There are new things brewing at Big Head Brewing Co. Of course the pun is intended. Big Head Brewing has been brewing in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin for the last four years. Owner, Pat Fisher and Head Brewer, Rich Grose, have created a welcoming craft beer hangout in eastern Wauwatosa. I had some insider info about Big Head Brewing Co so I went in search of Wisconsin craft beer news.
Located in a re-purposed factory building at 6204 W. State St., the venue is casual and spacious. They are brewing with a 3-barrel system. The taproom is open Wednesday-Saturday 4-10PM, and have a fun and challenging Trivia Night every Wednesday.
I dropped into Big Head a couple of years ago right after it had opened. At the time it was still finding its feet. Today, the brewery has started to grow into its spacious surroundings and now offers an impressive tap list. Their flagships are the Blonde Ale,Smash Ale and the Firefly IPA.
The Firefly IPA was really nice and hoppy, but with the crisp fall weather my tastes turn richer and darker. I enjoyed the Scotch Ale and the dark Schwartzbier is my new favorite.
Before I go any further though I must share my insider info,
My craft beer news:
Big Head Brewing Co adds a second Brewer
They have recently brought on an additional new brewer. Jason Raines, with a Masters in Food Science and emphasis on Fermentation, is a perfect fit for the crew. Jason has been brewing passionately for 10 years. He hopes to bring a few new flavor profiles to the already well-rounded beer list. Jason will also add some welcomed extra hands to the busy brewing schedule.
Jason is a soft spoken young man with a vast knowledge of brewing science and art. He happens to be my homebrewing guru. When I heard that he was brewing for them I couldn’t wait to rediscover Big Head Brewing Co. He is helping out with the regular brewing schedule of their flagship beers and occasionally gets to add one of his own recipes to the tap list. This is where that yummy Schwartzbier comes into play. Schwartzbier is a black German lager. It’s color is near black like many Stout ales, but Jason’s Schwartzbier is crisp and clean with soft malts and vanillas. A Schwartzbier typically avoids the bitter heaviness of a Stout. I love this beer. I urge you to heed this craft beer news and head down to Big Head quickly while it is still on tap.
Pat and Jason graciously let me tag along for an evening of brewing this week. As I entered the brewery a soft grainy haze filled the air. This night the recipe was an IWA. Hmmm you ask what is that? The fun thing about chasing craft beer news is that I never stop learning. An IWA is an India Wheat Ale. The ubiquitous IPA is an India Pale Ale made from barley. Jason explained that the wheat will give this beer a nice foamy head and a hazier color. Our grain was a mix of Wheat and Pale Malt(barley). They were a beautiful sandy color with bready aroma.
A Watched Pot never Boils
After the water in the tanks is up to temperature the grain is added to steep. The temperature of the grain mash is a point of precision in any beer recipe. Variance in temperature at this stage can significantly alter the body of your beer. The chemical process of grain mashing is heat converting the complex starches into simple sugars. A lower temperature will convert more to sugars and give you a light-bodied beer. A high temperature will prevent some of the conversion leaving behind starches that give a heavier body.
Once the grain is added to the water with the perfectly correct temperature, into the mash tun, things really start to smell yummy. The grain is stirred a few times and the liquid is pumped out from the bottom and back into the top to help move the grain particulate to the bottom.
The brewing process takes many hours most of which is watching water get hot. I will admit to being a lightweight and abandoning Jason to his late night brewing vigil. But before I left we tasted his latest creation. He shared with me that he loves Weizenbock in the fall season. It is a combination of a Weissbier and a Doppelbock. The result was fruity, tangy and hazy as you would expect from a wheat-based ale but it also had a richer caramel flavor and deeper body from the strength of the Bock brewing. Another amazing creation from this new brewer.
Wauwatosa Craft Beer News
With the numbers of craft breweries popping up across Southeast Wisconsin it is hard to keep current with craft beer news. The addition of a new brewer to a small micro-brewery might not catch your attention. However, every brewer brings a unique touch to the process. Head Brewer, Rich Grose, has created a worthy tap list at Big Head for years. The addition of a second brewer means both brewers can keep pace with the flagship beers’ demand. Also, each brewer will have a little more freedom to express their unique touch to the specialty beers at Big Head Brewing Co. As I said before, I encourage you to drop by Big Head Brewing Co. for a great taste of craft beer and an evening of local camaraderie. Wauwatosa, Wisconsin is lucky to host this special beer gem.