By any other name
Through the magic of technology, I’m watching rain fall from a hotel room in Janesville, Wisconsin, after flying to Chicago and three days of family reunion in Dubuque, Iowa. As is typical for me, I managed to cram in an embarrassment of beer shopping throughout and a visit to one small brewery. Not to paint an entire region of the country in overly broad strokes, but the Midwest—particularly its small, pastoral farm towns—isn’t exactly the hotbed of craft beer I enjoy and have grown accustomed to as back home. Busch Light appears to reign supreme in Corn Country.
As I considered what I wanted to write about this week, and thinking of the family activities approaching on my calendar, I settled on a family affair that I have postponed long enough. I looked up the new, expanded hours and paid a visit to Under the Rose Brewing Company.
Chatting with Jesse Kleinedler, who co-owns Under the Rose with her husband, brewmaster Scott Emond, I was a little startled that it will soon be four years since operations began. In that relatively short time, they’ve created a varied lineup of beers. The flagship nevadabeer—the brewery styles their beers with all lower case names—pale ale and saisonbeer are bottled, and the brewery offers a regular rotation of seasonal and specialty beers—from wine-barrel aged sours and pumpkin beers to bourbon barrel variations.
Turning conventional brewery wisdom on its head, the brewery didn’t offer any sort of IPA until well over two years into operation, finally conceding to the hoppy, market-dominating style last summer. Even then, their indiapaleale and stronger double indiapaleale counter the popular West coast hop bomb style, falling more in line with balanced British varieties.
I was also pleasantly surprised to hear of the owners’ fortunate challenge—demand for their beers outpaces their ability to supply it using their current manual bottling process. That being the case, about half the beer is sold over the counter in their taproom, a hot—seasonally, anyway—rough-around-the-edges warehouse I’d describe as “urban rustic.” A homemade plywood bar separates the brewery from the customers’ play area—giant Jenga, indoor bocce, ping pong, and foosball are all available.
With the challenges of meeting demand, something had to give. A long-awaited move to automated bottling equipment is on the horizon, and they just took delivery of new, 600-gallon fermentation tanks, which will expand brewing capacity significantly. A new taproom in midtown will open this fall, complete with its own half-size brewing system to turn out seasonals, specialty and experimental batches.
After the departure of a founding partner, Kleinedler and Emond remain as sole owners. They’ve expanded their real family with a son, and you’ll almost always find at least one of them hard at work. The extended “family” includes head brewer Patty Cronin, a colleague from Emond’s work at BJ’s Brewhouse. More hours and a new location means more staff, so the Under the Rose family continues to grow. Meanwhile, these poor folks in the nation’s breadbasket keep drinking Busch Light and thinking that’s what good beer tastes like.