One expert's take on brewing better beer

Kyle Vetter didn’t take the easy route when he opened 1840 Brewing Company the summer of 2017. Nope, he set out to age nearly all of his beers in the 35 barrels that occupy his 2,000-square-foot production area in Bay View, a risky process that takes time and money. But it’s yielded some deliciously complex brews.

Explain your brewing process.

We take a batch of beer, and split it into different barrels. For the most part, we’re doing our fermentation in the barrel. What’s cool about that is … individual barrels, microcosms of fermentation, create slightly different flavors. We use our palettes to blend the beers from these individual parts back into one.

How did you decide to make barrel aging your focus?

When I was at Aspen Brewing Company [in Colorado] I helped build their barrel program up, and I really fell in love with the art of barrel aging. The barrel is an ingredient as well. It allows oxygen into the beer, which changes the flavor. The previous resident … a spirit of wine, adds flavor to the beer. 

How difficult is it?

Time and capital are the things that we have to invest more in. It takes us three months to three years to make the beers we make.

How important is the patience?

Best practice is to never sample a barrel more than once a month. It’s difficult when you’ve got a beer doing its thing, and you want to know how it’s doing.

You’re open only one weekend each month, and your beers are available in limited releases. What has the response been to the schedule?

What’s great is the feedback has been awesome. Once people get here they understand how long it takes to make our beer. I’d love to be open every weekend, and we will be as soon as we can.

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‘I’ll Drink to That’ appears in the December 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

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