Cheers to fall! The secret behind seasonal beer in Wisconsin 🍺

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MILWAUKEE -- Beer and changes in the weather -- two things Wisconsinites know a lot about!  But how do the seasons affect what beers we drink? There's actually some science to the cycle.

FOX6 Weather Expert Rachael Kaye, went to Third Space Brewing to see what's on tap for fall, where she talked with co-founders Andy Gehl and Kevin Wright. Kevin is the Brewmaster, and although he was born in Wisconsin, he began his career in a very different climate: California. He explains, “Moving back here, as a brewer, now I really see the impact of -- when the weather gets cool, people are reaching for the stouts.”

Kevin Wright

Wright has brewed almost 20 different beers since the brewery opened in September 2016, and he was on board will fall flavors from the start.

Gehl recalls, “We immediately came out with our first seasonal, which was a Scottish rye ale. Perfect beer for the fall season. Lot of caramel-malt notes, toffee-malt notes, and a little bit of spiciness from the rye in there, gives it a little bit of breadiness.”

It was so popular, it's now on tap year-round, and in early October 2017, it won a gold award at the Great American Beer Festival in Colorado.

Of course, fall wouldn't be complete without one thing…

“Oktoberfest is… the world's biggest beer celebration,” Wright says. “And they've had a type of beer associated with that almost since the beginning, and it's become pretty much everybody's favorite seasonal to drink.”

Andy Gehl

“We sold over six kegs of it the first night we released it here at the brewery. So I think that's a beer that's gonna be here and be gone quickly,” Gehl adds.

There’s something special about autumn, but there’s more to it than warm flavors and cool weather. Historically, the craft of making beer really did revolve around the seasons.

Wright says, “Temperature is really important for brewing, so before they had artificial refrigeration, they couldn't brew when it got too hot. So they brewed in cooler months.”

Third Space Brewing

He explains that the yeast itself would have been very sensitive to changes in weather. “Ales are typically fermented at warmer temperatures, so 65-75 in that range. Lagers are at cooler temperatures, 45-55 in that range.”

Modern technology has changed a lot about the brewing process.  But it hasn't changed the fall harvest. All the hops in the country are picked from late August to late September. Ninety-nine percent are dried and stored and one one percent is used fresh. They’re called ‘wet hops.’

“Wet hops are the truest form of seasonal beer, because they're only available during a one month window, and once you pick them, they have to go into the beer within 48 hours,” Wright explains.

Third Space Brewing had their order shipped overnight from a farm in Washington, to make a wet hop version of their Happy Place brew.  Wright calls it a “once-a-year specialty,” and for some, specialties are what make the seasons worth waiting for.

Gehl sums it up nicely: “I think people's moods change in the seasons. The activities they're doing change in the seasons  and I think what we choose to drink and what we choose to eat also changes with the seasons.”

So whether you’re reaching for Oktoberfest, a stout, or something pumpkin… cheers to your fall favorite!