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Herbiery Brewing

Madison, Wisconsin


Crusin’ Rating: C

Booze Rating: C-


This week, we are checking out a spot in Madison that is putting a different spin on beer.  We’ve seen something similar when we visited ALT Brew - a spot serving up gluten free beers.  Herbiery Brewing serves up its offerings with ingredients other than hops.  You’ll see things like Sage, Chamomile, and Rye rather than hops to flavor the beverages.

Now - let’s get the glaring question out of the way.  Is it actually beer?  The answer is a little tricky, but I found that the best way to answer it is: yes, it’s “beer, but not bier”.  Through some research, I found a nifty little guide to the various definitions given to beer in the United States and comparisons between the Internal Revenue Code (26 U.S.C. 5052(a)), along with a definition from the Federal Alcohol Administration Act (27 U.S.C. 211(a)(7)), and then definitions given by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax Trade Bureau If you think reading that is a little dry I can give a brief summary:

  1. Beer - Under the Internal Revenue code neither malted barley or hops are required

  2. Malted Beverage - must contain malted barley and hops and is subject to requirements related to the Federal Alcohol Administration Act

As it stands - the Beer definition is a little too wide of a net for instance - Sake is considered beer as it uses fermented rice. Some ginger beer may also be included, if it ferments to above 1.5% ABV.  

As you know from our review of ALT Brew - while ALT Brew is gluten free and uses ingredients that make them also “beer, but not bier”.  The German spelling of course relates to the Reinheitsgebot - the German Purity law which lists only Barley, Hops and Water (yeast of course was included although the writers were not fully aware of its existence yet).  

As we’ve discussed amongst our team and get further into the various beer styles, you can see that all of these definitions can be somewhat problematic when trying to fit everything on the market currently into them.  The German Purity Law - while classic - cuts out fruit, herbs, spruce, and a whole host of other ingredients.  

All of this is to say that yes, even without hops, Herbiery is indeed serving beer!

With the formalities out of the way - Heribiery is a pale green space, located just down the street from a few classic East side foodie spots - Alchemy, the Green Owl, Tex Tubbs, Bar Corallini, and (previously) Mint Mark.  It sits in good company if you’re looking for food!  With plenty of color and artwork on the walls, including a mural - its right at home on Madison’s Winnebago street and if you’re a Madison native you’d be able to pick up on the East Side vibes just by peeking at a photo.  The space is fairly small without feeling cramped and hosts a mix of high and low tables.  A patio out back offers more seating and is larger in size than the tasting room.  Unfortunately, the weather was a little too cool and rainy for us to take advantage of the outdoor space on our visit.  

Our beertender was pleasant and and welcoming, pointing out non-alcoholic cocktail options as well as answering any questions about the beers we had.  We ordered a flight which ran $16 for 4- 5 oz pours which is very much on the steep side of flight prices.  

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Herbiery Brewing- Beer Flight
Left to Right: Great Sage Witbeir, Oasis Lager, Twilight Fields Rye, Coco Stout

Great Sage - Witbier (4.0% ABV) - This beer featured high clarity with a white head that had low retention and was a pale gold color.  Bummer here as I wanted that head retention to stick around and I usually think of Witbiers as being cloudy from the starch and/or yeast.  Smelling very sage-forward with additional backing herbal notes, I didn’t pick up much on my nose of anything wheat - mostly because the sage was so strong.  Sage forward again in flavor with low notes of malty sweetness. I also missed out on any sort of coriander or any spices that can be present in this style.  

Oasis Honey Chai (5.2% ABV) - This Chai Lager was ordered since Hannah loves Chai and I was excited for a beer that featured those flavors.  Amber in color, with a fleeting white head and high clarity, this beer definitely smelled of honey, low cardamom and I thought I picked up something akin to cocoa in there that Hannah did not notice.  She did notice however, as did I, that this beer tasted of bittersweet chocolate, a little bit of corn, and finishes bitter with little to no Chai spice detected by either of us.

Twilight Fields- Rye (4.5% ABV) - There is definitely precedent for Rye beer so I was excited to try this one as well.  This beer featured brilliant clarity and golden color with a quickly dissipating head.  With a slightly sweet malt aroma and grainy slightly spicy notes when smelling this beer was slightly reminiscent - slightly - of a rye whiskey just because of that main ingredient.  With pepper and spiciness up front and strong grain notes to my taste - Hannah remarked that she wanted more complexity out of this beer - I think she was missing the hops!

Golden Coconut Milk (4.6% ABV) - This stout was chocolate brown in color and and had an off-white head that dissipated quickly.  I thought this beer smelled of almond milk and cocoa but couldn’t find any coconut notes anywhere other than a slight sweetness to the overall aroma.  Low and bitter cocoa notes with coffee beans came through when tasting, but again, no coconut to speak of that either of us could find.

You know, I am glad we tried something new.  I think we were definitely missing the hops as a whole.  Historically there is a beer style - Gruit - that uses herbs in place of hops and predates the use of hops in beer.  However, I think - for us - while the definition may not require hops, nor does it even require malted barley - there is a reason that those are found in beer and included in the German Purity Law.  I’m all for going out on a limb and added herbs, fruit, weird hops, yeast strains, all sorts  of things to beer.  But there is definitely something to the classic combo of hops and malted barely that’s made it successful for so long.  If you’re looking for something different and uniquely East side - I would say try out Herbiery - it’s definitely a bit of a niche corner of the market though!

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

To learn more about Herbiery Brewing please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @Herbiery or on Instagram: @Herbiery

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