Great Lakes Brewing News February/March 2016 : Page 1

Leos and Theresa Frank behind the bar at The Lazy Monk. PHOTO BY JOSH JOHNSON. By Don Cazentre as it the alcoholic beverage fad of 2015? Or is it the alcohol phenome-non of 2016 and beyond? Of course, we're talking about hard soda—mainly alco-holic root beer—and its growing list of siblings, like hard ginger ale, hard cream soda and more. Most are made with a barley malt base, range from 4.5% to 7% or above and are crafted to taste exactly like the non-alcohol drinks they're modeled on. This latest obsession with satisfying the sweet tooth of adult beverage drinkers seems to have its roots in the Great Lakes region. It burst on the drinks scene in a big way in 2015 courtesy of a brand called Not Your Father's Root Beer, a product with Illinois origins produced in increasingly mass quanti-ties in Wisconsin. Not Your Father's made a national splash through the production and distribution capabilities of Pabst Brewing Co. That Chicago-based corporate entity owns a stake in the brand, which was founded by Small Town Brewing Co. of Wauconda, Ill. Not Your Father's is now made at the See Hard Stuff p. 4 By Josh Johnson eos Frank quit drink-ing beer for five years. A native of what is now Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, his formative years were immersed in a Czech culture in which most small towns had a brewery and beer was not con-sidered just a leisure bever-age. But after moving to the United States in 1993 to work in information systems, he became disillusioned by what was commercially available. He and his wife, Theresa, a Wisconsin native, settled in Eau Claire, where locals foisted vari-ous domestic lagers upon him in attempts to stimulate his palate. Years later, he discovered home brew-ing and pursued the hobby with help from WindRiver Brewing Company, a home brew shop in Barron, WI. The results and feedback were promising. “I progressed like anybody else,” Leos said. “Home brewing and professional brewing are not that far apart as far as the science is concerned.” Self-taught and com-pletely self-funded, the Franks launched Lazy Monk Brewing LLC in 2010 in Eau Claire. They began with tap accounts and growler fills in the Chippewa Valley. The brewery’s van–featuring a logo of a smiling, balding monk (eerily similar to the affable Leos)–became an instantly rec-ognizable sight at local bars and grocery stores. In 2012, the Franks opened a four-stool, 400-square-foot taproom tucked See Lazy Monk p. 6 INSIDE Event Calendar ............................. 2 Homebrew ...................................... 10 Beer Beacon ............................... 11 Map/Directory.........................18-23 Beers To Us! ............................... 27 State by State News New York ....... 12 Illinois ........... 24 Chicago ......... 25 Indiana .......... 26 Wisconsin ..... 28 N Wisconsin .. 29 Minnesota ...... 30 Ontario .......... 32 Pennsylvania . 34 Ohio ............... 35 Michigan ........ 36 SW Michigan . 36 SE Michigan .. 38

The Hard Stuff

Don Cazentre

Was it the alcoholic beverage fad of 2015? Or is it the alcohol phenomenon of 2016 and beyond?

Of course, we're talking about hard soda—mainly alcoholic root beer—and its growing list of siblings, like hard ginger ale, hard cream soda and more. Most are made with a barley malt base, range from 4.5% to 7% or above and are crafted to taste exactly like the non-alcohol drinks they're modeled on.

This latest obsession with satisfying the sweet tooth of adult beverage drinkers seems to have its roots in the Great Lakes region. It burst on the drinks scene in a big way in 2015 courtesy of a brand called Not Your

Father's Root Beer, a product with Illinois origins produced in increasingly mass quantities in Wisconsin. Not Your Father's made a national splash through the production and distribution capabilities of Pabst Brewing Co. That Chicago-based corporate entity owns a stake in the brand, which was founded by Small Town Brewing Co. Of Wauconda, Ill. Not Your Father's is now made at the brewery in LaCrosse. Wis. That also makes "non-beer" beers (flavored malt beverages) like Smirnoff Ice and Mike's Hard Lemonade.

Not Your Father's wasn't the first hard root beer, however, and it's certainly not the last to be introduced—the list is growing. Milwaukee's Sprecher Brewing Co., for instance, began making its "fire brewed" Hard Root Beer in 2013. "This alcoholic beverage is inspired by the original fermented mixtures of roots and herbs that have evolved into modern root beer," the brewery says, adding that it's aged in oak bourbon barrels and has the same flavor as the company's non-alcohol root beer.

Also in 2013, Main Street Grille and Brewing Co. In Garrettsville, Ohio had surprising success with its version, Ma Barker's Birch Beer, at less than 6% alcohol and made with the addition of maple syrup and cane sugar.

