Autumn in Wisconsin is our best time of the year. The colorful trees pop against a deep blue sky. The temperatures dip at night but rise to comfortable 60’s and 70’s during the day. Perfect for hiking through the crisp forests. However! sometimes there are days of gloom and drear. Last weekend the sun forgot to come out and play. By the third day the impending winter and cabin fever started pressing in. Time for a Beer Crawl! I chose two breweries that are relative newcomers to the Milwaukee area. Both had transplanted from other towns in Wisconsin and I had been hearing good buzz about them.
Mobcraft Beer Brewing
Mobcraft relocated from the Madison area to the trendy Walker’s Point in the fall of 2016. The brewery sets itself apart with its beer by crowdsourcing program. Every month they run an online competition for choosing the name and recipe of the next beer. The winner, determined by the number of pre-orders by the end of the month wins. This novel approach gives the brewery an experimental and edgy vibe.
On this rainy Saturday afternoon the place was hopping. Walker’s Point is a revived warehouse district just south of the city. The Mobcraft taproom balances the cavernous industrial feel with comfortable high top tables and clusters of bar games. Ping pong, darts, bean bag toss and a large black board wall all inviting drinkers to play around.
The working brewery was visible behind a wall of windows. Tours were lining up every couple of hours. Along the corridor to the restrooms was the “wall of fame”, a display of previous crowdsourcing winners. Beyond the crowdsource program the brewery produces a flagship beers, wild and sours program and seasonals. This is one of the first breweries I have visited with several Brettanomyces brews on tap.
Of course with so much variety I was in tasting heaven. I will admit the wild and sours are not my flavor choice, but I respect the edgy attitude they represent. The flagship Vanilla Wafer Porter that was divine on a chilly drippy day. I loved their Get Bogged, a cranberry sour/seasonal. It was a beautiful scarlet color and tart fruity flavor, true to its cranberry origin. I also tasted their Caplan, a bourbon barrel-aged vanilla stout which was dark and rich and the Clan McDougall, a scotch ale which unfortunately seemed slightly off.
My overall impression of Mobcraft was that it lives up to its buzz. It proved to be a great way to spend a Saturday trapped inside! I may even attempt to submit a recipe one day….
Black Husky Brewery
The second stop on the beer crawl was Black Husky Brewing a transplant from Pembine, Wisconsin, what Milwaukeans would call “Up North”. Black Husky also moved about a year ago, into the Riverwest area. Riverwest is a neighborhood north of the city near the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee campus. The area has been attempting regentrification with mixed results for several years. Given this fact, I must say it is not an area to roam unaware.
Black Husky sits on the corner with a large inviting outdoor space and garage doors flung open to the taproom. On a beautiful day I am sure there is a more festive atmosphere. On this day the few patrons huddled inside with their dogs. The whole “bring your dog with you everywhere” trend is not my favorite thing. In an open air setting it works, but on this day it felt like I was drinking beer in a kennel.
The tap list was quite limited compared to the eclectic choices we found at Mobcraft. Of the eleven beers on tap, five were hoppy pale ales. I tasted their flagship Sproose IPA, an IPA with a strong pine flavor. It was drinkable but without any nuance, just in your face bitter pine.
The brewing facility was not at work and there were no tours going on. They actually advertise online as “the worst tour around”. I realize this snarkiness is an intentional marketing move, but in person it fell flat. The overall feel was one of an identity crisis. The taproom was sterile and cheaply renovated with a few splashes of their former persona from Up North. While the online marketing was snarky, the servers were just boring and unfriendly.
Success Rate of the rainy day beer crawl
I think the order in which we visited these breweries did effect how I perceived them. It is fair to say that Mobcraft was pretty hard to beat on this particular day. I don’t think Black Husky would have bested Mobcraft even on a beautiful day, but it would have moved the barking dogs outside and that would have improved my attitude.
Ultimately, the results from the rainy day beer crawl were 50/50. But the discovery process and variety is what makes the journey so fun.