One afternoon last August, on a day off from touring with their band Rebelution, drummer Wesley Finley and keyboardist Rory Carey stopped by Tampa’s Cigar City Brewing for some drinks.
This was no ordinary tasting. Cigar City owner Joey Redner and his brewers were on hand, as were Kevin Lilly and Tony Casoria from Tampa’s Rock Brothers Brewing. They were there to help brew the reggae-rock band its very own signature beer.
On the table were an array of brews in cups, bottles, cans and growlers — Stone, Uinta, Ballast Point, Lagunitas — as well as plenty of samples from Cigar City.
“The point now,” Redner said, “is just to figure out your guys’ wheelhouse.”
Eight months later, they’ve found it. Rebelution IPA will make its public debut when Rebelution headlines a day of reggae rock music on June 25 at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg, Florida. The Green, J Boog, Stick Figure and Through the Roots are also on the bill for the show, which will double as Rebelution IPA’s official release party.
This is the first IPA for Rock Brothers, a burgeoning music and craft beer empire headquartered in Tampa. In partnership with Cigar City, they’ve created beers for 311, Hootie and the Blowfish and Umphrey’s McGee, among others, and partners Lilly and Casoria are building a brewery and bar in Ybor City. (The latest projected opening date: Early September).
While Cigar City has been involved with Rebelution IPA from the start, this will be the first beer Rock Brothers has produced largely on its own. In a statement detailing the beer, Rock Brothers head brewer Eric Wannemacher described the beer as “the perfect harmony of ingredients. The pilsner and rye malts provide a crisp, refreshing and dry finish, while the fuggles (hops) and mosaic hops bring the tropical citrus and dense herb characteristics.”
The beer was first tapped at a private Rebelution concert at Tampa’s Hard Rock Cafe in March. It’ll be available on tap at select local bars immediately after the June concert; cans are expected to follow in July.
Within the band, Carey and Finley are the biggest beer guys, bringing growlers on tour and planning days off on tour around trips to craft breweries. Each has a cellar of hundreds of bottles back home in California. They’re proficient in the language of beer production; Carey even homebrewed for a while back in college.
“Every day on our rider, it’s local IPAs,” Carey said. “If we have some that we really like, we’ll pick that, but usually, we just want to find something new.”
At that meeting last August, Carey and Finley went toe-to-toe with the Cigar City guys, breaking down specific hops and flavor profiles and describing their ideal beer: An extremely dank, extremely hoppy west coast IPA — a beer, Carey told Redner, that “smells and tastes like weed.”
Rebelution IPA will end up coming in at a reasonable 7.5 ABV to keep it appealing to a larger audience, “so the non-beer drinker can be at a festival and crush it,” Carey said.
No better place to start than St. Petersburg, a city that to Rebelution feels like something of a second home. Tickets to the June 25 concert are $30.
An AP member exchange story.
Is the next big trend in craft beer not a beer at all?
That’s what Colleen Bos is counting on. The veteran homebrewer is putting her money on mead, and she’s not content to wait for Madison to stumble across the drink at someone else’s establishment.
Since 2012, Bos has been brewing mead, a beverage made by fermenting honey, at her tiny Bos Meadery in a former industrial building in downtown Madison. But the suite of back rooms on Washington Avenue, full of fermenting tanks, isn’t exactly the sort of venue where one can try out her wares.
That’s why, on Feb. 13, Bos will open her first tasting room at Tamarack Studio & Gallery, just down the hall. The tasting opportunity will give a much-needed public face to the meadery, which Bos says produces a little over 1,500 gallons a year, and the stylish two-story loft is a striking setting for sampling the world’s oldest fermented beverage.
The first evidence of mead goes back eons. Ancient pottery vessels found in northern China, dating from 6,500–7,000 B.C., contain the chemical signatures of honey, rice, fruits and organic fermentation compounds — all components of mead.
Mead is mentioned in the ancient hymns of Hinduism’s Rigveda, dated to the 15th century B.C., and in the writings of Greek and Roman philosophers like Aristotle and Pliny the Elder. The Danish warriors mentioned in Beowulf drank mead and it is also referenced in the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales.
Mead may be a perfect match for Bos, a Kalamazoo, Michigan, native who describes herself as “a former medievalist” with master’s degrees in medieval history and medieval literature.
“I focus both on the science and art of making mead,” says Bos. “The tasting room will be the perfect blend of art and artisanal beverages.”
Bos is one of only three full-time Wisconsin mead producers, a drop in the proverbial honey pot compared to the state’s estimated 125 craft breweries and brewpubs, 60 wineries and vineyards and 15 distilleries.
