The Hunt for Rare Beers

Wisconsin is a great place to be for extremely limited release brews. Plus: night after night of beer events in Milwaukee.

On Black Friday nearly two years ago I made the trip to Chicago to corral Goose Island Bourbon County Stout. As I stood in an early morning line at a liquor store in Lakeview the young bearded guy in front of me told the owner, “This is my first stop on a busy morning to get all the Bourbon County I can.” The owner responded incredulously, “Why aren’t you just happy with what you have?”

Bottle chasers, like the hipster dude that morning, are an unfortunate side effect of extremely limited releases. Don’t get me wrong, I love having two bottles of each rarity if it’s something I can age (one for drinking right away and one for cellaring for a year or two) but those who amass ridiculously large beer caches limit accessibility for others.

You may be wondering why I’m on this random rant. An interesting take on the subject posted last week by the Austin Chronicle prompted me to weigh in.

On a positive note, I think we’re fortunate in Wisconsin when it comes to access to rare beers. I’ve been to well-run tastings of limited brews at places like Burnhearts, a well-organized release of Founders KBS at Ray’s Wine & Spirits, and similar events where accessibility wasn’t a problem. Central Waters has abundant supplies of its outstanding anniversary beers at its annual anniversary party, Lakefront’s Black Friday promotion is always a winner, and every New Glarus brew is a rarity to anyone who doesn’t live in Wisconsin.

We’ve got it pretty good here folks.

Ranking Barrel-Aged Stouts

Tom “Grynder” Ciula (featured in the March issue of Milwaukee Magazine) put together a blind taste test of some of the best stouts in the world over the weekend. His tasting crew included his son and daughter-in-law as well as Rich Heller from Goose Island and Kaleb Schwecke, the craft beer guru at Ray’s. The tasters ranked the seven beers according to which ones they liked best. The rare Bruery Black Tuesday took home top honors and was the overall favorite among the crew. It was followed by Central Waters 16, Goose Island Bourbon County Stout, Lakefront Black Friday, Surly Darkness, Hoppin’ Frog B.O.R.I.S. and North Coast Old Rasputin.

Photo courtesy Ballast Point.
Photo courtesy Ballast Point.

Barley Pop of the Week

Grapefruit is a natural fit with the citrusy bitterness of IPAs, but I’ve had a hard time finding a grapefruit IPA that blew me away. Ballast Point Grapefruit Sculpin fits the bill and it starts with the delicious grapefruit aroma. The flavor is tart citrus that gives way to a finish that blend the bitterness of grapefruit and hops. If you’re a fan of IPAs and you’re lucky enough to find Grapefruit Sculpin, pick some up.

Quick Taps

Tickets for the outstanding Crafts & Drafts Spring Beer Fest are now on sale. The event takes place at Serb Hall (5101 W. Oklahoma Ave.) on April 19.

Next week is a good time to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Founders KBS Week is happening from March 9-14. So, if you don’t want to wait until a few cases of the delicious barrel-aged stout arrive in Milwaukee, head to Michigan.

Keep an eye on the Dark Lord Day website if you plan on attending the big event at the Three Floyds Brewery (9758 Indiana Pkwy, Munster, Indiana) on April 25. The date for ticket sales hasn’t been announced yet, but it has to be relatively soon.

Events Brewing

Tuesday, March 3: Beer School at Comet Cafe (1947 N. Farwell Ave.) takes on Imperial Stouts starting at 7 p.m. Call 414-273-7677 to make a reservation for your spot.

Tuesday, March 3: Great Lakes Brewing takes over the taps at The Malt Shoppe (813 N. Mayfair Rd.) from 5 to 7 p.m.

Tuesday, March 3: Draft & Vessel (4417 N. Oakland Ave.) hosts a pairing of beers and Girl Scout cookies. For just $20 you get seven types of cookies (two cookies for each type) and seven beer samples (five ounces each). Reservations aren’t needed, just show up any time after 4 p.m.

Wednesday, March 4: Bierklasse highlights German lagers at Cafe Bavaria (7700 Harwood Ave.) starting at 7 p.m. The cost is $30 and reservations can be made by emailing

Thursday, March 5: Lakefront Brewery takes over the taps at Romans’ Pub (3475 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) at 6 p.m.

Thursday, March 5: County Clare (1234 N. Astor St.) hosts Barley’s Angels for a tasting or Irish beer and cider from 6 to 9 p.m. The $14 cost provides four 10-ounce samples.

Thursday, March 5: Milwaukee Beer Society samples some gems from Ballast Point from 6 to 9 p.m. at Best Place (901 W. Juneau Ave.). Cost is just $10.

Friday, March 6: The Malt Shoppe puts German bock brews on the taps from 5 to 8 p.m.

Saturday, March 7: Sample beers from Guinness from 1 to 3 p.m. at Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.).

Saturday, March 7: Try beers from the Pacific Northwest at Three Cellars (7133 S. 76th St.) from 1 to 4 p.m.

Monday, March 9: Jack Pandl’s (1319 E. Henry Clay St.) is hosting a seven-course beer dinner with Lakefront Brewery. The cost is $50 and must be prepaid by March 5. Reserve a spot ahead of time. Call 414-964-3800 for more information.



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 15 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for close to 25.