Craft Beer in Wisconsin

–submitted by Mary Borland; photo by Will Anzenberger

Robin Shepard 8 24 16This week, at the Inn on the Park, club members and guests heard how and why craft beer has become so popular. Guest speaker Robin Shepard provided a brief description of the historical context of brewing in Wisconsin followed by an overview of the trends in Wisconsin’s current craft brewing industry. The biggest trend being about flavor trends.

The first Wisconsin brewery goes back to the 1830’s in the Mineral Point area before Wisconsin was known better for their dairy industry. Wisconsin had good water and rich soil for making beer, and immigration patterns (mostly Germans) brought beer making to Wisconsin.

Robin shared with Rotarians that there are more breweries than ever in the country, though the amount of beer being produced in the U.S. is declining and the amount of consumption is down.  Wisconsinites consumer their share of beer though, coming in at #6 in the country.

The largest growth in beer categories is in the craft beer category. It has grown by 12.8% this past year which equates to $23 billion a year!  Madison, WI rivals Portland, OR; Seattle, WA; and San Diego, CA as a city of craft brewers.  Seven out of ten beer tap handles in a given Madison restaurant are for local brewers.

Rotarians also learned today that there are over 140 different styles of beers today. The big trend in beers is for different flavors — from sours, hops, malts to barrel-aged beers and beyond.

With craft beers, it is about quality, not quantity. Robin closed by saying “beer drinking is about the experience around it.”

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*Robin Shepard currently serves as the Executive Director for the North Central Cooperative Extension Association (NCCEA), an organization comprised of 12 Universities from as many Midwestern states. His work also involves representing member universities at the Regional and Federal levels with partners and policy makers. He currently has an appointment as Associate Professor in the Department of Life Sciences Communication (UW Madison).

Beyond his primary academic and administrative responsibilities Robin is perhaps better known for his beer writing; his historic brewery walks of Madison and Milwaukee; beer dinners and tastings; and numerous presentations on brewing and industry trends.  His book “Wisconsin‘s Best Breweries and Brewpubs: Searching for the Perfect Pint” was given the top book prize in 2001 by the North American Guild of Beer Writers. He’s also written two additional books about the brewing industry. Robin is often asked to contribute to popular press coverage of the brewing industry in Wisconsin with more than 700 beer reviews, travel articles and stories.

Did you miss our meeting this week?  Watch the video here.

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