- Oct 26 '16
On a cold, snow covered morning, Michael arrived at a more-than-100-year-old train station in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The station was once bustling with passengers who took the line to come watch their beloved Green Bay Packers play. These days, it still attracts fans in its more recent role as home of the Titletown Brewing Company.
Here, Brewer David Oldenburg has created over 200 different beers at a pace of more than 30 a year. Michael would help David with some brewing in a bit, but first he took a road trip of about 45 miles to a well known player in the craft beer world that few people ever get to see – the Briess malting company. Briess is famous among craft brewers for its production of specialty malts. And it too is in a historic building, which first opened as a malting house in 1901. Here, Director of Malting Operations Dave Kuske gave Michael a complete tour of every step of turning grain into the specialty malts brewers crave: From sprouting thousands of pounds of grain at once, through roasting in what look like massive coffee roasters that are 10 feet tall, or drying in a huge warehouse-sized kiln.
Then Michael headed back to Titletown to put some Briess malts to work, milling in a variety aimed at creating a lightly toasted flavor to complement today’s beer’s most unique ingredient, wild rice.
Complicating the brewing process was the fact that the temperature had to be hot enough to break down the starch molecules in the wild rice, but that high heat would make it impossible for the enzymes in the malt to turn that starch to sugar, which would then turn to alcohol. So dropping the temperature after the rice was cooked – and carefully paddling to insure the temperature throughout the entire mash was homogenous - was key. While this batch was brewing, Michael and David sampled a prior batch - nutty, malty, balanced, all in all a great beer.
Moving on to Titletown’s kitchen, Michael helped Chef Molly Bluma do some beer-centric cooking, with a twist. The chef used wort – that’s beer before it’s been fermented – to make a glaze for football shaped bison meatloaves. The wort added a sweetness in counterpoint to the vinegar and hot sauce in the glaze.
At dinner, Molly and David paired the meatloaf with the wild rice beer, creating what Michael called a “hunter’s combination of flavors.” The malty sweetness of both the glaze and the beer complemented each other, what Michael called a “great example of beer supporting the flavor of the food.”
Next on the menu was an elk burger, made with jalapenos and smoked Gouda cheese and paired with the Green 19 IPA (the name of a Green Bay Packers play-calling cadence). The hops successfully cut through the spice of the peppers, countered the heat, and paired well with the smoky cheese.
The came a cranberry turkey melt. Made with caramelized cranberry-onion marmalade, the dish was very sweet, which raised some pairing challenges. David chose the Johnny “Blood” Red, an Irish red ale - but Michael preferred the Dark Helmet Shwartzbier, a German-style black lager. As Michael always says, it’s a personal choice, enjoy what works for you.
Last up, a true Wisconsin combo - cheese and beer. The sharp and tangy cheese fondue (made with the Green 19 IPA) paired well with the hoppy Railyard Alt, a toasty, malty altbier. The beer easily cut through the richness of the cheese, and could easily be paired with many other dishes as well. Michael dubbed it a “great all-around beer.” One of more than 200 they’ve produced at a terrific all-around brewery.