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Lucy Saunders
4230 N. Oakland #178
Shorewood WI
53211 USA
@ site name

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Perfection in a pint: Robin Shepard talks about his quest for beer in Wisconsin, and craft beer trends

"Beer, especially finding the perfect pint, is a hobby. I enjoy beer as a beverage, but also the beer culture of seeing new places, meeting interesting people, and sharing thoughts and impressions of beer with friends.

What really transformed me from just a beer drinker to a beer enthusiast was learning more about the small regional and local breweries of Wisconsin.

It started with the simple desire for a good local beer, then
moved into understanding what I like in a beer ... That introduced me to the local "cultural" aspect of not just the
beer, but the towns and taverns in which you find it.

Sometimes, it's like a scavenger hunt, finding great beer in the right atmosphere and with the right people is what makes it special.

About four years ago, my quest for local beer ended up in the development of a substantial computer database, something like my "life beer list." My general inquisitive nature allowed me to feel comfortable talking with brewers and brewpub owners. After awhile, I became an unofficial tour guide
for friends who were looking for good food and great beer.

Those friends encouraged me to write the book, Wisconsin's Best Breweries and Brewpubs (University of Wisconsin Press)- so you could say I had fun, and thoroughly enjoyed putting it together, but the book is for them!

Wisconsin is special because we have both the very small and the very large breweries. There are more than 60 breweries (including brewpubs) in the state, ranging from Miller Brewing Company in Milwaukee that produces millions of barrels of beer per year to the small Sand Creek Brewery near Downing that turns about 100 barrels a year from a garage on a 100 year old dairy farm.

Of course, there's a relationship to our cultural heritage and the state's wonderful natural resources. Wisconsin was settled by a significant number of people who came from Germany and Eastern Europe, where beer was an
important part of their lifestyle. Milwaukee in particular offered this cultural heritage, and a growing population not only for labor to brew beer, but to drink beer.

Wisconsin's natural landscape also played an important part. The state had (and still has) abundant clean water. In winter, the 19th century brewer could harvest ice for beer storage and lagering, and during summer, till productive soils for growing barley and hops.

Milwaukee as a center for transportation provided access to the railroad and shipping via the Great Lakes.

Another interesting footnote in the Wisconsin's brewing dominance was the impact of the great Chicago fire of 1870. When Chicago was destroyed, Milwaukee brewers moved
quickly to fill a void and established themselves in the Midwest.

In the 21st century, the craft beer industry seems to be stable. In 2000-01 more breweries and brewpubs were opening and/or expanding than the number closing. However it's almost even, suggesting that we're beginning to level off in numbers. The industry is a volatile one, it has always been.

This is especially true for the restaurant-focused brewpub business where food is a very essential element of success. I think most brewpub owners and managers will say that the food and service are the keys keeping customers.

While serving beer is an important part of the business, brewing its own beer adds to the restaurant. For the brewpub operator, beer "brand" loyalty it is not quite the same as brand loyalty for a major brewery that bottles and kegs its beer for mass markets. "

- Robin Shephard, December 2001

www.beercook.com, Copyright © 2012-2002, by Lucy Saunders. All rights reserved. Note copyright of authors and recipe contributors in bylines and prefaces. Fee required for reprints in any commercial media.

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