In addition to Bos, Royal Court Meadery, in Sheboygan, and White Winter Winery, located in the Bayfield County community of Iron River, are the state’s only full-time mead producers (White Winter also makes honey-wine, a cousin to mead). Bayfield Winery and Spurgeon Vineyards, in Highland, make mead too, but as part of their wine production.
Mead also is a side project for many homebrewers, since the process of mixing honey, water and yeast to make it is more akin to brewing beer than fermenting wine. Many mead-makers simply combine all the ingredients and wait for fermentation to begin.
Bos takes a more gradual approach, dividing her ingredients into quarter-size batches and adding the yeast in steps so as not to overwhelm the microorganisms that ferment the honey and other ingredients.
Bos’ approach actually streamlines production, creating a better-balanced batch in less time. The mead is then aged four to eight weeks prior to being hand-bottled by Bos and partner Peter DeVault.
Bos uses unpasteurized honey from various apiaries around the state to produce her mead, including sources near Germantown, Viroqua and Madison. The unpasteurized honey produces better flavor and a more floral scent, Bos says. Honey also is a natural antibiotic and does not require pasteurization’s boiling process, she adds.
Bos makes four types of mead, all of which are either dry or sparkling meads — a unique choice within the marketplace.
“Most commercial meads tend to be sweet, which is what people expect,” she says. “I don’t think that sweet mead has long-lasting market appeal, which is why I am taking a different approach.”
Bos’ current dry lineup includes Wildflower Mead, a blend of wildflower honey, water and yeast that is the standard of the mead-maker’s art, and Buckwheat Wildflower Mead, which adds honey produced from buckwheat flower nectar that creates a more complex flavor that Bos equates to a fine scotch.
Most complex of all is the Wildflower Oaked Mead, which Bos says benefits from time spent in oak that adds to its complexity and gives it enough stamina to take the place of a dinner wine.
Bos also produces a sparkling Pomegranate Pyment, a mead blended with Riesling grape juice and pomegranate juice that produces a crisply refreshing, yet subtle flavor.
Madison and Milwaukee residents have previously been able to try all four in random rotation only. Bos is one of the few mead-makers who packages her products in 1/6-barrel kegs for restaurants and bars, and both The Old Fashioned, on 23 N. Pinckney St. in Madison, and Sugar Maple, on 441 E. Lincoln Ave. in Milwaukee, have had one or more on tap for months.
Bos will be pouring all four when the tasting room opens. The art gallery will be reset with tables and chairs and, perhaps, some comfier arrangements. Eventually she’d like to start serving craft cocktails using locally produced products.
“It’s an entirely different business operating a tasting room and I’ve had to juggle a lot of permits,” Bos said. “I’m sure operating a kitchen would be even more challenging.”
She wants to get Madison more familiar with her meads first. All things old are new again, it seems, and Bos believes that the time has come to make mead modern.
Bos Meadery’s tasting room will be located at Tamarack Studio & Gallery, 849 E. Washington Ave., Madison. It will be open 5-9 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and 2-9 p.m. Saturdays. For more information, visit the meadery’s website, bosmeadery.com.
Wisconsin’s Door County isn’t Napa Valley, but seven wineries dot the 483-square-mile peninsula. Two of the wineries also brew beer and one of the two produces distilled spirits. There is a third brewery just starting out and a hard cider operation on the peninsula’s northern end.
All of this makes Door County an excellent destination for travelers with a spirited vacation in mind.
TIME FOR WINE
The Kewaunee County community of Algoma is a great place to begin your Door County wine tour. The local Von Stiehl Winery ranks as one of Wisconsin’s oldest. Housed in a building constructed as a brewery in 1868, the structure fell into disrepair until 1967. That year, it was purchased, restored and opened by Dr. Charles von Stiehl as a winery specializing in locally grown cherry and apple wines.
Von Stiehl’s lines have expanded and the winery has won numerous awards over the years. The company currently produces 70,000 gallons of wine annually.
Tours and tastings at the winery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, end in the popular third floor lounge, which overlooks Algoma’s landmark lighthouse and the Lake Michigan shoreline.
Traveling north, the next stop is Red Oak Winery, with production facilities just south of Sturgeon Bay. Owner, winemaker and Sturgeon Bay native Andy Wagener, an attorney with winemaking credentials from the University of California (Davis) prides himself on premium wines in the German white and French red styles. One of several wineries to use fruit purchased from West Coast growers, Red Oak specializes in pinot noir, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and other well-known varietals. Wagener also produces several Door County cherry wines.
