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Pitchfork Brewing Company

Hudson, WI

 

Crusin’ Rating: A

Booze Rating: A-

 

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Pitchfork Brewing Company

This week we are checking out Pitchfork Brewing Company, the last spot we are reviewing in the City of Hudson, Wisconsin - although we have one more left in the series so stay tuned! Pitchfork Brewing Company caught our eye because it was the first spot we were going to pass coming in to Hudson and they advertised having food on site. Now, you know by now our thoughts on the Brewpub Paradox - but when we’ve been on the road for a few hours, sometimes it’s simply practical to not only do a review, but get our lunch instead. If you’re long-time readers of ours, you do know that there are exceptions to the paradox, places that have solid food and beer, such as One Barrel Brewing Company, so there’s always a chance that a place can have good food and beer and you know we always like to go in with an open mind!


As we pulled off onto a side road and swept behind a bank and strip mall, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Tribute Brewing Company, a brewery in a newer pole-barn just slightly off a highway and behind your typical strip malls and grocery stores. With a gravel parking lot and pole barn exterior and right as they opened at 11:00 AM, we were ready for some food and to peep some dogs on the dog-friendly patio. A cheerful broad fellow greeted us as we walked in with friendly welcomes and a to-the-point explanation of where we order food and beer. He informed us that they do not do flights but offer free samples of anything we’d like to try. there were plenty of options for food too: pizza made with spent grain dough, local ingredients used in sandwiches and nachos, craft soda.



The space itself was clean and polished enough to look fairly new. Outdoor seating for at least 25, and indoor seating of double that number, plus bar seating, was enough seating to accommodate a busy Friday or Saturday night all without feeling the least bit cramped. Old Pitchforks and other farm implements decorated the walls without making the walls look cluttered. Mixed with the jovial staff, the entire vibe was friendly, welcoming, and full of energy.


We learned that not only does Pitchfork source local ingredients where and when they can, but their hop farm was located just across the river in Stillwater, MN. While we, of course, would have preferred Wisconsin-grown hops, we did give respect where it is due to keeping it as local as they were able. Did we mention that we weren’t the only people in the parking lot eagerly awaiting the opening of Pitchfork? At least a dozen patrons were at the doors and ready to eat and drink which we took to be a good sign.


The Head Brewer, Mike, has been a home brewer for 30 years and was both a local and national beer judge for 6 of those years as he honed his craft he then opened Pitchfork in 2013. We had an absolute blast talking about the tasting of beer. All of the brewers we meet are knowledgeable but Mike stood out, his sheer depth of knowledge of beer brewing and style knowledge was the most impressive we have encountered. We are hardcore beer nerds and we find here and there other like-minded beer nerds and aficionados, but it is rare to find an absolute expert in the field as we did here and we noted everything we could and tried to take advantage of speaking with someone with so much technical know-how and beer-related wisdom.



Lets quick touch on lunch - Pitchfork smokes its own meat and I will admit I am jealous and looking forward to the day that I am able to smoke my own at home. COVID not only gave us the beer bug, but also the cooking bug and I am totally down with a place smoking their own meats that go on pizza, nachos, and sandwiches. Hannah was a solid fan of the loaded nachos she ordered, but did admit the pork was a little smokey for her taste (I politely disagree). My sandwich was smokey, well seasoned, juicy, and had crispy fries to complement it. I do not think we could have asked for a better place for lunch. While Pitchfork might not dethrone our number one Brewpub from last years list, it is definitely a solid contender!


Mike informed us that all of his beers use whole-cone hops - which he said means no stems or pellets, without any additives and are brewed with time and temperature only, just as any pre-Prohibition brewery would have made their beers. Now, this article is not where I am going to delve hard into beer history as I don’t have the full picture yet, but for the time being, I am going to say that I like this historically accurate approach and it really did seem to work. When we inquired about sours, Mike had a hard no- sours approach:

“I’ve spent the last 30 years trying to keep bacteria out of my beer, someone else can do sours.”

We started with four samples of beer, careful to not overstay our welcome with free samples.


