Wisconsin is known for its love of beer.
The state has dozens of craft breweries, some of which are more than a century old.
Here in Waupaca about two dozen beer lovers meet monthly to discuss how to brew their own beer.
Badger’s Den Brewing Club started three years ago.
“We got the club going when I approached Mark Polebitski, Mark Michel and Jerry Lyons with the idea of starting a home brewing club,” said Robert Forseth, a founding member. “We put out a press release seeking local home brewers and had a large number appear for our first meeting.”
Home brewers enjoy the challenge of making their own beer or ale. Many of them also like being able to make a beer that exactly suits their taste.
“I started brewing my own ale using liquid or powder barley malt extract which is both the easiest way to brew beer and it also allows you to brew hundreds of variations of great tasting beer,” said Glen Hollatz, who joined the club after attending a beer-tasting event last year.
“Although there are some great microbeers available, the biggest reason that I brew beer is that I prefer the quality of beer that I can make versus buying it at the store,” Hollatz said.
“Home brewed beer tastes very good. It can be as good as the best microbrew around,” according to Chris Johnson. “You know the exact ingredients going into it and can make whatever type of beer you want.”
Johnson also noted that a quality home-brewed beer is less expensive than a comparable beer from a micro-brewery.
“I brew partial extract recipes and do so for about $1 per bottle, depending on the type of beer,” Johnson said. “Although if you brew with the all-grain method that cost can be even cheaper.”
“Home brew does taste better. When you home brew, you determine how the beer is going to taste. You determine if the beer is going to be cheap or if it is going to be made with higher quality ingredients,” Forseth said.
Mark Michel, who has been brewing for nearly 10 years, also prefers the taste of his own beer.
“I get a lot of satisfaction from drinking my own beer and sharing it with others,” Michel said.
Home brewers enjoy the process as much as they enjoy the final product. They like to experiment and talk about the methods of making beer.
“Brewing has many variables that can influence the flavor,” Forseth said. “Use of different types of water, hops, grains, or yeast can result in a wide range of flavor variation.”
“I started brewing my own ale using liquid or powder barley malt extract which is both the easiest way to brew beer and it also allows you to brew hundreds of variations of great tasting beer,” Hollatz said.
Patience and keeping the process clean are among the challenges that home brewers face.
“Beer and wine can take several months to fully develop flavors,” Forseth said. “Keeping the beer in a clean environment with the proper controls can be difficult to manage. Wild yeast or bacteria occasionally find their way into beers and can produce off flavors. Cleanliness is very important in preventing infected beers.”
“It is not difficult to brew beer. Keep your equipment clean and sanitized, and have the patience to age your beer to the recommended length of time during fermentation and additional aging after you bottle or keg your beer,” Hollatz said.
“The whole brew process is somewhat flexible and forgiving, too. You can make some mistakes along the way and it typically does not have a negative effect on the quality of your end product,” Hollatz said.
The club gives members an opportunity to share their experiences and their beers with each other.
“Being involved in the Badger’s Den Brewing has been a great learning experience. We are an active and enthusiastic club,” Johnson said. “We got together to brew 53 gallons of an Imperial Stout to put in a bourbon barrel. We are currently brewing another type of beer to re-use in the bourbon barrel.”
“The club has a lot of great members and the information sharing and activities we get involved with within the community has enhanced my own homebrewing and has been a fun group to be a part of,” Hollatz said.
To find out more about the Badger’s Den Home Brewing Club, visit the beer tasting event at 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, at the historic Waupaca Train Depot.