Third Space Brewing has kicked off an ongoing series of lagers with Good Cheer, a dunkel-inspired dark lager, now available in 12-ounce cans, 1505 W. St. Paul Ave. in the Menomonee Valley.
“We are really cranking up the variety and innovation at Third Space recently through a very active pilot brewing program,” says co-founder Andy Gehl.
“Our goal with the pilot program has always been innovation and experimentation, to try to develop new year-round and seasonal beers like Smile."
The ultimate goal, however, is to provide customers with a reason to come back to the taproom often.
“These days,” says Gehl, “we are likely to have a new beer or two on tap and a new one in cans that are only available at the taproom, just about every time someone visits.”
Gehl says that in 2023, Third Space will release roughly one canned beer per month through the series, plus some even-more-limited barrel-aged releases each year.
“The draft-only releases will be even more often than that,” he vows.
The two newest in the series are Cold Fusion Cold IPA and Honeymoon Barrel Aged Wheatwine, a whopping 15 percent ABV experience softened with a sweet layer of honey.
Meanwhile, Smile citrus wheat ale, released last year, has been added to Third Space’s main lineup.
“We did two different iterations of that through the pilot system, one of which was the sixth anniversary wheat that we did,” Gehl says. “Now, that's core lineup. It's one of our year-rounds, because that one did really well. We thought it really fit a niche that we're not really making beer in, that kind of lower ABV, easy drinking, fruited ale that's not hoppy.”
Gehl says that pilot batches of brews – whether canned or not – if successful, can lead to a test-rin beer becoming a permanent option, as Smile shows.
Meanwhile, the Rotating Lager series starts with Good Cheer, which by next month will be replaced with a Maibock. Unlike the others, these will be available at retail and on tap throughout Wisconsin.
“Then two more traditional styles for the spring and summer with a German-style pilsner and a German-style helles,” Gehl explains. “Then it will rotate back into Good Cheer in November.”
The plan is to repeat the rotation next year.
“We tweaked the pilot recipe (of Good Cheer) that we did last year,” says co-founder and head brewer Kevin Wright. “Tweaked very slightly. I wouldn't say there’s any significant difference other than just subtle things.
“It's inspired by a dunkel and also a Negro Modelo style. So like a dark Mexican lager and a dunkel. We did a corn cereal mash for this – using corn grits versus flake corn – which we've never done before. So that was kind of fun. And then the recipe's got a little bit of dark roast, a little bit of caramel malt, just give it color and flavor.”
The earlier iteration was called Zing Boom Tarrarel.
Cold Fusion also underwent a bit of a change from its earlier version.
“For this version we used a rice syrup, which is what you use in a macro lager,” says Wright. “To lighten the body. And then the hops in there are new experimental varieties. So we kind of use this as a twofold beer: to keep diving into the cold IPA style, but then also to use these new hops and see how they express.”
The lagers are a bit of new territory for Third Space, which has always been better known for hoppier brews.
“We've been seeing a resurgence of people looking for lagers,” says Gehl. “The beer people are still drinking IPAs, but they want to try something (else), too.
“Lagers are harder to make; harder to do well. It's a way for brewers to show off they really know how to brew. Domestic lagers are not going away, right? You're not going to compete with them. But these will have a little more depth to them and a little more complexity.”
Gehl says there won’t be much in terms of light lagers anymore, though, at Third Space, which did a version called Light It Up.
“I think what a lot of brewers try to do, including us, with beers like Light It Up, is, ‘Oh, let's try to do that light lager, but craft style.’ And I think what we found is those beers are great and they do well, but people that are looking for that light lager are just going to buy the domestic. They can save their money.
“So now with these lagers, we’re like, ‘Okay, let's put a little more into it. Let's go a little more classic style here.’ And I think people are going to be willing to try the local version of the German pilsner.”
In related news – or non-news, depending on how you look at it – the ever-growing Third Space continues to consider options for expansion, either on-site or elsewhere, but says Gehl, nothing has advanced or been decided.
It’s no secret that Gehl and Wright have been exploring options and looking at other properties, including having checked out a site just a few blocks from the brewery.
That space, like others visited, were not suitable and there are no firm plans for any other sites, says Gehl, though they continue to keep an eye on what’s available.
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 episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," 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 has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.