Friday, August 9, 2013

K4 - Good Beer Inspires Good Conversation

               Check out the latest post from Brian, below!

Since they opened at the end of last year Karben4 has been one of my favorite spots around Madison to talk beer.  I’ve heard good beer inspires good conversation and this tap room is not lacking when it comes to either one.  Ryan (the brew master) will stop by to say hello every time I’m sitting at his bar… normally with a sample of his newest batch.  As some of you may know from a post back before the first of the year, he tapped a sample of SamuRyePA directly from one of the fermenters into a measuring cup for me to sample… if I remember correctly they only had one or two beers on tap at that time because they technically weren’t even open yet.  They have come a long way in just over 8 months.

I stopped in for some lunch last Friday, hoping to shake off the mild IPA Day hangover from the previous evening.  Full disclosure… I sat at the Tipsy Cow with Ryan and his crew the night before and went pint for pint mixing it up between (his own) Fantasy Factory, One Barrel Brewing Co.’s Hopticity Jones and Founders’ All-day IPA, with a NightCall Smoked Porter (also from Karben4) mixed in to balance things off and clear my palate a bit.  For lunch that day I went with the chicken salad sandwich on a pretzel roll and another pint of Fantasy Factory.  Props to Chef Jeff back in the kitchen because the food over there is every bit up to par with Ryan’s brewing and the two work very well together.  I could go into much more detail about how Chef Jeff has rocked my world on more than one occasion but, this a beer blog- so I’m going to stick to my guns.  Fantasy Factory… a beautifully hoppy brew that has the perfect malt back to balance the hops, it’s a BIG IPA that leave you with a very clean finish.  Put it on a Nitro tap and I’m in heaven! As I was finishing up my sandwich Ryan came strolling out of the back and sat down next to me.  I told him “it was you beer that provided me with this hangover so I’m going to make you guys feed me to get rid of it”.  He laughed and joked about how we were really putting them away the night before. 

Then out of nowhere, Ryan gets a big grin on his face and asks… “Do you wanna smell something?!” Now normally, when someone randomly asks me a question like that my answer is ‘no’ straight away- maybe it was just the group of friends I used to hang out with.  But I took my chances and followed Ryan back into the brewery.  Fortunately for me it was a couple casks that he wanted me to get a wiff of (… and not something else).  The big one he had me stick my nose in first was a Chardonnay barrel full of UnderCover, their session ale.  He also encouraged me to check out the smaller gin barrel that they got from Few in Chicago.  He said it was oozing with aroma when he got it in the mail.  It showed up in a couple layers of bubble wrap and the postal info was on a sticker that was just slapped on one end.  He will be, or already has (depending on when this post goes live) kegged the contents this week and it will be making its debut appearance in the tap room on Friday evening.  I certainly recommend trying this one, I had the first round of this “gin barrel experiment” a couple months back when they had it on in the tap room.  It was a complex balancing act and the subtle gin flavors played off the ‘almost piney’ flavors from the hops.  They are also featuring Fantasy Factory on a Nitro Tap.  Karben4 will definitely be one of my stops on Friday, just have to decide where it will fall into my schedule.  If you are trying to decide the best time to check out Karben4 I recommend you go when you’re hungry!

It turns out that when I dropped in on him (last week Friday) it was almost a full year since he packed up his life into a moving truck and made the 10 hour drive back to his home state of Wisconsin (from Montana).  If you ask me they have been kickin’ ass and taking’ names ever since!  But enough about their history, I want to talk about their plans for The Great Taste of the Midwest!

I started off with the easy question… “What are you guys pouring at the Great Taste?” Ryan and the crew will be pouring Fantasy Factory, UnderCover Session Ale, NightCall Smoked Porter and Lady Luck (their Irish Red).  I asked him a few more questions about the big event and furiously jotted down not as he gave his answers.  Please note that I have paraphrased his words in some places.  (Hope I can do you justice Ryan!)

BR: What are you most looking forward to at the Taste this year?

“The experience!”  This will be Ryan’s first Great Taste of the Midwest but he knows it’s a big deal.  “This is one of the biggest beer festivals in the country and it takes place right here in Madison.”  He looks forward to seeing all the craft beer fans out and about in Madison the week leading up to the Taste and all of the people who come in from out of town, not only from the Midwest, but from across the country and even internationally. 

BR: What’s one thing you want to take away from the event as a brewer?

“Well… not a hangover… But really, I just want to absorb it.”  He hopes to ensure that he and the rest of his servers don’t get overwhelmed with pouring beer and putting out fires the day of the event.  “The customer… well, the beer geek (at the festival) obviously comes first because that’s the whole reason we’re there.”  He alluded to the fact that he and his partners have been sinking their whole lives into this project called Karben4 and that it will be really great to get feedback from the crowd and bask in the glow that the Great Taste of the Midwest provides Madison on that magical Saturday in August.  “This whole thing is coming full circle for me… I moved back here almost one full year ago and this dream we had is real!”
BR: Any Brewery/Brewers you are hoping to mix it up with or meet for the first time?

“Some of my favorite beers come from western Michigan like Founders, Bells and New Holland.”  Ryan is looking forward to start matching names and personalities (of the brewers) with the brews they make and he has grown to love.  He also mentioned that the move back to his home state of Wisconsin has provided the opportunity for him and his wife to visit her home state of Michigan more often.  He would love to start building relationships with these brewers, not only on a professional level but also on a personal level too.  “…So when we go visit family in my wife’s hometown… I can just drop in on them!”

               That's all for today!  IF you are going to Great Taste over the weekend, enjoy and stay safe!
Check back next week for another post!

Happy Drinking!!

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