Off and Running

But since Not Your Father's hit the big time everyone seems to be joining in: A brand called Coney Island Brewing, affiliated with Boston Beer Co. (Sam Adams), launched its hard root beer nationwide in the summer. A portion of its root beer production is made under contract at the Shmaltz brewery in Clifton Park, NY, north of Albany. (Coney Island was started by Shmaltz, then spun off from it, in 2013) .

In the fall, F.X. Matt Brewing (Saranac) in Utica, NY rolled out its Jed's line of hard root beer, along with hard black cherry and hard orange cream.

"We came a little later than we wanted into this market," said company president Fred Matt. "But we already had a non-alcohol line of soda (Saranac 1888), and we knew we could do it well."

Matt/Saranac brewers spent a lot of time tinkering with the formula to get it right, Fred Matt said. Matt, who has children in their 20s, believes these products have lots of appeal with younger drinkers. "It may not be my first choice, but there is a demand for these sweeter drinks."

Elsewhere around the Great Lakes, Petoskey Brewing in Michigan has an example called Brad's Hard Rood Beer, at a walloping 7% alcohol, at its brewery/brewpub in northern Michigan. It also lists the International Bitterness Units -- a meager 12 IBUs.

Going Big

The "big boys" of brewing are getting into the act, too. Anheuser-Busch rolled out its Best Damn Root Beer brand at the end of the year. It's 5.5% ABV, and is aged on vanilla beans (perhaps the hard soda equivalent of beechwood chips?). A-B also makes a Best Damn Apple Ale.

MillerCoors, based in Chicago, introduced Henry's Hard Ginger Ale and Henry's Hard Orange sodas in six packs of 12-ounce bottles, with national distribution starting in January. They are produced by the Miller subsidiary Blitz-Weinhard Brewing Co.

Recipes and formulations differ, of course, but it appears that most of the breweries getting into hard soda begin by producing a malt-based beer, perhaps even adding some hops, then adding the flavorings to achieve the soda flavor: Ginger for ginger ale for example, or some combination of vanilla, licorice, sasafrass or wintergreen for root beer.

Down the Road

So what are we to make of the hard soda spike?

It follows the continuing surge of craft beer—the number of craft breweries is at an all-time high and national market share is at about 11 % of the total volume. But it also comes in the wake of wave after wave of the non-beer beers: Malternatives (think Zima a few decades ago), and flavored malt beverages from Smirnoff Ice to Mike's Hard Lemonade to Bud Light Lime-A-Rita.

In describing MillerCoors' entry into the hard soda market, an article at adage. Com (Advertising Age magazine) noted: "MillerCoors is aiming its products at Gen Xers who grew up drinking soda and now have more disposable income to spend on boozy alternatives." But the story also notes that most of the past sweet malt alternatives have had their day, only to fall as new products come along. Zima is long gone, and even recent versions like the Lime-A-Ritas have seen their popularity fade.

Craft beer, meanwhile, has remained and continues to grow as an industry.

The current trends include the hard soda, apple ales like Redd's and even, to some extent, authentic hard apple cider. So the question remains: Will you or anyone you know still be drinking hard root beer at the end of 2016?

Read the full article at http://glbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/The+Hard+Stuff/2391945/289958/article.html.

Lazy Monk

Josh Johnson

Leos Frank quit drinking beer for five years.

A native of what is now Banská Bystrica, Slovakia, his formative years were immersed in a Czech culture in which most small towns had a brewery and beer was not considered just a leisure beverage. But after moving to the United States in 1993 to work in information systems, he became disillusioned by what was commercially available. He and his wife, Theresa, a Wisconsin native, settled in Eau Claire, where locals foisted various domestic lagers upon him in attempts to stimulate his palate.

Years later, he discovered home brewing and pursued the hobby with help from WindRiver Brewing Company, a home brew shop in Barron, WI. The results and feedback were promising.

“I progressed like anybody else,” Leos said. “Home brewing and professional brewing are not that far apart as far as the science is concerned.”

Self-taught and completely self-funded, the Franks launched Lazy Monk Brewing LLC in 2010 in Eau Claire. They began with tap accounts and growler fills in the Chippewa Valley. The brewery’s van–featuring a logo of a smiling, balding monk (eerily similar to the affable Leos)–became an instantly recognizable sight at local bars and grocery stores.

In 2012, the Franks opened a four-stool, 400-square-foot taproom tucke into a suite in an old bakery building in the shadow of a hulking, former Uniroyal tire factory.

