It's nearly May and this means the Sprecher family will soon return to its home base in Milwaukee to enjoy another busy summer at the brewery in Glendale.
Randy Sprecher and his wife Anne spend the winters in the Central Coast region of California, a warm, sunny spot that overlooks the Pacific Ocean.
"It's all wine grapes and produce here," Randy says, but perhaps the real question is, how's the beer?
"If you like California hoppy ales, they've got some great ones," he says, adding that his own Black Bavarian is doing well in the West Coast market.
It's little surprise that an intensely dark Kulmbacher style lager like Black Bavarian or the new Scotch Ale would be popular in that market; the population is saturated with the next generation of craft beer enthusiasts who Sprecher says are energized by breweries that take potency and complexity to the extreme.
Pale ales are obviously huge right now with these "hop-heads," and although Sprecher recently came out with an Imperial IPA and an Extra Pale Ale called Hop on Top, the 25-year head brewmaster says he's comfortable perfecting the craft his own way, not by catering to the latest crazes.
But it's not easy. He says that for a long time his demographic was raised on his root beer, then switched to the real beer at 21. But with such a robust and rapidly growing artisan beer movement underway, Sprecher says he feels like younger beer consumers see him as the "granddad" of micros because he doesn't go overboard on marketing the next high-octane brew that nobody's parents would drink.
But perhaps that's not such a bad thing?
With the next generation refining its propensity to buy and support local businesses, a tried and true forerunner in the industry is no shabby place to be in Brew City. Plus, he's tapping into area agriculture, as he and other members of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild are starting a coalition to grow its own hops and organic malts within the state.
Still, Sprecher is expanding its scope and doing more in line with its crafty competition. Randy and Anne have begun hosting quarterly seminars called "Tasting Synergies, Dispelling Myths: Pairing Wisconsin Artisanal Cheese with Sprecher Beer," as well as regular premium reserve beer and cheese tastings.
"We do these to get over the notion that only wine and cheese go together," says Anne, who has teamed up with Lucy Saunders, beer expert and local author of "The Best of American Food & Beer" and "Grilling with Beer." She also started Beercook.com, a detailed resource for anyone looking to cook with and pair craft beer.
"Wisconsin has some incredible cheeses and we want to show how well they go with beer."
Among Anne's favorite pairings are Widmer six-year cheddar and Sprecher Extra Pale Ale, Hook's blue cheese and Sprecher Black Bavarian, SarVecchio Parmesan (a U.S. Champion Cheese) with Sprecher Mai Bock and Carr Valley cocoa cardona with Sprecher Generation Porter.
And now that baseball season has officially started again, there are the May through September Sunday tailgating parties at Sprecher Brewery, 701 W. Glendale Ave. With the game on in the beer garden, fans are invited to nosh brats, soft pretzels and pizza, play "bung hole" toss or take a brewery tour between 1 and 4 p.m.
Sprecher Brewery may not be the newest, wildest product at the liquor store, but it does know Milwaukee and it's proud to be here.
OnMilwaukee.com staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.
As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When OnMilwaukee.com offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”