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Cocoon Brewing

De Pere, Wisconsin

 

Crusin' Rating: A

Booze Rating: B-

 


This week, I am flying a solo mission - which unfortunately means a lot of beer tasting and a lot of beer left still on the table. I had the opportunity to travel up to Green Bay which means lunch at what is becoming a consistently solid brewery with some healthy food options - Copper State Brewing Company. Then, a brewery that is fairly new to the scene in De Pere, Wisconsin caught my eye. Cocoon brewing is less than a year old, established in 2022 by brothers Mike and Matt. Taking heavy inspiration from their childhood spent catching and collecting butterflies, Cocoon is rampant with a theme that brings you directly back to the 80’s and is rife with butterfly references left and right!



I was just shy of experiencing the 80s in their full glory but was close enough to that decade to know that Cocoon is nothing short of Wet Hot American Summer masquerading as a brewery. Reminiscent of the rooftop summer camp bar, Camp Trippalindee, in Madison, Cocoon features vibrant colors, complete with stripe patterns. The only thing missing was a fluorescent tracksuit-clad bully sporting a perm telling me to get off his ski mountain.


Parking at Cocoon, just as dusk was setting in, I was greeted by a pristine new building and an outdoor space that is the stuff of Wisconsinite dreams. Firepits, yard darts, hammerschlagen, a stage, frisbee golf, bags, and four permanent tiny-home-like-structures surrounding a lawn - but we will get to those later. Plenty of hanging lights sprung into life as I toured the grounds and appreciated that whoever designed this clearly had their thinking cap on. There’s a side patio right next to the brewery, complete with window service to the indoor bar for beer - something we’ve seen before only at Pitchfork Brewing. There’s a front patio sporting a small retaining wall featuring adirondack chairs and fire pits for taking your ease and also another, larger fire pit in what I will call the game lawn. With all of this outdoor space, I can easily see a vision of live music happening on the stage and fold out chairs or blankets to watch that, with others sitting at picnic tables next to the brewery sipping on brews from the to-go window. I can see those not interested in the music as much taking their ease on the front patio and still others playing games. It really is one of the best thought-out outdoor spaces that I’ve come across - putting Cocoon in the ballpark of Hop Garden for their outdoor space, which is a high bar fo.



Alright, I can’t talk about the outdoor space without talking about the tiny-homes. Aptly named “Cocoons”, these cabin-like buildings have wifi, streaming TV’s and bluetooth audio. The bar Manager, who I believe was Matt, and the beertender, Andrew, were willing to give me a private tour of each of these Cocoons. Each has a unique decor theme - desert, tropical, modern, and music and each can seat 12, but it would be a tight fit. Nevertheless - I think a group of 6 or 8 would be ideal. There’s a small bar area in each with a window that opens wide so you can enjoy beer on both sides of the bar. A $100 deposit, that goes toward your food and beverage - also gets you your own dedicated server - seems to be a mere penance from what I see are endless party possibilities - watching scary movies over halloween, a small Christmas party with friends, a summer evening music, a rainy day of board games. I can see more breweries doing something similar and I have seen iterations of this - even heard of breweries that now have on-site accommodations to rent- I am all about it and a big fan. If we lived closer to De Pere, I could easily see the Crusin’ for Booze Team meeting up at one of these more than once a year.



The inside, while perhaps not as unique as the outside, is still quite nice. With plenty of teal, retro stripes, and cabin-esque vaulted ceiling, Cocoon did not disappoint in terms of decor and staying within its own theme. There was a bar with 9 seats that featured a well-lit back bar that caught my eye with some of the bottles there. Yes, Cocoon is a brewery that is also serving up some cocktails in addition to their own beer. So if you are a cocktail person, there’s plenty to be had if beer is not your jam. Around 50 can fit at various low and high tables, plus the couches inside. There’s ample glass to let in natural light, so much so that even as the sun set, I had no trouble seeing.


I discovered they serve brick-fired pizzas out of a large stone pizza oven. I did not have the time - or stomach capacity - to do any food tasting. That will have to wait for a return visit.



Now for the beer. Through some discussion with the personable bartenders, I learned that all of the beers are named after species of butterfly or something to do with butterflies. This strategy is mainly to set the beers apart from getting too crazy of names and to keep things interesting instead of naming a beer something like Pilsner No 2. With over 17,000 species of butterflies in the world according to the Smithsonian Institute, that leaves plenty of space for unique beer names that are on theme. I opted for tastes of four of their offerings, which were priced a la cart at around $4 per sample, with a pint running you on average $6. Making ten barrels at a time, there’s no guarantee these will be available on your visit - but I hope so!


