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Beer Trippin’ in Wisconsin. Part 1 – New Glarus Brewing

Over the weekend, we had the opportunity to spend 36 hours in Wisconsin.  Time for another round of Beer Trippin’.

We started our day with an early flight out of Denver International Airport, bound for Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  I like to get a jump-start on things and before lunch time, we had already gotten a rental car and were headed off in search of good beer.  Without hesitation, we set off towards the town of New Glarus, WI.

Only about a two-hour jaunt down the road from Milwaukee, New Glarus was founded by Swiss pioneers in 1845.  The Swiss heritage is alive and well in New Glarus today.  Many of the buildings around town were built with chalet-style architecture, while the restaurants serve traditional Swiss meals.  It’s a beautiful town, surrounded by green rolling hills, farmlands and blue sky.

It’s also the home of New Glarus Brewing.  Yep, the yummy brewery that makes the super popular Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart beers.  The ones that create all the lines and buzz every year at the Great American Beer Festival.  New Glarus has been on my short list of breweries to visit for years and they didn’t disappoint.

The original Riverside Brewery was built in 1993 and is still in operation today.  Tours of the facility are offered once a week, on Friday’s at 1 PM.

The Hilltop Brewery opened in 2008 and is open 7 days a week from 10 AM – 4 PM.  We rolled into the parking lot of the Hilltop Brewery just after lunch time and were blown away by the beauty of the place.

They’ve gone out of their way to bring the European experience to the little town of New Glarus.

It feels like a fairy tale.  I couldn’t wait to step in and see the list of beers being poured.

Am I dreaming?  Pinch me!

During our visit, they were pouring Totally Naked (Czech Lager), Spotted Cow (Farmhouse), Two Women (Lager), Moon Man (Pale Ale), Fat Squirrel (Nut Brown) and Belgian Red (Wisconsin Cherry Ale).  For $3.50 you can get a sample of 3 beers and a taster glass to keep.  For $6, you can get a full pint and a glass to keep.  The popular fruit brews will run you $9.

Aaaah, Belgian Red…  It’s so worth it.

There’s a self guided tour which is free and gives you access to the brew house, bottling line, fermentation tanks, quality control lab and more.

One lonely barrel of Enigma.

After exploring the brewery, we sat outside in the garden area to enjoy our beer and take in the views.  Patti and I both agreed that this would be a great spot for a wedding reception.

Eventually, we made our way back inside to do a little shopping.

In addition to the tasting room / gift shop, they also have a Beer Depot dedicated to 4-packs, 6-packs and 750’s to go.

Seeing this room made me wish I had a bigger bag to bring more beer home.  The beer is delish and unfortunately, isn’t distributed outside of WI.  Like any good beer nerd, I remembered to bring a styrofoam shipper.  We filled it up and set off for our next destination.  New Glarus Brewing is located at: 2400 Hwy 69, New Glarus, WI 53574.  608-527-5850.

Coming up in Part 2 of our Beercation in Wisconsin, we head back towards Milwaukee, WI, with a detour to Lake Mills, WI and Tyranena Brewing.  Check back soon for updates.

Cheers!

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Beer Trading Part Four: The Beer is Here!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve introduced you to beer trading and walked you through a simple trade.  Just in case you missed something, in Part One, we talked about how to set up a trade.  In Part Two, we picked a trader and agreed on beers to trade.  In Part Three, we packed and shipped our beers.  We’ve waited patiently for our package to be delivered and it’s finally here!

Yep, this is my favorite part, opening the big box of goodies.  When I open a box of beer, I feel like a little kid on Christmas morning.  Even when I know what’s inside, it’s still exciting to dig in and unwrap all the beers.

Our New Glarus loot in all its’ glory!  Yeah, we pulled a ton of tasty brews from Wisconsin.  If you’ve never had the Belgian Red or Raspberry Tart, make sure you move them to the top of your list.  Big, fruity flavors that are appreciated even by non-beer lovers.  Drink it straight or get crafty and pour it over vanilla bean ice cream or mix it with some Oskar Blues Ten Fidy Imperial Stout.  Fun, tasty beers.

At this point, I’ll e-mail our trader to thank them and let them know that I got everything in one piece.   I’ll also ask if they got the package I sent.  If something breaks, it’s typically the responsibility of the shipper to replace the beer(s) or do something to make up for the loss.  Just another good reason to take the extra time to pack things up safely the first time.