Eau Claire, a college town of about 67,500, did not lack for watering holes with craft beer and already had another well-established brewpub. But the response was immediate. Offering an alternative to loud sports bars, frat-boy hangouts and scores of lodge-themed taverns, Lazy Monk’s taproom became a place were a retired couple, an attorney and a college student could share local beer together at a table. Conversation took priority over Tvs.

The brewing equipment was kept separate from the taproom, which featured church pews, murals and European decor. Jazz groups entertained customers. Patrons brought their children, who were welcome to nosh on locally baked soft pretzels and sip root beer. Lazy Monk promotes itself as a “rodinny pivovar” (family brewery), which is reinforced by the Franks’ two children, ages 11 and 13, who are involved in the family business.

“We wanted to show people what we believed Oktoberfest is,” Theresa said of the first taproom. “People really responded, to the point that they were in the hallways, they were down to the loading dock.”

The Beer

The brewery’s flagship beer, Bohemian Pilsner, is more than just a nod to Leos’ homeland. Featuring a gentle herbal note from Saaz hops, the clear, golden lager floats a pillowy head amid a mild, malty backbone with a clean finish. It is, as are most of Lazy Monk’s beers, brewed to the traditional style. In addition to its year-round Bohemian Dark Lager, Lazy Monk has a rotation of seasonal and limited release beers, many of which lean German or Czech, but also some that dip into American craft and British genres.

The Franks expanded their taproom to seat 70, but then attendance increased threefold. Customers were turned away due to lack of space on Friday nights. Their product also began to be noticed around the Badger State. Relying solely on self-distribution, Lazy Monk beers began appearing in Hudson, La Crosse, Madison and Milwaukee. Beer festivals, like Great Taste of the Midwest, and word of mouth drew attention to the mom-and-pop brewery from Eau Claire, which also began offering canned, 16-ounce four-packs in addition to growlers.

“When I started, I never wanted to actually interact directly with the consumers. As it looks right now, that’s the majority of our business. It’s actually very satisfying to interact with the consumers,” Leos said.

A New Home

The demand prompted a search for a new location for Lazy Monk and its nine employees, largely to handle a growing taproom clientele. Leos spotted a going-out-of-business sale at an interior design shop on the west bank of the Chippewa River, just across a bridge from downtown Eau Claire. The property was bought by the City of Eau Claire, which planned to demolish the building for green space and an extension of the Chippewa River State Trail. The neighborhood, formerly comprised of decaying warehouses, has been renamed the Cannery Redevelopment District and is also home to The Brewing Projekt, a production brewery and taproom just a few blocks to the north. After negotiating to save the building and allow an easement for the bike trail, Lazy Monk had found its new home.

The 16,000-square-foot building, which opened in early January, has capacity for 180 in the bier hall and 50 in a separate party room, the location of the taproom’s sole TV. Heavy wood tables, a fireplace and items from the Franks’ travels to Europe highlight the bier hall. An outdoor deck with capacity for an additional 100 is planned for spring. It will overlook the Chippewa River and abut the bike trail. If the new location proves successful, a restaurant featuring a short menu of German and Czech foods is under consideration. The 5.5-barrel brewing system will remain in the previous location until later this year.

The Taproom

With Lazy Monk’s new location so close to The Brewing Projekt, Theresa said she hopes Eau Claire’s west side becomes a destination for beer tourists. She estimates 80 percent of Lazy Monk’s customers at its prior location were from out of town. In an effort to highlight western Wisconsin’s beer scene, three of Lazy Monk’s taps feature products from other local brewers.

“Microbreweries need to support each other. There’s not enough of that,” Theresa said. “We’re going to have the brewers come down and meet our customers. We’re putting them on tap to promote them.”

Some breweries grow in hopes of being purchased or to capture greater market share. While the Franks see room for future growth, they view Lazy Monk as a “city brewery” whose primary presence is through a thriving taproom.

“Our primary purpose is to be a brewery,” Theresa said. “Be proud that you’re a brewery. And if you offer something else, that’s great for your customers. But ultimately, it’s about the beer.”

Lazy Monk Brewing
Taproom Hours
Monday through Thursday:
3 to 10 p.m.
Friday: 3 to 11 p.m.
Saturday: Noon to 11 p.m.
Sunday: Noon to 8 p.m.
97 W. Madison St,
Eau Claire, WI 54703
www.lazymonkbrewing.com
info@lazymonkbrewing.com
715-271-0848

Read the full article at http://glbnonline.brewingnews.com/article/Lazy+Monk/2391955/289958/article.html.

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