Barrel aging requires patience, time and space. At its best, it produces some of the best beers in the world that have amazing depth and complexity. When it goes wrong, risks like infection from bacteria hidden in the barrel mean a batch is best poured down the drain.
Brewer Kyle Vetter knows all of this and is ready to tackle barrel aging at his ambitious new project, 1840 Brewing Company (342 E. Ward St.).
The brewery, which plans to open to the public in the summer, specializes in oak barrel fermentation and aging.
“I fell in love with barrel aging and blending while I was working at Aspen Brewing Company,” explained Vetter. “Milwaukee was lacking in sour and wild ales and so we decided to start a brewery with a very specific focus. Our goal is to highlight yeast as well and show Milwaukee all the different ways beer can be made using oak at some point in the process.”
Vetter has the pedigree for heading up the brewery. The Milwaukee native had a stint as the oak manager at Aspen Brewing and also worked at Ska Brewing in Durango, Colorado.
1840 Brewing has a small one-barrel system made by Milwaukee’s Spike Brewing. Other local brewers like Third Space help out Vetter by letting him use their equipment to create wort (the early stage of beer).
The public will soon have access to Vetter’s creations at monthly releases in the new brewery’s 1,200-square-foot tap room. A VIP membership program gives those willing to pony up at least $175 guaranteed access to limited releases.
“We knew that we were going to focus on beers that take a long time to produce,” said Vetter. “We were concerned about our ability to supply a large market like Milwaukee as we were just getting the barrel program started. Once we can build the barrel program up and increase our production capacity we will consider being open more often. The VIP membership program grew out of our desire to take the release model one step further. We want to create a unique experience for our members that is more intimate than a typical busy beer release. The program is our way of inviting a small group of people to experience the brewery, the process, and the beers in a way that is more personal.”