Door 44 Winery, located just north of Sturgeon Bay, produces wines from fruit grown exclusively in Wisconsin vineyards, including those of Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery, its affiliated Kewaunee County operation. Owned and operated by the husband-and-wife team of Steve Johnson and Maria Milano, the wineries use locally grown grapes, including Marechal Foch, Frontenac, St. Pepin and other varietals to produce their wines.
The name Parallel 44 refers to the latitude where the vineyard sits – the same one as the French and Italian wine-producing regions of Bordeaux and Tuscany. Except for Wisconsin’s freezing winters, the three regions share many similarities, say Johnson and Milano.
Door Peninsula Winery, located in Carlsville, may be among the peninsula’s most productive: It has winemaking, brewing and distilling operations. The winery houses the restaurant Bistro 42 and also owns Fat Louie’s, which produces gourmet oils and vinegars, as well as an art gallery.
Door Peninsula’s modern facility stands on the site of the 1885 schoolhouse in which the winery started. The facility offers tastings of many of its 45 wines, made from locally grown grapes and other fruit, as well as grapes brought in from the West Coast.
On the eastern side of the Door Peninsula on County Road I, Simon Creek Vineyard & Winery occupy some of the county’s most scenic terrain. Founded in 2003 by partners Tim Lawrie, Lance Nelson and Tom Payette, who serves as winemaker, Simon Creek relies on locally sourced fruit and grapes from other regions. The 11,000-square-foot facility, which sits on 30 acres of vineyards, bottles wines using varietals ranging from cabernet franc and gewurztraminer to golden muscat and Door County cherry.
Harbor Ridge Winery, located south of Egg Harbor, may be the peninsula’s newest winery, but it benefits from assistance provided by von Stiehl’s winemaker, who helps the owners create memorable reds and whites. With wines named Knockin’ Heads Red, Mademoiselle Tantalizing White and Gimme One Good Riesling, Harbor Ridge aims for a whimsical brand. But don’t discount the quality of its wines – they rank among Door County’s best.
Stone’s Throw Winery, located east of Harbor Ridge on County Road E outside of Bailey’s Harbor, prides itself on its micro-vinification approach. The winery imports small-lot premium grapes from California’s Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties to produce high-end varietals. In a world of cherry wine, Stone’s Throw is bottling Petite Verdot, Sangiovese, cabernet sauvignon and other complex wines in a 90-year-old stone barn that the owners say is located at the very center of the Door County’s Peninsula.
But it may be Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market south of Fish Creek that best embodies the Door’s winemaking tradition. Starting as the Lautenbach’s family dairy farm and cherry orchard in the 1950s, Lautenbach’s Orchard Country is still one of the peninsula’s major cherry growers. The business creates a full line of wines from grapes, cherries and other fruit that have become very popular with visitors. The Swedish lingonberry wine, probably the company’s most unique, was out of stock when we visited, giving us a reason to return.
Wine isn’t the only spirited beverage bubbling up in the Door. The craft beer movement, at full swing elsewhere in the state, is beginning to catch on. There’s a trio of worthy brewers to check out.
Shipwrecked Restaurant, Brewery & Inn in Egg Harbor is the oldest area microbrewery and part of the Door Peninsula Winery family. The bayside brewery produces the standard range of craft ales. The cherry wheat ale is not to be missed.
Door County Brewing Co., located in Baileys Harbor, is new to the scene and currently contract brews its beers at Sand Creek Brewery in Black River Falls. But restaurants up and down the peninsula feature the brewery’s Polka King Porter and Little Sister Witbier, both worth a sip.
Even von Stiehl is getting into the brewing scene. This summer the company revived the Ahnapee Brewery, which will feature Noble IPA, a German-style IPA, and Bavarian Helles on tap soon two doors down from the winery.
AND THE REST
If your tastes don’t run to wine or beer, here are several other libations available during your Door County vacation.
Door County Distillery, another part of Door Peninsula Winery, has only been operating for several years, but it already has earned honors in top national spirits competitions. The blend of botanicals, juniper and citrus earned its Door County Lighthouse Gin gold and silver awards in East and West coast spirits competitions, with silver awards going to the distillery’s Door County Apple Brandy.
One of the area’s unique producers, Island Orchard Cider, is located in Ellison Bay. Owned by Milwaukee residents Bob and Yannique Purman, the hard cider house produces five different ciders in the Normandy style from apples, pears and cherries grown on Washington Island off the Door peninsula’s northern tip. The oak-aged brut apple cider is one to take home with you to foster fond memories of your spirited vacation.
On the Web: For more, visit doorcounty.com/what-to-do/wineries.