Monday, August 18, 2014

Badger State Brewing - Interview with Andrew, Sam, and Mike

            Very rarely do I have the opportunity to speak to, and interview a brewer, or in this case the three founders of a craft brewery so soon after founding.  Heck, very rarely am I stumped when I go to look up directions to a brewery that I am familiar with and find out that there is a relatively new one that I am hearing about for the first time.  Such was the case with Badger StateBrewing.  The brewery, which has been open since November, 2013 is a stones throw from restaurants and bars that I have tailgated at whenever I am in Green Bay.  Little did I realize that instead of the standard fare of excellent, yet decidedly less local craft beer, there was a great, local craft brewery just around the corner.

It was with cautious hope that I reached out to the three founders of Badger State Brewing on Twitter to find out where their beers were on tap.  Little did I realize at the time that Andrew, Sam, and Michael would invite me by the brewery to get an informal tour and sample their core lineup: Bunyan Badger Brown Ale, Walloon Witbier, their Belgo Pale Ale, an Imperial Maple Porter, Green Chop Session IPA, and a couple test batches of their upcoming beers.  I had the good fortune to meet the three founders of Badger State Brewing a couple weeks ago when I was up in Green Bay on a business trip.  Badger State is definitely going to be my new go to spot for Packers tailgating.  Whether you are in town for a Packers game or not, you should definitely stop by and try their offerings, not to mention hang out for a few beers in their soon to be opened taproom!

What you really came here to read though is the interview, so let’s get on with it.  Stick around at the end for a few brewery pictures.

The Current Taps

The Interview

WIBG: Sam, you started brewing in 2005, with Mike and Andrew picking up the hobby shortly after, is that correct?

Badger State Brewing: Yes, looking for a hobby during college I found brewing to be a fun way to relax and hang out with friends on weekends. When my cousin Michael got curious I invited him to join me and we went from there. Andrew was aware that Michael was brewing with me and asked to teach him after receiving a brewing kit from his brother as a Christmas gift.

WIBG: When did you decide to jump up to all grain, and then move on to developing your own recipes?

BSB:  We would always make our little tweaks to the brewing kits when we started. Change the hops, other ingredients, etc. The jump to all grain was really a decision made by all three of us when we decided to get serious about pursuing the brewery idea someday. 

WIBG: What made you decide to get into commercial brewing?

BSB:  Andrew was the one who started the whole thing. He began writing a business plan and scouting potential locations. He presented it to Michael and I and asked us to join him. We all knew it was something one person could not do themselves and after lots of coaxing we thought we should give it a shot.

WIBG:  I know that you are in the middle of an expansion and about to open a taproom, which will hopefully be open during the Packer season, what scale are you sizing up to?

BSB:  We will begin brewing on a 15 BBL system once the expansion is complete.

WIBG:  Is there any one beer that you foresee being your flagship beer, or will you let sales be the judge?  The success of Bunyan Badger probably puts it in the running.

BSB:  Our flagship beers include Bunyan Badger: an English-style Brown Ale, Walloon Witbier: a Belgian-style Witbier, and Green Chop: an American Session IPA. Each one has sold extremely well and will continue to be the beers we brew constantly.

WIBG:  You currently have six, pretty awesome, beers on tap.  How many beers are you planning to have in your year round line up?

BSB:  The six beers currently on tap will be the ones you see almost year round. We would like to get to 12 different styles and then mix in seasonal and one-offs.

WIBG:  With the wide selection of hops currently stocked in the walk-in cooler, are there any plans to brew more IPAs?  Please tell me that you have more of that great Nelson Sauvin IPA that I had when I was up there in the works!

BSB:  Lots of IPAs will be brewed because Andrew is a quote “hophead”. Unique hops make for fun and exciting brews. If any of those stick we will consider making them full time beers. More of the New Zealand Style IPA with tangerine peel will be brewed too!

WIBG: Do you have any special releases coming up? 

BSB:  We have some fall beers in the works and our second high gravity beer planned as well – a  Belgian style gold ale with some hoppy “oomph” to it.

WIBG: Do you currently have plans to distribute your beers outside of the brewery?

BSB:  Our beers are currently available at around ten bars and restaurants around the Green Bay and Fox Valley area. You will see this number increase once we begin brewing more beer on the new system.

WIBG: Wisconsin is a pretty big farming state, with the fields of barley and wheat in the state, and with hop growing taking off, do you have any plans to source ingredients locally?

BSB:  Our malt comes from Chilton, WI. A decent amount of our hops come from right here in the state as well. We will be brewing an “all Wisconsin” products beer this fall too.

WIBG: What is your favorite beer style?

BSB:  Sam says he will drink anything, especially a craft beer he hasn’t had before, recently he has been on a sour beer binge. For myself (Andrew) it’s all about the IPAs and barrel aged beers. Michael seems to prefer the weird stuff – Heather ales, anything aged on natural oak, brewed with grape must or dandelions or whatever.

WIBG: Is there one brew of yours that you would say is your favorite?

BSB:  Sam – Bunyan Badger and his newest creation chocolate wheat. Andrew – the IPAs we make AND Dubious Ruffian our Chocolate Stout. Michael loves the Belgian Witbier

WIBG: Do you have a favorite beer, from any brewery?  Is there a beer that you look forward to every year?

BSB:  Nothing particular. We all like to see what’s new and to see the return of the special stuff like the big barrel aged stouts and imperial beers year in and out. We aren’t delivery truck chasers though. Having the chance to try Heady Topper earlier this year was pretty cool, that is an amazing beer.

WIBG: Is there a particular brewer or brewery that you look up to?

BSB:  We all have read Sam Calgione’s book so we are fans of his. Other than that we have a tremendous respect for the other brewers in Green Bay and around the rest of WI whom we have had the chance to meet over the last year.

WIBG: Are you planning any upcoming collaborative beers with other breweries?

BSB:  Several things in the works with local WI brewers. All top secret!

WIBG: Do you have any advice for home brewers that can help them brew better beer more consistently?

BSB:  Attention to detail and good notes is key. Besides that, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to your processes and keep self-teaching and reading constantly.

WIBG: Do you have any advice for someone who is interested in starting a craft brewery?

BSB:  You have to be a little bit insane to pursue it legitimately. Make sure to pay attention to the little details. Only do it if it is something you truly love because it will break you down some days, your family and social life will be affected too. But if you do it as a labor of love it will get better over time.

WIBG: Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would like my readers to know about your brewery?

BSB:  Hope to see you all stop in for a beer sometime soon!

The Most Awesome Growler Filler Ever!
The Current Brewhouse
The Current Fermentation Tanks

The New Brewhouse

A New Fermentation Tank

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