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Baraboo Brewing Company

Beer is deceptively simple. Take the new craft brews called Baraboo Beer, for instance. The main ingredients in the label’s three standard varieties are water, barley, wheat, yeast and some bitter little buds called hops. Yet tastes range from bold to earthy to crisp. How do they do that?

There’s real beauty in pouring a glass of Woodpecker Wheat Ale from Baraboo Beer, a new craft beer sold exclusively at Hy-Vee stores. Set a tall, slender, cool and absolutely spotless glass on the counter. Open a bottle and, holding the glass at about 45 degrees, pour the amber liquid into the vessel just fast enough to create a little turbulence at the bottom of the glass.

As the beer swirls, it releases the carbon dioxide that helps form the familiar white, slightly fizzy foam head. When all the beer is in the glass, it should have a head of about one inch.

Position the glass so light will shine through it. The glistening yellow contents appear to be liquid gold. You’ve struck it rich.

baraboo beer - talk


Here are a few common beer terms.

Ale: Yeast works at the top of the brewing vat, rather than at the bottom; tends tobe a more malty flavor than lager.
Beer clean: Restaurant term for an absolutely spotless glass.
Clean: This is a taste term meaning there are no obvious flaws in flavor or aroma.
Hoppy: A beer with a big presence of hops; finish taste will be bitter.
Lager: Most popular beers are golden lagers having a clean, smooth taste.
Nose: The aroma of a beer.
Pilsner: A German lager brewed in 1842. Most American beers mimic its taste.
Session beer: A beer that doesn’t make drinkers’ stomachs feel full, so several can be enjoyed during a session. These beers may also have low alcohol content.
Skunky: With overexposure to light, beer can go rancid. It gives off foul aroma with a strong, skunklike smell.

Two years ago, Baraboo Beer was just an idea. Managers in the Wine and Spirits Department at Hy-Vee couldn’t help but notice that sales of craft beers were rising. Craft beers are those bottled by small and medium-size brewers who still make beer the old-fashioned way with natural ingredients. This devotion to traditional brewing leads to tastes that are bolder, more complex and much more diverse than those available from mass-market beers produced by large brewing companies.

“The craft beer movement is very strong right now, so the time was right for Baraboo,” says Jay Wilson, Hy-Vee assistant vice president for wine and spirits.

To create Baraboo, Stevens Point Brewing in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, was tapped. The process began with a meeting among the project’s Hy-Vee team and brewmaster Gabe Hopkins and the brewery’s team. The group settled on the varieties of beer they wanted to produce and the specific characteristics of the tastes.

Gabe, a biochemist, says, “The Hy-Vee people wanted an amber color lager—something that was a little bit aggressive on the hops. So I went to the drawing board and developed a recipe.”

In the first phase, three beers were created: the lager, an India pale ale (IPA) and a wheat beer. Each began as a 10-gallon batch that was brewed, tested, tasted, revised, then rebrewed and retested until both parties were satisfied. Developing each beer required months because every batch takes 21 days to make. Once the small-batch recipe was proven, Gabe had to run other samples and tests to confirm that the recipe would remain consistent when brewed in larger 3,100-gallon batches.

Three distinct beer styles form the foundation of the Baraboo beer lineup. Each pleasing flavor will be available year-round. The main choices with Baraboo are:

Red Granite Lager. This amber lager is in the same beer family as most popular brands. As a craft beer, however, it is made with traditional ingredients. No corners are cut for the sake of mass production, as is often the case with mass-market beers.

Lumberjack IPA. Brewed with a pale malt and light hops, this one is a distinctive taste among the three beers. Though called India pale ale, this ale originated in England and was shipped overseas to British soldiers and civil servants in India during the 1800s.

Woodpecker Wheat Ale. The distinctive taste of wheat is present in this light brew. The lineage of this recipe goes back to the world’s oldest brewery, which operated 1,000 years ago in Germany.

In addition to this trio of beers, there will also be three seasonal Barbaoo beers sold at Hy-Vee. The first will be released this fall, followed by a winter variety and a spring/summer brew.

The new beer’s names have Wisconsin roots. Baraboo River flows through the state. Lumberjacks and woodpeckers are part of the forest culture, and Wisconsin’s state rock is red granite.

For those new to the subtleties of craft beers, follow these tips to make the most of a bottle of Baraboo or any beer.

  • Start with a clean glass. Soap and other residues on glassware can melt away a foamy head. To defend against this problem, wash beer glasses with baking soda.
  • Serve at refrigerator temperature. Below 40°F or so, cold begins to suppress flavors, whether in beer, soft drinks or any food. Avoid ice-cold glassware too.
  • Never drink from the bottle. If you do, you won’t smell any of the aromatic scents of the beer, missing its full flavor.
Baraboo Lager Red Granite Lager
Among the ever-increasing variety of beers, Americans prefer amber lagers above all others. To separate this robust brew from competitors—primarily mass-market domestic beers—the presence of hops has been increased, giving this malty well-balanced beer an edge. It’s a tasty companion for hamburgers or steaks.
Baraboo IPA Lumberjack IPA
Hops infuse bite and a sometimes-bitter taste into beer, and traditional India pale ales (IPA) can be overly hoppy. To avoid this pitfall, sweet malt is added to balance any bitterness in Lumberjack. This allows other flavors—citrusy, fruity scents—to be sensed while drinking. Lumberjack IPA pairs well with spicy foods, such as Mexican and Thai cuisine.
Baraboo Wheat Woodpecker Wheat
With a taste that is clean and refreshing, Woodpecker Wheat is a light ale that won’t leave you feeling full. Made with malted barley and malted white wheat, it pairs well with such light fare as
chicken and fish. This is a good choice when you want to have more than one at a sitting. Brewmaster Gabe Hopkins says, “It’s a 12-ounce bottle of flavor.”

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