Potosi Brewing is one of many Wisconsin breweries that are currently undergoing expansions. The original Potosi brewery, located in the Grant County town of the same name, was founded in 1852 and closed in 1972. The current Potosi Brewing renovated the former brew house and opened in 2008. The brewery recently signed a lease at a nearby warehouse, and plans to install a larger brewing system there to accommodate its growth.
Brewmaster Steve Buszka helped put Potosi back on the map for Wisconsin beer drinkers. While many of his core brews are well respected on their own, his experimental batches, one-offs and limited draught releases are capturing the attention of travelers and beer tourists. About a year ago, Buszka created Miner's Dopplebock, a smooth lager with caramel maltiness that was initially only available in the brewpub. But it was such a popular brew that it's now available as one of Potosi's limited-release four-packs.
The expansion by Potosi means there will be more of Buszka's special beers, some of which will find their way into the Madison market. Miner's Dopplebock serves as an example of more good things to come from this brewery by the Mississippi.
What is it? Miner's Dopplebock from Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wisconsin.
Style: The doppelbock is a full-bodied, deep amber to dark brown lager. It has a malty sweetness with tones of caramel and chocolate. Fruity esters can be common but not overwhelming. Hop bitterness is evident but not excessive. The doppelbock can be quite warm and strong at 6.5%-8% ABV, but maltier versions may break double-digit strength. The style emerged in the 1800s from German monastic brewing traditions, in which monks considered these beers "liquid bread" to help get them through the Lenten season. (Doppelbock is the conventional spelling for the style, though Potosi spells it dopplebock.)
Background: Miner's Dopplebock is made with traditional German malts and Perle Hops. Steve Buszka says the beer's recipe reflects his appreciation of German doppelbock standards Spaten Optimator and Ayinger Celebrator. "This is my version of the best of both of those," he says.
Miner's Dopplebock was introduced at the Potosi brewpub in fall 2012. "I was thinking about making a bock, but since I only had so much fermentation space, I thought I might as well make it a big one," says Buszka. Miner's takes 45 days to brew and finishes at 7.4% ABV. Its name is a tribute to the mining history of southwestern Wisconsin and the area around Potosi. The blue-and-orange diagonal graphic on the beer's label was commonly used by the original Potosi Brewery to promote its brands. Four-packs of Potosi Miner's Dopplebock are packaged by the Stevens Point Brewery and sell for around $8. The beer can also be found on draught in some of Madison's specialty beer bars, including the Old Fashioned, where it's expected to be tapped through December.
With the expansion effort, Potosi is poised for more than just keeping up with demand. Buszka also intends to focus more attention on draught and special limited-release brews. Greg Larsen, executive director of Potosi Brewing, says the building that has been leased will offer about 15,000 square feet, which will give the brewery some breathing room.
"We're currently handcuffed with our system because we can only make 15-barrel batches," says Larsen, who feels the expansion could triple barrelage. "We have some core beers we brew all the time, so this is a way to increase our production," he adds.
Potosi does not intend to bottle in the additional space, at least not for some time. Larsen says he currently does not have plans to change the arrangement with Stevens Point Brewery for packaging products. Both Buszka and Larsen are hoping the new brew house in Potosi will be up and running in six to nine months. Even when the new system is operational in Potosi, the smaller brewpub system will continue to be used for in-house beers.
In the meantime, the brewery plans to release Fiddler Oatmeal Stout in four-packs this December, a change from its previous six-pack packaging. If you're thinking about making a trip to Potosi, Buszka will be offering a hazelnut chocolate porter just after Thanksgiving. He adds about 42 pounds of locally harvested hazelnuts to a 15-barrel batch of beer.
Other new beers in Potosi's four-pack limited-release series that are scheduled for 2014 include a black IPA called Eclipse and an ESB (Extra Special Bitter).
- Aroma: Firm malt nose.
- Appearance: Deep bronze, almost black. Ruby highlights. A thick soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium bodied and soft. Slightly thinner than I was expecting, but that lighter perception grew on me because it combined with the malty flavor for a cleaner tasting beer that is still very flavorful.
- Taste: Smooth caramel and chocolate tones.
- Finish/Aftertaste: A firm, lingering chocolate maltiness.
Glassware: The footed pilsner is a great glass for the doppelbock because it calls attention to the beer's vivid dark color and bronze highlights while gently focusing the malty aroma of caramel and roasted chocolate under your nose.
Pairs well with: The doppelbock goes well with the heartiest of German food, including sausage, schnitzel and ham. Miner's is also a great beer to accompany autumn grilling.
Rating: Four Bottle Openers (out of four)
The Verdict: Miner's is a smooth doppelbock with lots of malty aroma. The caramel and chocolate flavors become more seductive as the beer slowly warms. Even though the maltiness lingers beyond the finish, the body and mouthfeel is slightly thinner and cleaner than many doppelbocks, which is somewhat deceiving against the backdrop of its 7.4% ABV.
Miner's Dopplebock is a beer that can sneak up on you. Buszka has achieved what he set out to accomplish with a version of the style that falls between the sweetness of the Optimator and the more spicy hop complexity of the Celebrator.