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Footjoy Farm and Brewing

Melvina, Wisconsin

 

Crusin’ Rating: B-

Booze Rating: A

 


The final stop in our series of highway 71 and traveling between Mauston and La Crosse is not only the best but one we almost missed! For some reason - when I was checking out potential places to stop on this trip a spot called “Footjoy Farm” did not sound like much of a brewery and didn’t even sound that appetizing. It actually sounded like a website that you definitely don’t want to visit and that’s probably why I didn’t think much of it when doing my research! Shortly after leaving our last stop, Alchemy Brewing, we were feeling a little fatigued and a little crestfallen than the majority of our stops happened to be “okay” but none of them had really stood out wildly in terms of imbibements.


Sure we had taken in some great hilltop scenery at a distillery, and found a pretty solid Gose - but that was made in conjunction with a brewery we had already been to. Needless to say, when someone at Alchemy asked us if we had been to the brewery in Melvina yet we were surprised to learn there was one and even then we were fairly reluctant to try it out and hit up another place that was just serviceable. I know we always say that just because you can make beer doesn’t mean you can make good beer, but there are some travel days where you are really ready to just call it a day when the wind has been kicked out of your sails. I think we will call it “Review Fatigue”. However, this individual mentioned “pizza” and “ingredients grown local” and that was really all it took to put the spark back in our eyes and notice that our stomachs were far from content.


Melvina was quite literally a few minute drive from Alchemy Brewing -albeit back the way we had come from - but easy enough to locate. With a population of only 93 people, Melvina might be the smallest village that hosts a brewery we have been to up to this point. When I saw the population sign, my hopes admittedly did not raise much. I assumed (incorrectly!) that this was going to be a fellow making homebrew in a farm basement with frozen pizzas which is always an experience to remember, but I only had the slightest glimmer of hope in terms of beer.


I was wildly wrong and very glad I was. Even from the car we could hear some booming bass and the din of live music from the road in a building that did not look like too much from the outside. This was a barn that was very much surrounded by houses on all sides. So then again, I pictured this to be a repeat of Alchemy. A country bar with the owners own beer experiments. Again, I was wrong.



The Footjoy Farm and Brewing location serves as the customer facing space for a farm that is located elsewhere in Melvina - “just up the road” and other vague Wisconsinicities. I later learned that the grains come from a farm in Cataract, WI and from another farm in South Dakota, owned by cousins of the owner, Chad Forsberg. I also learned that the beers are made under contract at Sandhill Creek Brewing Co. in Black River Falls. What is really unique about Footjoy Farm is that all of the grains are grown on those two farms and that the majority of those used in the beer are grown right in Wisconsin. The beers at Footjoy Farm are 100% made from those grains which, to my knowledge and cursory research, is the only brewery that can make that claim in Wisconsin. Suffice it to say, something that wholly Wisconsin is something that we celebrate here at Crusin’ for Booze and had us all sorts of excited. We later learned that many of the breads and even pizza crusts are all made using those same grains. The owner, who used to grow a lot of heirloom vegetable varietals near the Twin Cities, now grows many of the vegetables that go on the pizzas and sandwiches. It seems Footjoy Farm is really big into supporting local growers and farmers and tried to keep their ingredients as local as possible, going so far as to forage the mushrooms for one of their pizzas.



I’m getting ahead of myself and the actual review though! As I was saying, we pulled up to the building and could hear the live music from the car. We found a spot on the street and knew that we would probably be in for a wait, not only since the building itself appeared to be small, but the sheer number of cars that were parked on the street. The tasting room, which has been a bar or two in its past lives, takes up the basement of an old barn. Walking inside, it was apparent that this band was playing slightly too loudly for the space, but was still cranking out some 90’s and 2000’s hits that the crowd inside was enjoying. There wasn’t a ton of seating, even if there wasn’t a band playing. 16 seats total at the bar and maybe that many at a few large high top tables. As we looked around and saw a full house, a friendly couple waved us over and offered to share the unused side of their table with us. Come to find out this fellow has been a barber over at Captain’s Corner Barber Shop for some 50 years in Sparta, WI. So Bob, if you’re reading this, we definitely are grateful for your Wisconsin Hospitality and good company!