After checking with our trader, Kody, he told me that our package arrived safely with no issues.  At this point, the trade is done.  Now all that’s left to do is sit back and enjoy your beers.

I keep a list of people I’ve traded with and will generally trade with the same people over and over again.  For example, after trading with Kody, I know that in addition to New Glarus, he’s got pretty good access to beers from Goose Island and Three Floyds among others.  We’re already working on setting up our next trade.  It doesn’t take long to develop a network of contacts and beer traders around the country.  It’s that easy.

Hope this little trading guide answered some questions and encouraged you to take the plunge.  If anything’s unclear or you’ve got questions, by all means, let me know.  It’s a great hobby.  Hope you enjoy it!

Big shout out to all of the brewers that won awards over the weekend at the World Beer Cup in San Diego, CA!  The complete list of winners can be found HERE.  I’m really excited to see so many Colorado brewers bring home medals, including Oskar Blues, Dry Dock, Rockyard, Odell and many more.  Bull & Bush brought home a whopping 4 awards!  Congrats to all  the breweries!

The next World Beer Cup is scheduled for Denver in 2014!  Yeah, it’s two years away, but it’s coming.  It’s almost like Denver was picked to host the Olympics.  Brewers from all over the world will be in town for a long weekend of seminars, tastings, beer dinners and more.  They couldn’t have picked a better location.

Don’t look now, but Colorado Beer Week is right around the corner.  More details to come later this week.  Stay tuned and check the Facebook page for all the latest info.

Cheers!


Beer Trading Part Two, Uncle Jacob’s Release and Opening Day

So a few days ago I gave you a little tease about getting into the delicious world of beer trading.  We were going to walk through a trade, along with Tony, one of our readers and track down some tasty New Glarus in exchange for some Colorado locals.  Did you miss out?  If so, click HERE to catch up and come back when you’re ready.  (insert Jeopardy theme song…)

Good?  Good! 

So we set up our free account on beeradvocate.com; we made our simple ISO (In Search Of): FT (For Trade) post; we raked in a bunch of responses (about 15 in 24 hours).  Now what??? 

So now you’re wondering, how do I pick a trader to go with?  Like I said, we got about 15 responses the first day of our ISO:FT post.  I’ve got a few ways to narrow down the trader we’re going to work with.  The first way is to go with the first response.  Kind of seems fair that the early bird gets the worm.  Another way is to go with someone you’ve already traded with. 

For me, trading is all about establishing good, friendly relationships with traders from around the country.  That way, when a beer comes along in a certain area of the U.S. that I’m looking for, I’ve got someone that might be able to help me out and vice versa.  There are several traders that I’ve known for years and we hook each other up with local fav’s, brewery only releases and so on, to share the loot.  In this case though, I wanted to start fresh and not fall back on past experiences.  I wanted to play the “rookie” and show you that it’s still easy to lock in a trade without knowing someone ahead of time. 

So I decided on a response from Kody, who actually lives in Chicago, IL, but makes frequent trips to Wisconsin.  Kody’s initial response was simple and to the point.  He just stated that he had New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart and was looking for Odell and Lost Abbey.  We swapped a few more messages and came to the realization that we both had access to the same Lost Abbey beers, but I suggested some beers from Dry Dock, Avery and Funkwerks that he hadn’t heard of and might be interested in. 

In the past week, we’ve exchanged about a dozen more messages, narrowing down specific beers to swap and our favorite styles.  Turns out, Kody is going to be obtaining bottles of Three Floyd’s Dark Lord later this month, which is considered to be one of the best beers on the planet.  I love me some Dark Lord and am always on the hunt for more.  So we’re already talking about future trades! 

Like I said, beer trading for me, is about making those friendships that will continue for years to come.  I enjoy making connections with people like Kody who have the same passion for beer as I do.  In the future, I can get beers exclusive to my area that he will enjoy and swap for beers in his area that I will enjoy.  This is what makes the beer geek community so cool and unique.  Granted, it’s not always this way.  I’ve done many “one and done” trades, but more often than not, I trade with the same people, over and over again.  Hell, there’s even a guy in Boston, MA that I traded with so many times that I flew him out for the Great American Beer Festival a few years ago. 

Anyway, so we’ve locked in our trader, made small talk, locked in the beers we’re going to trade and we’re one step closer to having some delicious New Glarus for our glass.  Our next step is to buy our beers, pack, ship and wait for our box o’ goodies to arrive.  Questions????  Comments????  I’m going to try and pack our beers this week, so stay tuned! 

