Sahale Ale Works

This Milwaukee Brewery Is Foraging for Beer Ingredients

Dandelions, sumac and artisan breads are just some of the ingredients Sahale Ale Works is experimenting with.

Matt Hofmann is getting some of the components of his beers in unusual places. The founder of Sahale Ale Works is upping the creativity by foraging.

Sahale’s foraged beer approach began last fall with the release of Wisconsinade Gose, a beer made with sumac harvested directly from the Riveredge Nature Center. The brew, which will return this fall, benefited Riveredge.

“(Sumac) has some acidity and a tart fruity flavor. I thought that’d be interesting to work in a beer,” Hoffman said. “It was the first time we foraged or contributed ingredients from the partner we’re fundraising for. I thought it’d be a great way to partner with them and get the ingredients, and knew it wasn’t sprayed with chemicals. That’s another concern while foraging.”

Sourcing Unique Ingredients

Hofmann is using a similar slant with two beers expected to be available in early spring.

Born and Bread Maibock benefits Family Sharing food pantry. To contribute to the brew, Family Sharing provided day-old bread that Hofmann mixed into the mash  not exactly scouring the woods for ingredients, but certainly getting creative with the brewing process.

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“They brought a huge container full of different breads from a local grocery store,” explained Hofmann. “We tried to use as many artisanal breads as we could and tried to pick the most natural without preservatives. There’s some rye bread in it, but nothing too out there. It won’t take the beer too far from the standard Maibock.”

Another spring release from Sahale provides a little more flavor uncertainty. A yet-to-be-named farmhouse ale is being crafted with dandelion heads that will be picked from the Mequon Nature Preserve, which will also receive a portion of sales from the beer. The dandelions will be added near then end of the boil and provide flavor notes of, well, Hofmann isn’t quite sure yet.

“(What flavors the dandelions will add) is a good question,” he said. “I’ve never used them in a brew, but I know of dandelion wine. Online it says it’s unique and bitter, similar to endive. So it’ll be kind of an experiment. Hopefully it works well with the beer. Occasionally I do things on the fly, so we might switch up the beer style as I do more research.”

Incidentally, Hofmann may need some help picking dandelion heads in the weeks to come. Keep an eye on Sahale’s social media channels for more information.

Brewing Creativity

Hofmann’s inventive approach has earned him notice before. In 2018, he medaled in the experimental category at the Festival of Wood and Barrel-Aged Beers with TEOTWAWKI, an imperial brown ale made with sweet potatoes, molasses, vanilla, pecans and cinnamon.

Foraged beers seem like a perfect fit for Sahale.

“I’m always interested in working with botanicals and flowers,” added Hofmann. “It’s fun to stretch creativity and try new things. It can also be kind of scary not knowing what exactly to expect. With foraging you’re trying to get something that’s usable. It adds complexity over ordering ingredients from a supplier.”

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Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.