Let’s make a beer together. This is how collaborations such as the one between Working Draft Beer Company and the Wisconsin Academy get started. For the Academy’s 150th anniversary and in honor of its magazine of Wisconsin thought and culture, Wisconsin People & Ideas, the Madison-based Working Draft Beer Company created a special blond IPA called WP&IPA. Fittingly, for a craft beer named after a magazine that is all about Wisconsin, Working Draft head brewer Clinton Lohman chose Wisconsin-sourced ingredients: malted barley sourced from Briess in Chilton and a mixture of Wisconsin Cascade, Horse Valley, and Skyrocket hops, which will provide a pineapple-like flavor profile. Lohman says that the anniversary beer, which was started in late January 2020 will be “interesting, fun, and hoppy, with lots of hop aroma and flavor without the bitterness.” The small-batch beer was served at Academy events in 2020, such as the February 27 Weirdsconsin storytelling event held in the Working Draft taproom and the March 6 GALA150 at the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Working Draft, which opened on the near east side of the city in 2018, takes its name from the revision process at the heart of its brewing philosophy, creating and re-creating (in the case of certain heritage beers) flavors that dazzle beer aficionados and casual imbibers alike. Brewer Lohman, along with founder Ryan Browne and brothers Ben and Matt Feifarek have built their business model for Working Draft around collaboration and community. Their taproom, with an L-shaped bar and long tables of recycled wood straddling a wide-open gathering space, is made for mingling and conversation.
Because the brewery is open and visible from the taproom, on brew days there is a warm, yeasty smell that permeates the 4,700-square-foot space. A mural by Madison-based artist Jenie Gao—two hands cupping water surrounded by images of grain, hops, and yeast—welcomes visitors and prepares them for a veritable smorgasbord of craft beers that change with the seasons: winter milkshake stouts and black barleywines step aside for summertime witbiers, pale ales, even grisettes, traditional Belgian beers made to quench the thirst of miners.
The mural is just one facet of the Artist-in-Residence program Working Draft hosts to ensure space for the arts in the taproom, which acts as a venue for acoustic music, a backdrop for poetry readings, and a platform for community events such as the Academy’s Weirdsconsin storytelling session.
“One of the big pieces of our identity with the brewery is that beer is an awesome catalyst for bringing people together,” says co-owner Ryan Browne. “That’s really why we opened the brewery and designed it the way we did.”