There has been a changing of the guard at Madison’s funkiest beverage outpost.
The taproom and barrel house of Funk Factory Geuzeria, the lambic-style blending operation launched by Levi Funk in 2015, closed Dec. 30 and will become Black Rose Blending Co., with a grand opening tentatively planned for Saturday, March 4.
Black Rose proprietor Kyle Metz has been with Funk Factory since August 2017, just a month after Levi Funk opened the taproom at 1602 Gilson St., and he’s been a central creative force in Funk Factory’s beers over the past two years.
While this is the end of Funk Factory’s physical space, it will remain a going concern, continuing to make its (excellent) Meerts line of “quick” lambic-style beers in its wooden casks at Blackstack Brewing in St. Paul, Minnesota, as it has for the past two years. And Metz says Funk will be able to age and blend batches at Black Rose as he wishes.
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Metz, of course, will go his own direction with the beer — and other fermented liquids — coming out of the barrels at Black Rose, but that direction will be familiar to anyone who’s followed Funk Factory closely the past two years.
Metz is a devotee of the saison, a loose style that traces its origins to the often-improvised farmhouse beers made in the Franco-Belgian countryside. Many Americans think of saison as the archetype of Saison Dupont, a bright, bubbly and yeast-forward golden ale. But Metz sees that as just one iteration of a nearly endless combination of grains, hops, mixed fermentation, barrels and, critically, additions such as herbs or fruit.
“At a certain point, saison is more of a mindset than a style,” he said. “My approach is similar to how we do a lambic, where it doesn’t have to be a super-complex base recipe because these are very much going to be yeast- and bacteria-driven beers, and then we’ll potentially be adding fruit and other ingredients, and then all these barrels are going to progress differently. So you’re kind of piecing together a puzzle.”
This mindset has taken form at Funk Factory already in Metz’s Saison Botanique series of mixed-culture wild ales with rooibos tea and rose petals; meadowsweet flowers; lemon verbena, jasmine flowers, orange and bee pollen; and botanicals evoking gin.
Mixed-fermentation beers take a long time to develop, and the first Black Rose beers have actually been in bottles for more than a year already. Those were intended to be a kind of side project under the Funk Factory banner, Metz said, before the concept evolved into a more dramatic change. After all, Levi Funk has his hands full as co-owner of the 25-state beer company Untitled Art.
“He had so much going on with Untitled Art and a young family, it just made sense for him to kind of step back from certain things,” Metz said. “And it just kind of transpired that I could take this over.”
Those already existing Black Rose beers include a mixed-culture saison conditioned on rosehips and rose petals and a couple of piquettes — a wine-adjacent, low-ABV sparkling beverage made from the grapes left after a batch of wine, rehydrated and fermented.
The latter indicates another interest of Metz’s: natural wines and ciders with the same approach he takes to saisons — that is, funky and wood-aged.
Metz’s love of all liquids funky began as a college student in Utah, of all places. With a lack of modern craft beer options in that famously restrictive state, he gravitated toward Belgian beers like Rochefort and Chimay. On the way home to Wisconsin, he’d hit notable mixed-fermentation breweries like Funkwerks and Crooked Stave in Colorado.
“I kind of started to fall out of interest in beer with the advent of all these super-hazy beers and seltzers and pastry stouts and kettle sours,” Metz said. “There’s a little bit of pastry boi inside of me, but at that point I was exploring natural wines, some of the funkier ciders, cocktails and kind of dissecting those and finding out what was in those. Like, what herbs were in this liqueur, and how can I bring that back to the beer world? But always in the back of my mind was my love for those Belgian-style beers and saisons.”
After completing some cosmetic changes to the taproom, Metz is excited to share the beers that are wholly his own with Madison. That will look like the small-batch beers on draft, as well as limited bottle releases at the taproom and memberships, of which he’s already sold several.
The name reflects Metz’s interest in skateboard, tattoo and graffiti art, and he admits Black Rose just sounds cool. But it evokes his blending philosophy, too.
“Most people kind of think of the rose as this beautiful, kind of elegant flower, and I want to produce beautiful, elegant liquids, but present them in this kind of atypical way,” he said. “We don’t have to follow tradition. We can experiment with ingredients and processes and kind of get a little weird with it.”
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Black Rose proprietor Kyle Metz sees the potential for the saison as a nearly endless combination of grains, hops, mixed fermentation, barrels and, critically, additions such as herbs or fruit.