French Toast Ale (5.7% ABV) - You know if we see something unique that Hannah is absolutely going to order it especially when finished with local maple syrup. This beer had a shiny copper sheen to it and featured a cinnamon-sugar rim, the first beer we’ve seen with a rim, with plenty of sugar and cinnamon on the nose. Hannah and I both noted that most of the initial aroma came from the rim. After wiping off the rim, there was still cinnamon present on the nose with notes of caramelized sugar. Tasting primarily of buttery biscuit and finishing with a little cinnamon and a hint of maple syrup, this beer was reminiscent of the french toast sticks my brothers used to munch before school. This beer does have a caveat though which is the rimmed glass does a lot of the heavy lifting in the flavor department and the beer itself is not very bold on the namesake flavors. Even without the rim, Hannah enjoyed it but said it was probably too sweet for a full pint after lunch.


Pitchfork Hard Lemonade (5.0% ABV) - This one is actually not a seltzer, but a light American ale made with 20% flaked maize and lemonade concentrate. Pouring a light golden color with medium clarity, there was noticeable corn sweetness and a lemony-syrup quality to the smell. Tasting gave primarily sweet lemon and sweet malt. We both found it reminiscent of the frozen Minute Maid lemonade that came in those cardboard tubes. Hannah however, said it was perfect for the weather and that it was comparable to Summer Shandy wherein Summer Shandy leans a little more into the beer side, this offering leaned more into the lemonade side which she was a fan of.


Exit 4 Cream Ale (5.5% ABV) - Pouring an orange-brown and smelling of lightly buttered bread and toasted oatmeal, this beer was pleasantly malty but with noticeable rich-earthy, almost mud like tones, which was not a bad thing in this instance. High attenuation led to a drying sensation which, coupled with the earth tones had the unexpected effect of giving this beer a dusty impression which wasn’t exactly our favorite. I think this is a well-made beer in terms of technique and we both were impressed by the use of local hops, but we couldn’t quite get past that dry-earth combo.


North of 8 Pilsner (4.2%) - If you’ve been following along this year you know there have been some Pilsners that have caught my attention. Of course I had to try a Pilsner who was exhibiting the technical know-how and had been a taster himself for years. Straw yellow with medium clarity. An ode to the style, this was a well-made beer. This beer had a grainy malt aroma along with a decidedly earthy and herbal hop note. The hops, the same used in their cream ale, had that earthy tone again but I thought it really worked in this instance that played well here with that sort of graininess to the malt. Rather than dust, I found this beer to have a finish that reminded me of tasting a fresh bit of herbs pulled out of wet soil after a summer storm, full of green bitterness and earthy notes.


I don’t fully know why, for me the Pilsner, which is well attenuated, worked out so pleasantly but the Cream ale came out tasting dusty. I can make guesses as to the differences in the malt character of both as well as the bitterness of the hops playing a role. It was definitely interesting to learn that the same hops were used to varying degrees of success in these last two beers.


I do know that they were both within the lines as far as their respective style, but for me, the Pilsner was the one that stood out.


Mike went on to let us taste varying other samples, and for the sake of road safety we ended up having to cut our sampling short. I could easily have seen us, with extra time, spend an entire afternoon at Pitchfork, trying foods and going back and forth with Mike on our various tasting notes and picking his brain on his considerable experience and knowledge. Alas, we had a full weekend ahead of us and a wedding to attend north of Stillwater!



Hannah and I were both in full agreement that we were impressed with just how friendly the staff were (not just Mike), and that they sought to stick with local ingredients whenever possible. The food was good enough for us to briefly debate going back for lunch the next day if we weren’t feeling adventurous (as a rule we try and mix it up whenever we are in a new City/Town). Really, from start to finish we were pretty impressed, and you of course, know that even if I didn’t love every beer, I could definitely tell that they were all well-made and chances are if I didn’t like them, Hannah most likely did. I am going to fully recommend Pitchfork whether you’re in town for a trip, an hour away, or looking for a weekend getaway from Madison. Hudson itself, being on the river, and it’s sister, Stillwater, make for a fantastic weekend filled with plenty of imbibements to try, food to eat, shopping to be had, and water activities.


Between Pitchfork and next week’s article, Hudson is definitely worth making a trip to, at least once.


Until then, keep on Crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Pitchfork Brewing Company please visit their website at: www.pitchforkbrewing.com or on Facebook: @PitchforkBrewing or on Instagram: @PitchforkBrew




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