Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

August 28, 2007

Beer Diary:

Title Town, U.S.A.

Resident homebrew specialist Jug Dunningan goes brewpub hopping in Green Bay.
by Jug Dunningan

Jug Dunningan is just here for the beer.
Contact Jug»
It was big news across Wisconsin in April. Hell, it was big news across the nation, but in the land of beer and cheese it had the most impact. Brett Favre will play a final season. I bounced with the joy of knowing the Packers had him for another season, but it wasn’t until my girlfriend gave me tickets to Lambeau Field for my birthday that it really hit me. “Do you know what this means?” I yelled. “We’re going to Title Town Brewing Company!”

I used the next few weeks to do some research. I had sampled Title Town’s beers at the Great Taste of the Midwest, but honestly what I remembered of them was lost in the swarm of the event. I looked at some mixed reviews comparing Title Town and Hinterland Brewery (which is conveniently just across the street from Title Town) and decided I would have to try them both myself.

Eventually game (brew?) day approached and after a rather disappointing lunch at Brett Favre’s Steakhouse we found our way to Title Town Brewing Company.

The brew pub is actually a renovated railroad depot built in 1898. The squeaky hard wood floors are worn, the post and beam construction are not hidden from view, and the old hand made bricks are exactly where the mason placed them 109 years ago. Photos from turn of the century Green Bay line the walls. This was an old building that retains memories of an even older culture. I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I grabbed a table by the bar where I had a good view of the mash tun and fermenting tanks that were separated from the bar only by some large pane windows. I studied the beer list, although I already knew from my research I wanted to try the Johnny “Blood” Red (named after legendary Green Bay Packer running back John McNally) first.

The staff was friendly, not just courteous because they wanted a tip. They made me feel at home and were excited to talk about their beers. Soon our waiter returned and placed the red ale in front of me. I have never seen an ale this deep red before. I do not mean amber or copper, or a watered down Kool-Aid colored red (Killian’s). This ale is a real red topped with a bright white head. It had a rich malty nose with a slight floral hop aroma. The flavor was a full maltiness and an obvious Kent Goldings hop finish. Exactly how this traditional Irish ale should be. In all honesty this was the best red ale I have ever had.

Next we ordered a “train” of sampler glasses. Our waiter brought us out a wooden boxcar containing a dozen four-ounce samplers, one for every house beer (and a house root beer). It is safe to say I can say nothing bad about any of the beers I tried. I would label Nutter Brown Ale and Railyard Ale, a very good altbier, among their best. I saved the Hopasaurus Rex, an American IPA, for last since I just knew it would be a Cascade hop-bomb just like all other American IPAs. Man, was I wrong. I knew it as soon as I smelled it. Cascade hops were present, but you really had to look for them. There was a strong unfamiliar hop aroma. I took a drink and it was more of the same. I couldn’t detect any of the Cascade despite the strong, piney hop flavor. It was very good and refreshing.

Now I often get stumped by new beers, but this was more than that. I had no fucking clue what these hops were and, I admit, my pride was wounded. I searched the beer description for clues only to find it said “A blend of American hop varieties.” My brain raced to figure out what variety this could be. Chinook, Liberty, Mt. Hood? Doubtful. Centennial? Maybe. I knew there were some Cascade but my gut feeling is that it was mainly an aroma hop. My mind settled on Fuggles, although I knew deep down that wasn’t quite right.

When our waiter returned, I had to find out so I quite shamelessly asked, “What variety of hops is in this IPA? It’s Fuggles right? It has to be.” The waiter smiled politely at me and said he’d have to ask the brewer himself. He rushed over to one of the men behind the bar—a guy I had pegged as the brewer the moment I saw him. The brewer looked a little surprised and I could see our waiter pestering him for an answer. Then the brewer shook his head and looked at our table where the waiter was pointing.

A few minutes later the brewer introduced himself as David Oldenburg. “You have some questions about the House Beers?” he asked.

“I just have to know what hops you used for the Hopasaurus Rex,” I said, trying to feel him out. I know this was pretty damned ballsy, asking about a recipe, but I really had to know.

“You tell me” David responded with a smile, so I explained to him my theory about Cascade aroma hopping, Centennial and probably a low alpha acid batch of Fuggles. “Am I right?”

David grinned and nodded. “You are right about the Cascade aroma hops. You’re also correct about there being a small amount of Centennial hops in the recipe, but there are no Fuggles.”

I explained to him how I expected the Hopasaurus to be another Cascade soup like most American IPAs. We talked a little about the overuse of Cascade and then he blindsided me. “Would you like to see the recipe for the Hopasaurus?” My jaw dropped. I’ve talked with many brewers about their beers, but never in my wildest dreams would I expect a brewer to actually show me the recipe.

David left for a moment and when he returned, he had a copy of the recipe. He placed it in front of me and we talked more about the beer and the hops. I still could not believe what I was looking at. This was the actual working recipe of Hopasaurus Rex. It had the amount and weight of specialty grains, mash temps, hop boil times, mash efficiency, specific gravity, IBUs, everything! David also produced a sample of the dominate flavor hop used in the IPA. We talked for several more minutes and in the end we shook hands, and David left me with the recipe.

So what was the mystery hop? Well, I’m not going to share the secret ingredient of Hopasaurus Rex with you. To find out you’ll have to go to Title Town Brewing Company and see for yourself. It’s a trip you won’t regret, and maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet David. If you do, tell him Jug says “Prosit!”

I did make it to Hinterland Brewery during my Packer pilgrimage, but I can say nothing good about them. Hinterland is a place with a severe identity crisis. Despite having decent house beers, the unfriendly arrogance and plain rudeness of the staff left me with a bitter taste in my mouth. (A bitter even Nigel wouldn’t like.) Hinterland is a wannabe. Wannabe what, I’m not quite sure, but it certainly isn’t a brew pub as the name might suggest.

Go to Green Bay, stop in at Title Town Brewery, tailgate at Lambeau. Enjoy the culture for what it is, but don’t detract from the above by wasting time at Hinterland.


Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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