In other news, I hit the Uncle Jacob’s Stout release at Avery last night.  Uncle Who?  Click HERE for the details.  I got there late, but avoided the line and still got my allocation.  The reviews so far have been great.  For anybody that went and popped open a bottle, what did you think?  Looks like they flipped the line around and ran it into the barrel room and back through the keg room.  After attending various Avery releases for the past few years, it seems like Avery has gotten better and better about their small batch releases.  They continue to improve the customer experience and that’s a GREAT thing.  Big shout-out to Adam, Phil and everyone else over there for their awesome efforts in making these releases run smoother each and every time.  I hope to open a bottle soon and will try to share with you when I do. 

Lastly, tomorrow is Opening Day for the Colorado Rockies.  As a huge baseball fan, I’m really, really looking forward to this.  The weather should be perfect and the beer scene will be in full effect.  Falling Rock Tap House will be rockin’ with tents set up out front representing your favorite breweries.  Freshcraft, Denver Beer Company, Great Divide and the new kid on the block, River North, will be open and ready for the baseball crowd.  Rumor has it, Sandlot, at Coors Field, will even be pouring a sour for Opening Day!  Patti and I will be there and hope to see you downtown!  Drop us a line if you’re going.  We’d love to meet up and share a brew with you.


An Introduction to Beer Trading

Quite often in this blog, I write about new beers coming out around the country.  Last month, I wrote about Cascade’s Sour Blueberry and Russian River’s Beatification.  Coming up in April is Three Floyd’s Dark Lord and Ithaca’s LeBleu.   Unfortunately, you can’t just walk to your local liquor store and pick up a bottle.  Many of these beers will only be sold at the brewery or will see very limited distribution.  What’s a beer nerd to do?  Relax, grab a beer and let me introduce you to the world of Beer Trading. 

Beer trading is a great way to track down limited release beers like the ones mentioned above or maybe track down old favorites that don’t distribute to Colorado.  My first trade was nearly 5 years ago when I traded for bottles of New Glarus Belgian Red and Raspberry Tart.  Basically, I had tried these beers at the Great American Beer Festival and wanted some bottles for my fridge. 

If you’ve ever been to GABF, you’re probably familiar with New Glarus and their never-ending line of 50+ people all waiting patiently for a 2 oz. pour of beer.  They have a line at their table from the time the doors open on Thursday evening until the beer stops flowing late on Saturday night.  And for good reason, they make some amazing beers and their fruit beers in particular are highly respected and sought after.  Other than 3 days during GABF, New Glarus beers don’t make it to Colorado.  In fact, New Glarus doesn’t distribute outside their home state of Wisconsin.  No distribution to Colorado is bad news for us, but the good news is that New Glarus is really easy to find in Wisconsin. 

Brewers and press lining up for New Glarus, before the festival doors even opened up.

So, we either need to make a road trip up to visit those cheese heads (approx. 30 hours round trip from Denver) or we can swap a few e-mails with a Wisconsin local and set up a trade.  I’m going to be munchin’ on marshmallow peeps and hiding easter eggs for the kids this weekend, so I can’t make a road trip anytime soon, but I can probably spend a few minutes in front of the computer and arrange a beer trade. 

One of our readers, we’ll just call him “Tony”, (mainly because that’s his name) has volunteered to let me walk him through a beer trade and share with you his experiences along the way.  One of the first things I asked Tony was whether or not he had an account on beeradvocate.com.  If you’re not familiar with beeradvocate, it’s a website where you can share reviews and learn about beer, but they have an area with forums that allow beer geeks to interact with each other.  One of the forums is set up specifically for trading. 

Turns out, Tony already has a beeradvocate.com account.  If you don’t have one, they’re free and will give you access to the forums.  The trading forum is called “ISO:FT”.  “ISO”, means “In Search Of” and “FT”, means “For Trade”.  So our post will look something along the lines of ISO: New Glarus, FT: Colorado Locals.  Simple and to the point. 

Head’s up, if you’re going to post on beeradvocate.com, read the rules first.  The Bros. that run the site can be a little strict at times, but they mean well.  Just make sure you don’t offer anything other than beer for beer trades.  No trading your wife for beer, tickets for beer, pet goldfish for beer and definitely don’t offer to buy or sell any beer.  It’s a no-no and will only get your post deleted. 