Thanks to Bob’s neighborly demeanor, we were able to order ourselves a flight and a pizza while enjoying some nostalgic music. Looking around, I guess I’d say the space was small, if not slightly cluttered and it looked to me that they could definitely look at expanding which is a great problem to have. There was some swag on the wall (which, we, of course grabbed some sweatshirts) and a line of pulls that all had feet on them. Not exactly delicious to look at, and even slightly unsettling when we learned they were all molds of the owner’s foot - who apparently liked to run around barefoot a lot up until his early 20s - thus the name. There were records on the wood-paneled walls, and honestly it was such a hive of activity that Hannah and I were more caught up in chatting with our table neighbors and friendly staff to make much note of the decor. It’s fair to say that you could see it used to be a Wisconsin tavern and not much has changed in terms of decor other than its clear the owner is a fan of music, has some Christmas lights hang year-roud, and being barefoot!


A brief note on the food that the pizza was absolutely fantastic. Sourdough crust and you could customize your toppings which allowed Hannah and I, after a brief debate - to settle on some veggies and a little local ground sausage. I thought the pizza was absolutely fantastic and would easily put itself up there with Branch & Daughter, a pizza joint that butchers it’s own meats, on the north side of Madison. It was filling pizza and I absolutely did not need to eat more than a piece or two to feel full. Something about those real ingredients being used just puts food on a different level than a lot of pizza spots.


We nabbed a flight of four beers while we waited for our food, taking notes and eagerly nerding out about our process to Bob and his wife.


Classic Steve Pilsner (5.5% ABV) - This beer, made with Saaz hops, was everything a classic [Czech] Pilsner should be. I don’t want to go on too much here, but this is an easy candidate for one of my top beers of the year. With golden color, high clarity, and, did I mention one of the original (of 4 possible) Noble Hop varieties, Saaz, gives it some added classicality. This beer was clean, with a wonderful floral hop aroma, cold, crisp, with plenty of effervescence, and high attenuation, finishing nice and dry but decidedly long. There were notes of baked bread and maybe just a little spice in there that reminded me of a dry August breeze. It was just a textbook success of the style and I have come to appreciate those old-world beers for their perceived simplicity but decidedly complex nature. Absolutely try this one.


Sundog IPA (7.7% ABV) - This brassy-gold IPA featured low clarity and an understated grapefruit aroma (ruby red specifically). With primary notes of orange juice when first tasting and then a resiny finish with hallmarks of piney hops. This one was a little more straightforward than the other options we tried. If you are looking for a piney West Coast this one's for you.


Citra Double Sour Pale Ale (6.0% ABV) - We were racking our brains trying to figure out if we had seen a sour pale ale before and neither of us could recall another instance of this style! This hybrid style was straw yellow with medium clarity. Sour malt fills your nose with, of course, the citra hops (grapefruit and passion fruit in this instance). Hannah and I agreed that the acidity you pick up on your nose was just a little much and chased away the more pleasant aromas. This was a little different when tasting, on the one hand you have those citrus-forward hops that are trying to push out bright flavors and then mixed in there is the what I would describe as sour mash and rather than playing off one another it’s more like they are both vying for first place on your tongue. That competition kept both at the forefront throughout the taste with neither giving away to anything else. While I thought it was drinkable, Hannah, our sour expert, was not a fan at all. I think these were two non-complementary features and maybe a reason we don’t see more sour pale ales.


Buoy Light (4.75% ABV) - A boat beer designed for summer, this lager was full of lime zest and malted barley on the nose, featuring brilliant clarity in a light straw-gold package. This lager had notes of lime zest that moved into lime rind and then a slightly sweet malt with an easy dry finish. With none of the skunkiness that we’ve found in other lagers featuring lime, this was a solid pick that later Hannah opted to try the standard Buoy and that little bit of extra fullness to the body was a welcomed addition.


If the idea of growing the barley and - hopefully hops, as close as you can and sourcing whatever you can, as close as you can, isn’t something wholly Wisconsin, celebrating Wisconsin and supporting local farmers, I don’t know what is. Make the trip out there, support local, support Wisconsin. While we may not have been taken in by how it looked outside I am so happy that we decided to give this spot a chance and we met some wonderful fellow Wisconsinites and were able to assist in this brewery's mission of supporting the community. This spot alone is worth a trip in an afternoon and while it is a little hike from Madison, I personally think the experience would make for a great Saturday afternoon. Otherwise I highly recommend an hour drive or going out of your way traveling from Milwaukee or Madison en route to La Crosse.


Until next time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’!


To learn more about Footjoy Farm and Brewing, please visit their Facebook: @FootjoyBrewing

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