With craft brewers around the country being forced to dump beer, the effort to enact – in the words of Whistlepig Whiskey – a "great beer rescue" is underway both locally and beyond.
Here in Milwaukee, Third Space is selling 16-ounce cans of Happy Place destined for Miller Park at the 12-ounce price and Twisted Path Distillery is distilling beer from 1840 Brewing into whiskey.
And, Indeed Brewing – the Minneapolis craft brewer that opened its Milwaukee brewery and taproom last year – is partnering with other small brewers to put potentially excess beer to good use.
Beginning a few week ago, says Indeed co-owner To Whisenand, the Guest Brewers program has embraced MobCraft, Sahale Ale Works in Grafton, Enlightened, Sprecher and Third Space by including a free beer from one of these breweries with every Indeed to-go order.
"The economic hardships for breweries are coming from a lot of angles right now and coolers full of idle beer creeping towards being out of code is really just visual everyone can understand," Whisenand says, noting that some of the beer was purchased by Indeed and some was acquired by trade.
"Any and all of the beer that Indeed is selling or giving away via the Guest Brewer program is completely in code and our team has done the very hard work of tasting the beer to make sure it's good!"
We're calling it #TheGreatBeerRescue. 🍺 🥃
It's not water into wine, but it is stale beer into whiskey. Unsold beer has been trapped in kegs or coolers so we offered to help to our #craftbeer friends by distilling the stale beer so they could continue to brew fresh batches. pic.twitter.com/gdx2FCBMFe — WhistlePig Whiskey (@WhistlePigRye) April 29, 2020
Whisenand bristles at the idea of stale beer being the frothy head of craft beer discussions right now.
"I have heard a lot about this stale issue and while I think it is interesting I don't think it should be the main storyline for breweries enduring this pandemic," he says.
"Ultimately every brewery is working very hard right now to close the revenue and volume gaps this disaster has caused us and this program is just a small effort in that fight that benefits both Indeed and our guest brewers."
Indeed isn’t requiring partner brewers to share its beer, Whisenand says, because they’re in a fortunate position.
"Indeed has pretty good distribution into grocery and liquor stores which is proving to be a bit of a lifeline for us so making a requirement that the partner breweries also give out our beer is not necessary."
Being a good neighbor is something that Indeed has always strived to do, says Whisenand, and that’s a spirit that has pervaded craft beer since its earliest days. It’s part of what makes the exploration and embrace of craft brewing so alluring to customers ... along with an endless plethora of great tasting beer, of course.
"We have always been a believer that in the craft beer industry a rising tide lifts all ships," says Whisenand. "Craft beer drinkers love variety and it is extremely uncommon to find a craft beer drinker that is married to one brand.
"So Indeed has always encouraged our customers to try new things whether they are ours or not by directing them to a neighboring taproom or bar or just opening showing our respect of other breweries when they make great beer. the current situation doesn't really encourage people to bounce around from brewery to brewery or bar to bar so this is just one small way for us to encourage people to keep trying new things. Plus, who doesn't love free beer!?"
The program also allows Indeed to return the camaraderie that it’s been shown since it arrived in Brew City last year.
"Third Space is our partner starting this week and we are very excited about that because we love Third Space," says Whisenand. "They have been great friends since we arrived in Milwaukee, and we think they are making some of the best beer in Milwaukee and maybe Wisconsin right now."
Indeed, like many breweries, continues to create during these tough times and today it’s releasing Brunch Club: Berry Compote Sour, a collaboration with Captain Pabst Pilot House.
Check the Indeed website to see what is currently available and how you can order and pick-up curbside. Whisenand says Indeed currently offers some "amazing deals, deals, deals," including rotating buy one, get one crowlers, and, for service industry workers, $3 crowlers.
Having made a massive investment in a new taproom that opened last autumn, just a few months before coronavirus shut everything down, might make one fear for a brewery like Indeed, which had little time to establish a footing in a busy beer market.
But, says, Whisenand, Indeed is holding on, both here and back in Minneapolis.
"You know, I think we are doing really well in Milwaukee and extremely well as an overall brewery, all things considered," he tells me. "We are so lucky to have the people working for us that we do, especially in Milwaukee where our team has really rolled with the punches since we opened in September.
"Indeed Milwaukee has been a startup inside of a somewhat established business and I will say it has been interesting and challenging in so many ways. Our staff both in Milwaukee and Minneapolis have sunk their teeth into the challenges all along the way including the pandemic and done amazingly well. I think fortunately for Indeed we are proceeding with a lot of confidence that we will make it through this crisis thanks to our amazing people and the solid business we have built over the past eight years."
Whisenand says that Indeed has about 50 percent of its normal revenue coming in and has been able to avoid layoffs.
"At the end of the day I believe we are the lucky ones and just want to do everything we can to support our employees, fellow brewers, bars and restaurants, and the community."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.