Corey Blodgett brought an impressive resume with him when he returned to Wisconsin from the Pacific Northwest to help owner Joe Yeado open Gathering Place Brewing Company in the spring of 2017. Now, he’s leaning on his experience as an innovation brewer to help Gathering Place take the next step.
Since November, Blodgett has been working with a new one-barrel pilot brewing system that resides at the Gathering Place taproom (811 E. Vienna Ave.).
The first batches brewed on the new system were four Black Friday beers—a pair of golden ales and a pair of imperial stouts. The next two are reserved for the Gathering Place Member’s Society. Brandy Oaked Limb Shaker is a Belgian Tripel with Door County cherries aged on brandy-soaked oak cubes, and Sakura Saison is a French-style saison made with Sakura flowers (Japanese cherry blossoms). Both are being released next Monday (Jan. 18).
Eventually, the small brewing system will find a home at the Flour & Feed food hall (2160 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) when Gathering Place opens its satellite taproom there at some point in 2021 (the pandemic has delayed the opening).
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The Freedom of Innovation
Blodgett, a native of Waterford, started his brewing career in Portland in 2002 working for McMenamin’s Pubs and Breweries. He had a brief stop at Seattle’s Maritime Pacific Brewing, and eventually spent five years at Widmer Brothers Brewing as the lead innovation brewer before accepting the brewing position at Gathering Place.
Innovation doesn’t mean that Gathering Place will be cranking out hazy IPAs with experimental hop combinations or mixing up odd pastry stouts. But it does give the self-distributing brewery the chance to try out the popularity of styles before committing to large batches on its other 14-barrel system.
“We’re not known for super weird stuff to begin with,” said Blodgett. “(We can brew) saisons and stronger lagers that we didn’t want to try and sell 14 barrels of. It will give us a lot of flexibility because we won’t have to go through so much volume. It’s pretty nice to have that in our back pocket.”
Added Yeado: “The pilot brewing system gives us the flexibility to develop our innovation program, which will focus on using different ingredients, fermentation methods, and brewing techniques to craft unique beers. Some of these beers aren’t financially viable on our main brewing system.”
Traditional Styles Made Well
Expect more variations of fairly traditional styles to come from the pilot brewing system. Gathering Place has earned a reputation of crafting well-made, crisp lagers and ales.
“Joe is into Belgians and German beers and I like German, French and farmhouse ales,” explained Blodgett. “We thought for sure our brewery would be IPA dependent, but that hasn’t happened. We want to be known for smaller beers that are more flavorful and crisp than smack you in the face with hops or alcohol. We thought that niche wasn’t being met. If you do that and do that well people will remember that. That seems to work out in our favor.”