There are other sites out there, but I think Beeradvocate has a pretty wide audience and I’ve been using it for nearly 6 years.  I’ve met a lot of great people through the site, have made some good friendships and have a regular network of people around the country that I trade with, so I’m a little partial to it.  Like I said, there are other sites that will allow you to meet other beer traders, but Beeradvocate is the one I prefer. 

So we want New Glarus, specifically Belgian Red, maybe Raspberry Tart and Tony mentioned he also wanted to track down some Spotted Cow, which is their Cream Ale.  These are fairly easy to find in Wisconsin and wouldn’t be hard for a local to pick up.  In return, we’re going to offer beers that are local to us here in Colorado. 

In simple trades like this, I will typically offer some of my favorite locals that don’t get distributed very far.  For me, I’m leaning towards Odell, Dry Dock, Funkwerks and Crooked Stave.  These are good breweries, making good beers that are fairly easy for me to find and will be enjoyed by the recipient.  It wouldn’t make sense to offer beers from breweries like Avery, New Belgium and Great Divide, mainly because they have a huge distribution footprint.  The vast majority of their lineup can be found across the U.S. and our recipient is going to want to trade for beers that he can go to a store and buy.  There are still small batch releases and brewery exclusives that we can trade, but that’s a little advanced at this point.  Let’s keep it simple for now.  We can also offer breweries that distribute to Colorado, but might not distribute to Wisconsin.  Maybe Russian River or Firestone Walker from California or Deschutes from Oregon. 

When trading locals for locals, your best bet is to try to keep it dollar-for-dollar.  In other words, if your recipient is spending $25 for your beer, expect to send $25 worth of beer to them. 

I think we’re about ready to make our ISO:FT post.  Click HERE to check it out.  Now we sit back and wait for a response.  I’ll keep you updated along the way.  Warning, trading can become an addicting habit.  In the meantime, enjoy the pic below.  Cheers! 


A Brief Introduction

OK, here we go, another blog in a world already over saturated with forums, social networks and weblogs.   Then why?  Why should you bother reading another blog from an average joe like myself?  What makes this blog worthy of your valuable time?  Well, if it helps, I’ll say that I like Beer.  It’s delicious!  I like it so much, I’ve decided to make this blog all about the stuff.  The sweet, sweet fermented goodness that brings me joy and satisfaction at the end of my day (and sometimes the beginning and middle of my day too). 

So my blog, my piece of property in internet infinium, will be dedicated (mostly) to Beer. 

I’m not exactly an expert.  My name’s Mark and I’ve got a somewhat normal job, an amazing wife and two awesome kids.  I don’t work for a brewery or have my cicerone certification, nor am I a certified beer judge.  But, I am passionate about the stuff and am ready to share this knowledge with you. 

Welcome to the site! That's me, relaxing at Bier Circus in Belgium.

My goal and purpose of this blog is to keep you, my wonderful reader, up to date on the happenings in the wonderful world of beer.  I’ll cover what’s going on both close to home, here in Colorado and around the U.S. and maybe even the world.  I want to take you with me on adventures to breweries around town and on road trips and festivals throughout the year.  Come with me and explore different styles, learn about well-known, popular breweries, but also obscure, lesser known breweries from across the globe.  Dive into my beer cellar and dust off some aged bottles to sample and learn what, how and why to properly cellar beer in your own home.  We’ll meet some of the masterminds and artists behind our favorite beers and see what inspires them to do what they do.  Maybe we’ll even brew a batch of beer together. 

Want the buzz on the latest upcoming releases around town?  We’ll talk about it.  Ever find yourself wondering what would pair well with a nice, thick, hearty steak or a stinky, veiny chesse?  I’ve got you covered there too.  Should I keep my beer in the bottle or pour it into a glass, and if I need a glass, what kind of glass should I use?  Does it really matter?  Absolutely!  Maybe you’re having a party and want some suggestions for appetizers that will pair well with beer or want some recipes for beer infused food.  I’ll even walk you through a beer trade and give you some tips on how to track down a bottle of New Glarus Belgian Red or maybe even the elusive Three Floyd’s Dark Lord!   

Want to try some tasty beers like these from Founders? I'll tell you how and walk you through your first beer trade!

Along the way, you’ll meet my lovely wife, Patti as we bring you with us on our trips and adventures.  She’s a beer nerd, just like me. 

My wife and I at the Great American Beer Festival.

Like I said, I’m no expert, but I’ve been all around the globe in search of good beer and now it’s time to share some of that knowledge with anybody that’s willing to listen. 

Care to join me?  Grab a pint, here we go!