In this column I often write about breweries from elsewhere that are expanding their beer footprint into Wisconsin.
This week, Furthermore Beer, the pride of Spring Green and adventurous drinkers across Wisconsin, flips that script.
Furthermore this month launched in Chicago, linking up with a distributor there to bring three of its beers — Fatty Boombalatty, Knot Stock and Makeweight — to Second City tap lines. Other beers and the colorful six-packs we get here in Wisconsin will follow later, market willing.
In a not entirely unrelated move, Furthermore recently began brewing at a second location: Milwaukee Brewing Co. Furthermore makes most of its beer at Sand Creek Brewing Co. in Black River Falls, and its presence in Spring Green is limited to a barn on the edge of town that mainly hosts a popular, cheekily named concert series. The barn was once envisioned as a brewery, but the contract brewing arrangement is working out well enough that the second contract site in Milwaukee was the best option to expand capacity enough to meet the demand of thirsty Chicagoans. (There are a lot of them.)
If you consider “contract brewer” an epithet on par with “macrobrewer,” perhaps a sip of Furthermore’s beers would change your mind. Far from the store-brand craft brands or malt liquors commonly associated with contract brewing, these are genre-bending creations at the leading edge of brewing innovation.
Consider Fatty Boombalatty, which is listed on Beer Advocate and the beer social media app Untappd as a Belgian pale ale. Sounds pretty straightforward. But brewmaster Aran Madden conceived Fatty as a Belgian witbier (think Hoegaarden) with a 50 percent bigger grain bill and just a quarter of the wheat you’d normally have in wit. Then he ramped up the hops, threw in some coriander and, boom, you have a beer that just had to be called Fatty Boombalatty.
Makeweight, another beer many Chicagoans are sipping for the first time, is ostensibly a Belgian India pale ale — if it had English and American yeast, hops and malts alongside its Belgian ingredients.
Let’s take a closer look at the most straightforward beer Furthermore is shipping to Chicago this month.
Style: American pale ale
Brewed by: Furthermore Beer, Spring Green
What it’s like: You poured a nice pale ale — say, Founders’ or Bell’s — into a glass on top of a pinch of black pepper.
Where, how much: Furthermore is easy to find at good craft beer stores in Madison, and Knot Stock is one of its more popular beers. My six-pack was $9.50 at Hy-Vee on East Washington Avenue.
The beer: Knot Stock is unusual among Furthermore’s lineup in that it has only one simple wrinkle in the recipe, but it’s a significant one: black pepper. It may sound odd, but that warm, spicy flavor (and aroma) blends delectably with the caramel malts and Northern Brewer hops. The pepper is assertive but not overpowering, and it lingers pleasantly well after the beer is down the hatch, which it will because Knot Stock is very drinkable.
Booze factor: Knot Stock shakes out at 5.5 percent ABV, right in the middle of the APA’s range.
The buzz: As I’ve written before, Chicago is an exciting beer market right now. Breweries are springing up rapidly, and well established ones are pushing the boundaries of the craft. So it makes sense that Furthermore’s inventive beer would be well received there, as long as it can stand out in the crowd. And that’s something Furthermore typically does pretty well.
The Chicago launch isn’t the only bit of news from Spring Green. One of the beers getting the most buzz at the Isthmus Beer and Cheese Festival last month was Full Thicket, the first new beer from Furthermore in years. The feds have signed off on the label and name of the new imperial IPA, so it should be hitting taps and shelves soon.
Bottom line: 3½ stars (out of four)