Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries


Beer Reviews

Hausmann Pale Beer

Hausmann Brewing Co.
Madison, WI

Style: Lager

Nigel’s Rating:
one beerone beerone beerone beerone beer   (Drinkable, but flawed)

Few things intrigue Nigel more than craft beer, and history is one of them (sports and midgets would be the others for those of you keeping track). In fact, Nigel loves history so much he decided to get his degree in it, which has allowed him to make hundreds of thousands of dollars as a, uh … historian (read: I can’t find a real job, so I drink a lot of beer and call myself a historian and/or porn star, depending on the audience). When I find a beer that has an interesting historical backdrop, I tend to pick it up and do some research in order to learn more.

Historical perspective was the impetus for my latest review, which is for a brewery in Madison that doesn’t really exist anymore. I’m fascinated with the brewing traditions of the Midwest, Wisconsin in particular, and I love reading about all the small town breweries that have long since disappeared. Hausmann Capital Brewing Co. (not to be confused with the current Capital Brewing Co. in Middleton) was one of a few pre-Prohibition breweries in Madison, opened in 1863 and abandoned shortly following the passage of the Eighteenth Amendment in October of 1919. From the mid-1880s onward, Joseph Hausmann’s brewery on the corner of State and Gorham was the largest in the city, but it never came close to the size of the numerous brewing giants in nearby Milwaukee, or even other regional brewers in Monroe and Potosi. The onset of Prohibition led to the destruction of Madison’s nominal brewing industry, with Hausmann joining Breckheimer and Fauerbach (a brewery that actually survived until the 1960s) as remnants of a bygone era.

While I’d love to delve into the historical significance of Hausmann and other local breweries of yore, I’m saving that for a future article(s). The modern version of Hausmann was reborn recently thanks to the craft beer boom, as nostalgic Madisonians revived the Hausmann and Fauerbach names (Fauerbach claims to have been around since 1848 without interruption, and their survival years beyond Breckheimer and Hausmann makes them most synonymous with old-school Madison brewing). Since the breweries of Madison disappeared into rubble generations ago, the parties interested in reviving these old names had to find a partner with brewing capabilities, and Gray’s Brewing Co. in nearby Janesville properly obliged.

Hausmann began brewing their pre-Prohibition recipe with the help of Gray’s, just as Fauerbach brews their two selections (Amber and Export) at the Janesville facility. I first heard of these breweries while attending the Quivey’s Grove Beer Fest in Madison this past October, and I was curious as to the origins. While I didn’t sample either of them at the fest, I did stumble across some Hausmann recently at a craft beer retailer in Milwaukee and I figured it’d be a good time to pick it up and give it a shot, despite the fact that it’s a traditional American lager, meaning it will likely resemble the shit beer that our ancestors drank in the days prior to Prohibition (on the plus side, that shit was FAR better than the macro shit produced in modern times). While I’m not terribly optimistic that this will come close to the quality of modern American craft brews, it will be a nice trip back in time, experiencing what Nigel’s ancestors may have drank had they been German blue collar folk rather than English royalty.

Hausmann Pale Beer (not to be confused with pale ale, as this is NOT a pale ale in terms of modern craft beer classification) pours like a standard American lager: light golden brown in color with about an inch or two of creamy white head that quickly dissipates, leaving a slight lace at the top of the glass. Aromas are typical of a macro lager, though to Hausmann’s credit, they’re much stronger than anything you’ll find from B-M-C. A noticeable pale malt aroma combines with muted fruitiness (mainly apple and pear), providing a pleasantly mild aroma that is sweet and earthy. There is a somewhat stale tinge to it that you find in most macro-esque lagers, but it’s not nearly as offensive here as it is in beers that are mass produced. I couldn’t really detect much in the way of hops in the aroma, and it’s far too weak to have any whiff of alcohol.

The taste is pretty blah, but it does serve one purpose that makes it enjoyable despite its bland characteristics: it’s a nice trip back through time, allowing us to experience what small American brewers were producing 90 years ago in the pre-Prohibition era. It may not be good, but it’s still FAR better than the watered down lagers being produced by modern macro brewers, yet another indication that American beer had become a joke in the years leading up to the modern craft beer renaissance.

Initial flavors of pale malt and mild fruitiness give Hausmann that customary earthy, grainy undertone we’ve come to expect from American lagers. Again, this has more overall flavor than the standard macro lager found today, and it also has a surprising amount of sweetness (not only fruit, but a hint of sugar as well). A kiss of hops (sorry, Schlitz) adds to the overall malt profile, making this surprisingly drinkable. Granted, when compared to other craft beers, it’s pretty weak; however, if you’re looking for a mild break, this may be right up your alley. Light in body and smooth on the palate, Hausmann almost certainly checks in at 5 percent ABV or less, so it qualifies as a potential session beer, particularly during the warmer months when lighter brews are preffered.

If you’re looking to sample a bit of history and taste an old American lager that hasn’t been tarnished by the chemicals and sewer water utilized by the big breweries in St. Louis, Milwaukee, and Denver, then give Hausmann a shot. It’s not the greatest beer you’ll ever have, but it is a nice respite from stronger craft ales and provides a bit of perspective when compared to its counterparts. Hausmann is found in most craft beer retailers where Gray’s is sold, but be warned: it’s a bit overpriced for a relatively timid lager.


Reviewed by Nigel Tanner on May 28, 2008.
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