There’s something about an ice-cold beer and a lake and a sunset. In fact, that’s practically the beginning of every country song ever. (Or, if it was a warm beer and the hood of a Dodge, the beginning of the greatest Springsteen song ever.) Beer and Wisconsin go together like, well, beer and Wisconsin. Beer is a part of our heritage that’s been turned into a craft and properly celebrated.
At UW-Madison, it’s also been turned into an academic course. Inaugural Red and S’Wheat Caroline — two brews sold by the Wisconsin Brewing Company — were the brainchildren of the Department of Food Science’s FS 375: the lab section of its Fermented Foods and Beverages class. But honestly, how practical can a career in beer really be? For these five Badger grads, the answer is … quite.
The crew: Trevor ’04 and Maureen McCartney JD’07 Easton
The brew: Classic styles of beer brewed using gluten-free grains
On tap: In the Madison area, you can find Hollywood Nights Blonde IPA, Copperhead Copper Ale, and Rustic Badger Farmhouse Ale (which was Alt Brew’s first commercially available product). Each beer is brewed with honey, which helps the gluten-free grains maintain a flavorful, balanced profile.
The name: Yes, Alt Brew suggests that the beer is alternative, but the name actually comes from a German brewing style called altbier (pronounced — you guessed it — as alt-beer). “There is a certain yeast strain, and they brew them at cooler temperatures for longer periods of time,” Trevor explains. “I started applying that technique to basically every style we do.” In using the yeast strain, the gluten-free product tastes more like actual beer — a rarity for gluten-free alternatives — and less like your run-of-the-grain-free-mill sorghum beer.
The moment: In 2008, Maureen was diagnosed with celiac disease. Before that, Trevor had been an avid homebrewer. Ding! Here comes that engineering degree: there is a problem, and it must be solved. So that Maureen could continue to enjoy beer, Trevor worked tirelessly to perfect a gluten-free alternative. “The gluten-free beer that was available wasn’t something that anybody wanted to drink,” he says. “Let’s take a craft-beer approach or a homebrewer’s approach to make a gluten-free beer.”
The future: Being in such a niche market, Trevor and Maureen are looking for ways to grow while keeping their current customers happy. Step one will be becoming more widely available. Alt Brew is currently available in 24-ounce bottles in select Madison-area stores. They hope to transition to 12-ounce bottles, increasing their presence in bars and restaurants.
The tidbit: One of Trevor’s homebrews nearly killed his wife. Well, sort of. He was making a full-gluten homebrew, which contaminated the entire kitchen. “He got gluten everywhere!” Maureen remembers. “He spent hours cleaning up after.”
Mikerphone Brewing Company
Elk Grove Village, Illinois
The crew: Michael Pallen ’04
The brew: Hoppy, hoppy, hoppy: IPAs, saisons, sours, and the occasional stout for good measure
On tap: Two Mikerphone classics are Smells Like Bean Spirit, an 8.5 percent breakfast stout brewed using coffee from a local roaster and Vermont maple syrup; and Misty Mountain Hop, a 7.5 percent IPA, which has a hidden Bucky Badger icon. Can you find it?
The name: If your favorite Nirvana song were a beer, what kind would it be? It’s something Mike’s thought about, which is why Mikerphone brews craft beers inspired by music. But the brand was fully hatched before the brews were even finished fermenting. As soon as Mike started homebrewing, he drew up a logo and a marketing plan. “I had T-shirts; I had everything. People really thought it was a legit brewery.” It wasn’t until several years later that he began commercially selling beers.
The moment: Shout-out to general-education requirements! During his junior year at UW–Madison, Mike enrolled in Botany 240: Plants and Man — colloquially known as the “beer course.” Historically, students were given the choice between writing a term paper and brewing a beer. We’ll let you guess which was the more popular final. “I brewed beer for the first time on my own in that class,” Mike remembers. “That’s what kind of [sprang] my interest.” (Not to mention that his dad worked for MillerCoors in Milwaukee while Mike was growing up.)
The future: “I can’t meet demand right now,” Mike said in early March. He plans to be fully operational out of his new space in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, by the end of this year, allowing him to triple production. “[We want to] have beer on tap at all times in the tasting room, and also get more beer out on the market.”
The tidbit: Mike’s four-year-old daughter, Lilly, has a beer named after her — Lilly Lemone, a lemon saison. His five-month-old son does not … but he is named after a beer: Miles Porter. We’ll let them debate about which is cooler when they get older.
The crew: Phil ’03, DPT’10 and Sara Greene ’03, ’08 Hoechst
The brew: On a scale of one to hoppy, they are Peter Cottontail. Aligning with Phil’s favorite style, Hop Haus’s brews include hoppy, hoppier, and hoppiest.
On tap: Super Big Time IPA and Magic Dragon Double IPA are among the most popular. “Some people come in and they’re like, ‘Wow, you have a lot of IPAs.’ And we’re like, ‘Well, we did call it Hop Haus,’ ” says Sara.
The name: If you look closely at their logo, you’ll see a tiny door opening into the giant hop. Get it? Hop house? The haus spelling comes from Phil’s country of origin: Germany. But that’s not the only German Einfluss. The whole goal of Hop Haus is to evoke Germany’s small-town summer carnivals — where people gather, hang out, and drink beer — and to create that in Verona. “It doesn’t matter what you believe in or what you do for work,” Phil explains. “Everybody can have beer together.”
The moment: Phil began homebrewing when he and Sara were living in Denver. Once they moved back to Verona, his brews got more adventurous, and he started entering contests. After a few wins, he realized this could be a thing. They found the perfect spot and started preconstruction demolition on January 30, 2015 — which, as it turned out, was also the day their second son was born. And yes, both Phil and Sara started that day at the groundbreaking. Talk about dedication.
The future: Hop Haus started small, and the Hoechsts plan on keeping it that way. Plus, they couldn’t fit any larger barrels through the door. Rather than marketing and selling to the entire state, Phil and Sara want to keep the community-building aspect of Hop Haus. “We want people in here,” Phil says. “We want to be like, 90 percent sold from here, if not more. We want the community to be here.”
The tidbit: Phil and Sara grew up as nearly neighbors, but didn’t meet until they both transferred to the UW partway through their college careers. Their Badger pride is on display for all Hop Haus patrons to see: a dancing Bucky stuffed animal sits above the tap lines, along with a can of Bucky Beer from 1983. The beer — a gift from Sara’s dad — has the 1983 football schedule printed on it.