Belgium Comes to Door County Brewing Company
Brewery revisits the Low Countries
Most new-ish breweries feature an eclectic mix of beers that might all sound good and taste better, but aren’t really organized around a guiding principal (other than sounding good and tasting better, which is commendable.) Door County Brewing Co., though, features a thematic through line: their beers are primarily inspired by Belgian varieties and styles.
Take Sideshow, one of their flagship beers. It’s an IPA (India Pale Ale)—a traditionally hoppy style. The company’s take on the IPA is labeled as “Door County Style IPA,” but beer nerds will instantly recognize it as a Belgian-style IPA, distinguishing itself from its European and American counterparts via a particularly fruity yeast strain and a bright blend of German and American hops. Showing a versatility that’s become a necessity in the burgeoning craft beer market, McMahon—alongside his son, Danny, who works as head brewer—has worked and reworked the recipe based off of feedback received from taproom customers and beer festival responses. Sideshow has evolved from its original, more bitter incarnation into an easy drinking beer with wonderful citrus notes sitting at a just-potent-enough 6.3% ABV (for reference, Miller Lite is 4.17%).
That willingness to tweak recipes based on customer feedback shows an engagement with their customer base and community that makes so many small businesses successful. Door County Brewing is currently working on expanding its taproom up north (managed by McMahon’s other son, Ben) to create a more accommodating facility for residents and tourists alike that will have, according to Door County Brewing’s distributor-representative Rick Gerondale, “a rustic and lived-in feel to match the land.” The goal is to have the new taproom open by summer 2017—just in time to meet that summer’s initial rush of tourists.
Door County Brewing also goes out of its way to feature local musicians at its current space and give the spent grains from each batch of beer to local farms for their animals to feed on. “For us, community involvement is vital; it’s important to have a strong, symbiotic relationship,” Gerondale said.
The label and name of their first and one of their most popular beers, the European-style porter Polka King, pays homage to a Door County celebrity of sorts—a man who worked at a feed mill and drove a tractor all around the area. It’s the rare inside joke that also works with outsiders: “Polka King” has a certain beery ring to it.
Keeping in the Belgian tradition, Door County Brewing offers seasonal saisons—a classic Wallonian style initially brewed for farm workers to have something to sip on after a hard day’s work. Their aptly named summer saison, L’été, pours a beautiful hazy golden and features both tropical and earthy notes. It’s a great summer sipper.
Door County Brewing Company’s commitment to Wisconsin-made, Belgian-style beers and nurturing its community has proven that it’s a front-runner in the ever-competitive beer market.