Milwaukee has long been a city of beer drinkers. But this week, there’s a special focus on craft brews.
The fourth annual Milwaukee Beer Week is underway, offering patrons a chance to sample unique recipes. Then on Thursday, leading craft brewers from across the country will gather for what’s billed as the inaugural Milwaukee Beer Summit.
Milwaukee once had the reputation of being the beer capital of the world. It was home to Pabst, Blatz, Schlitz and Miller. Today, only one still fills barrels here.
“Miller is putting out somewhere around 6 million barrels a year out of the brewery down in the valley,” Milwaukee Brewing Company's Jim McCabe says.
Milwaukee Brewing Company is one of the small players in town today.
“Between here and the Ale House, we are at about a little over 10,000 barrels. And relatively speaking, that’s a microbrewery,” McCabe says.
A typical Friday evening at McCabe’s brewery consists of a crowd of about 60 ready to have a good time, as the workweek ends. As the beer is flowing, he offers tours of his operation.
“There’s a lot of people who care about what’s going in their mouth these days and the artisan style of brewing, we can tell you about every ingredient that goes in the beer,” McCabe says.
According to McCabe, younger people are propelling the movement - people who want flavor and high quality.
One young beer taster, Tim Sonderman, says his love for craft beer dates back to his college days when he would save until he could afford it.
“I have never bought a case of Natural Ice or Miller Light," Sonderman says." I never bought a case of beer period. It’s always those nicer bottles. I’ve even pooled money with friends to go get a nicer bottle of beer. It’s very nerdy of me, but I’m fine with that."
Sonderman says he brews at home, but also enjoys tasting what other people have concocted.
Even with all the hype in Milwaukee surrounding craft beer, it makes up only about eight percent of the beer produced in the U.S. Yet the major brewers have noticed the dent. Curator of the Milwaukee Beer Museum Jim Kupferschmidt says, as more consumers prefer microbrews, companies such as MillerCoors have been buying up smaller labels.
“You want as much shelf space in a liquor store and in a tavern as you can possibly get,” Kupferschmidt says.
Here's a list of all of the events taking place this for during Milwaukee Beer Week.