Work Worth Doing, Beer Worth Brewing: The Brewing Projekt Takes Root in the Valley
President William Glass and brewer Eric Rykal are excited to be able to finally concentrate on actually making beer, after a rough couple of years struggling to get federal and state applications to brew approved. The Brewing Projekt opened its taproom, which seats roughly fifty people, in April of 2015. They also give tours! Will and Eric spoke with us recently.
What is your background as a brewer? Eric: I began home brewing immediately when I was of age to drink. What I had hoped would be an occasional hobby quickly grew into an intense obsession. With my background in biology, and a few years of brewing at home under my belt, I was able to find an apprenticeship at a commercial production brewery that quickly turned into my first full-time brewing job. After brewing there for nearly five years, I was fortunate enough to get the offer of a lifetime: brewing highly experimental beers for the Brewing Projekt.
How are local food and the farm-to-table concept important to you and incorporated into your restaurant? Will: Being in the beer industry, coming by local ingredients isn’t always the easiest. The truth is the majority of our malts come from Chilton, Wisconsin (malting barley is a very capital-intensive business to get into, and there aren’t many that exist in North America let alone Wisconsin), and most of our hops from the Yakima Valley in the Pacific Northwest. Quality is ALWAYS first and foremost. Sowe tend to go for the best ingredients regardless of where they come from. That said we try very hard to source our additive type ingredients and some varieties of hops locally. We utilize Just Local Food’s network to help us bring in quality produce for beers like The Stolen Mile. We’ve also used local producers like Miss Bee Haven LLC for our honey, and we’ve been known to hit up the Eau Claire farmers market for pilot batch stuff! When we make pilot batches, we’re testing out new recipes to potentially make on a production scale (that is, 620 to 1,280 gallons). For example, we’ve made a Belgian Rhubarb Strong with rhubarb from the farmers market.
What is your five-yea goal for the business? Will and Eric: In five years we hopeto have settled into our new location, expanded distribution throughout Wisconsin, and have expanded into more Belgian-style hybrid beers as well as more sour and funky stuff. Our first go at barrel aging sour beers has turned out to be some really awesome beer, and we hope to do a lot more of that stuff in the future. One of our goals is to open a second, smaller brewery dedicated to terroir, that is those particular environmental conditions like soil and climate where the grapes are grown that give each wine its unique flavor and aroma. Doing more farmhouse-type ales and lagers utilizing ingredients we can grow ourselves like fruits, spices, herbs, and even hops and barley is also a goal.
What we’d like to do is operate a smaller farmhouse brewery, on- or off-site, where we would make small production batches of beer with barley that we’ve malted, hops that we’ve grown, etc. Logistically it is VERY difficult for us to do that with our current scale. We’d have to have a 40-acre farm dedicated just to us. So the goal is create a smaller brewery making “homegrown” beer. We’d also branch out into some of the old world wild/sour ales as well where the fermentation is spontaneous and comes from the air around. Ideally we’d be located in an apple orchard where there is lots of good “wild” brewer’s yeast just floating around in the ambient air.
What are your thoughts on the Local Challenge? Will: I think it is awesome. I always wonder what would happen if we dropped a big glass dome over the Chippewa Valley, what would happen. I think we’ve got the goods and the ability to stand up quality-wise to anywhere else. It’s very exciting that more and more people are taking pride in our local economy and the products