on the list of where he wanted his beer to appear. “This is a big step for us," says Stillmank of his entry into the Madison market. Currently not even Milwaukee sees beer from this brewery, and Stillmank says it’ll probably be at least another year before he’s able to meet demand to a level where he’ll consider offering his beer anywhere beyond its current distribution area.
What is it? Double Disco Anniversary Ale by Stillmank Brewing of Green Bay.
Style: Double Disco is labeled an imperial pale ale, which doesn’t fall neatly within most judged beer styles. Rather, Double Disco falls roughly between the pale ale and the India Pale Ale in strength and intended hop bitterness. It’s really just a ramped-up version of a pale ale.
The pale ale style originated in the English Midlands town of Burton-upon-Trent. The style is characteristically lighter in color than the porters and stouts, thus the name. The American pale emphasizes bitterness and is made with all U.S.-grown hops.
Background: Stillmank Brewing moved into the Madison market earlier this month through Frank Beer. The brewery’s core brands include Wisco Disco, an American amber ale; the Bee’s Knees, a honey rye ale; and Super Kind, an IPA. All are available in Madison in four-packs of 16-ounce cans for around $8. Limited-release beers, like Double Disco, are found in 22-ounce bomber bottles for $8-$11.
Brad Stillmank started as a homebrewer in the 1990s. “I wasn’t 21 yet, but I knew I could buy the ingredients and make beer,” he says. After getting a degree in brewing science from University of California-Davis he spent about five years at Ska Brewing in Durango, Colo., doing everything from washing kegs to cellarmanship. In 2007 he ventured back to Wisconsin to take a job with Kay Distributing in De Pere, where he learned how to get beer to market. In 2012, when he decided to start Stillmank Brewing, he initially teamed up with Milwaukee Brewing to make his beers under contract. In April 2014 Stillmank opened his own brewery on Green Bay’s east side at 215 N. Henry St. That one-year anniversary is the one for which Double Disco was made.
Double Disco is very similar to the brewery’s flagship, Wisco Disco, which has won some impressive awards for this young brewery including a gold at the 2014 U.S. Open Beer Championships and a bronze in the 2014 Great American Beer Festival. Both of those awards were in the English Special Bitter (EBS) category.
Double Disco, like all Stillmank beers, is a showcase of Wisconsin-grown hops. “Every beer I make, I only buy hops from Wisconsin growers and usually farms smaller than three acres,” says Stillmank. The Mt. Hood Hops in Double Disco are from the Wisconsin Hop Exchange. “We might pay a little more for hops, but it’s important to help out farmers who are just starting up,” he says.
Double Disco finishes at around 8% ABV and 85 IBUs. It’s sold in 22-ounce bomber bottles for $11.
Aroma: A light, yet firm, floral hoppiness.
Appearance: Reddish copper color. A thick, soft, tan head.
Texture: Medium- to full-bodied, soft and bubbly.
Taste: A herbal hoppiness with a malty background. A slight sourness in the latent flavor.
Finish/Aftertaste: Light dryness.
Glassware: The Willi Becher is a great glass for this reddish-amber beer. Its inward taper at the top holds the head and gently focuses the floral-hoppy tones under the nose.
Pairs well with: This pale ale matches well with dishes made with spice and peppers. It also goes well with cheeses like aged cheddars and blues.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers.
The Verdict: Think of Double Disco as the bigger brother of Wisco Disco. It’s a very drinkable, firmly hopped amber ale. There’s a hoppy start, followed by a malty backbone, before finishing dry. It’s distinguished by lots of body thanks to the hefty additions of lactose. Side by side in a comparison with Wisco Disco, the Double Disco has more flavor and body. I like it, and I couldn’t resist wanting to categorize it. I couldn’t decide if there was complexity or just multiple personalities within the flavor profile. It doesn’t have the crispness of a pale ale, or the onslaught of hoppy bitterness of an IPA. That left me with an impression that I should just sit back and enjoy it without thinking too much about what to label it.