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Black Husky Adds a Hoppy Flavor to Riverwest

From Homebrew to Brew Pub

Nov. 22, 2016
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Black Husky started with a “life changing” Two Hearted Ale, co-owner and head brewer Tim Eichinger recalls, with a glint in his eye reminiscent of light bouncing off a mostly empty beer bottle. 

Before having that particular beer, hoppy but balanced with a strong malt backbone, Eichinger was a German beer drinker through and through. His home-brewed beer reflected the qualities of German ales—minimal hops, pleasant, clean, crisp. Wanting to make beer that featured more of the bitter, tropical, floral qualities often associated with hops, Eichinger began to ramp up the hop amounts in his beers. Friends who tried his homebrews insisted they could be sold; he took his beers to small beer festivals, where they were a huge hit; he began distributing, first up north in Pembine, then down to Milwaukee a bit, where stores and bars would quickly sell out of the bottles and kegs brought to them by Eichinger’s wife, Toni.

Eichinger tells the story of Black Husky’s asymptotic rise in popularity with wonder: “It just kept growing bigger and bigger, and it just got a life of its own.”

The most recent chapter in Black Husky’s life comes with a shiny new brewpub in Riverwest (909 E. Locust St.) in the space formerly occupied by Manyo Motors. The Riverwest neighborhood—punk and hippie and activist and family-friendly as it is—is an odd but welcome fit for the brewery. The Eichingers value the neighborhood’s diversity and eclectic nature and “have had nothing but positive responses from Riverwesterners.”

They also close the brewery fairly early—9 p.m. on weeknights and 10 p.m. on the weekends—to allow patrons from outside the neighborhood to wander over to excellent nearby bars such as Riverwest Public House or Klinger’s East. Additionally, they don’t serve food at the pub and have no plans to; instead, they have a wide variety of menus from eateries around the neighborhood and encourage folks to bring in food to chow down on while they enjoy a couple beers in the no-frills space that features a hand-built bar made from white cedar and a circular picture of Howler—their “spokesdog” and one of the many pooches the dog-loving Eichingers have taken in over the years. Though Howler has passed away, patrons may spot their dog Smokey in the bar on occasion, though he mostly hangs out in their office with Toni.

Though the ambiance of the pub is excellent, they could serve them out of an unadorned shed for all I care: The beers there are so damn good. Their Sproose IPA, brewed with spruce tips, is juicy and piney, and at 8.6% ABV, packs a nice punch. Not all are hoppy: Their Octoberfest has a classic bready flavor, and their Barley Wine is rich, full and a tad sweet. Their best-known beer, the Black Husky Pale Ale, which sits at a hefty-for-the-style 7.2% ABV, is fantastic: Slightly bitter in the finish, but not overwhelmingly so, with a perfect mouthfeel and a lovely floral bouquet. It’s the kind of hoppy beer that turns people on to hoppy beers, and it’s not hard to imagine their Pale Ale inspiring the next generation of home brewers, just as Bell’s Two Hearted Ale once snagged the attention of the Eichingers. 

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