Salt Sipper (4.0% ABV) - This gose featured high clarity, poured pale gold, and hand faint sourness, slightly sharp, and a little doughy. I didn’t pick up any coriander (which is typical of the style) here when smelling but there was a little citrus in there. Tasting there was definite tartness up front, lime juice really that moved into a slightly salty impression and finished with noticeable acidity which made my mouth water despite finishing quite dryly. I would have liked more noticeable salt and coriander here, but not a bad attempt at their first gose.


Yellow Admiral (6.7% ABV) - This Hazy IPA featured citra hops, an old favorite, and a hop from New Zealand that was new to me, Nectaron (even the hops are on theme!). With a cloudy orange-tinged straw color, this IPA smelled of honey, flowers, tangerine, orange, pineapple, and a little pineapple as well as a little “oaty”. The taste on this one for me, did not match the smell. That oat characteristic carried over and featured heavily and gave the impression of muddied fruit. When I say “oat” I’m talking a little creaming, slightly heavy characteristic not unlike the overall impression of oatmeal, how it coats your mouth and leaves you thirsty. It was close to tasting like pineapple soaked rolled, overnight oats, which isn’t entirely unpleasant, but definitely not what I was expecting. I also didn’t really find any of that hops-bite, bitterness, or really anything there. This one was an anomaly and I’m not sure what was going on, but I would probably skip this one next time or try a different IPA.


Bullet With Butterfly Wings (5.0% ABV) - This beer is a cocktail-inspired (Army & Navy) sour and very much poured cloudy with a slight-orange tinge.

To start off - Army & Navy has a few components as a cocktail.

  • Gin - think of juniper, sometimes floral notes

  • Lemon Juice

  • Orgeat - an almond syrup featuring orange flower water

  • Angostura Bitters - think gentian root, clove, cinammon

Now, to take on an entire cocktail is a pretty daunting task in a beer. We ran into several Penicillin-inspired beers on our recent adventures to North Carolina. Those hit one or two notes of the cocktail but never the entire thing but I have yet to find, with this beer being no exception, a beer that entirely encapsulates the flavors of a cocktail. Truthfully, and this is without any particular vendetta against the style, I think beers and cocktails are best left separate as the intricacies of malt and hops just don’t seem to lend themselves well to the often subtleties of cocktail balance.

This beer smelled creamy and of sweet orange - almost like an orange Crush soda. There was also some almond notes in there as well. That same orange Crush - definitely more sweet than a candied orange - you know what I’m talking about if you’ve had the soda, carry over into the taste and as well as some lemon pulp. I didn’t find much in there in the way of bitters, definitely no juniper and overall a rather orangey-sour pucker flavor. I think it missed its mark replicating the cocktail but I do think Hannah would have really enjoyed this had she been with.


Pumpkin Spicebush (5.6% ABV) - Another one I ordered in honor of Hannah, I let my basic white girl shine through here by tasting this cloudy-bronze pouring beer. Smelling strictly of pumpkin pie filling - I wasn’t really looking for anything more than that note. When I order a pumpkin spiced beer, that’s really all I am asking for. It’s a fairly easy bar to meet - not too sweet, not too much spice, but just fall enough - right? This beer tasted of some maillard reaction, along with nutmeg, clove, and cinnamon with a little bit of toasted bread. Again, I wasn’t really looking for some subtle depth of flavor like I was with the cocktail beer. I wanted pumpkin pie as a beer and that’s exactly what I got so I’d say they hit the nail on the head with this one.


I’d like again, to reiterate that my hosts were just fantastic, the guys behind the bar let me taste other beers, we discussed beer tasting, they even showed me their own malort-train contraption to buy shots of the foul stuff for strangers at the other end of the bar. It was a great time on a quiet fall night and Andrew or Matt, if you are reading this I again thank you both for the information, insights, and laughs throughout my visit. With being in business only a year, Cocoon is off to a solid start on the beer side of things, with a few possible kinks that will work out as time goes on. The staff and outdoor space are both absolutely fantastic and I wish I had had time, or a driver to try every beer they had. This will be one that I will definitely try and visit again with Hannah or other members of the team. It might be a stretch to say that the average reader should make the journey up from Madison to De Pere, but I would say it’s easily worth an hour drive to visit and it would be recommended to make it park of your trip during your next Packer pilgrimage.


Until next time, keep on cruisin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Cocoon Brewing please visit their website at: cocoonbrewing.com or on Facebook: @CocoonBrewing or on Instagram: @CocoonBrewing

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