Recently, Rustic Road was invited to be interviewed by Cork Meets Fork wine and food matching blog. Check out the article below, and sign up for the CMF blog by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
A Beer Adventure
Greg York is the founder of a new brewery in Kenosha and is one of more than 2,000 craft beer operators in the country. There are also 900 new operators standing by and hoping to begin brewing this year. This beer thing is getting popular. His new venture, Rustic Road Brewery, both a pub and nanobrewery, is one of two microscopic brew houses that have recently opened in downtown Kenosha.
Did I mention Rustic Road is a small production craft brewery?
Greg’s new and innovative beer-making system can brew 62 gallons of beer at one time. Compare that to the big boys in Milwaukee and St.Louis who would consider 100 gallons of production to be only an innocent nano-second burp. Greg’s brand new $40,000 Braumeister brewing system from Germany was not cheap, but it was the innovative technology and space-saving design that allowed Greg York to squeeze his pub and brewery in a quaint building nestled between the Rhode Theater and Cooler Near the Lake in downtown Kenosha. This popular new spot is putting the 62 gallon system to a test, as the six flowing taps at the pub are getting a constant workout, serving glasses and growlers to a steady stream of thirsty locals.
Rustic Road and Pazzo have teamed up for a six-course beer dinner in March. Cool, locally-inspired brews “Simmons Island Imperial Blonde Ale” and “Kenosha Pale Ale” will be served. And I thought, since I will be hosting the event along with Greg, it would be best if I sat down with our new local brewmaster to learn more about the man and his beer – and our upcoming beer matching adventure on March 20th.
corkmeetsfork: There are so many new breweries in operation today and many have their very own style and marketing angle. High alcohol beers, super-hoppy IPA’s and a lot of dogs on labels…What is your style at Rustic Road?
Greg York: That’s interesting and you’re right. But I haven’t really thought about a style. My favorites don’t fall into a particular style and I’m not married to a style (of beer-making). I guess I would call us experimental. I’m not trying to be extreme and I want to appeal to the local consumer. I’ve found that the local beer drinkers do not like overly hoppy beers, they like smoother flavors. They also like when local products are used in the production. I try to stay local whenever possible.
CMF: What beer experiment has worked so far with your local customer?
GY: The Hazelnut Harvest Ale was a surprise. The first batch was sweeter than what I wanted it to be but I was tickled when everyone seemed to love it. It’s been our most popular beer. I originally made this a seasonal beer but it’s now one of our regulars because it was such a hit.
CMF: When did you decide you were going to start brewing beer commercially and how did an Abbott Lab I.T. guy choose Kenosha as the home of Rustic Road?
GY: In about 1999 I was inspired by a Sam Adams Double Bock that I had tried. The flavors blew me away.It was at about the same time that I met a friend with similar interests in beer and we went half and half on a starter system. I thought for a long time that I wanted to become a brewer when I retire. Then you read about the guy that wants to run a marathon and puts it off, puts it off…until one day he has a heart attack and never fulfills his dream. I say do it now. It’s irresponsible to want to do something and never do it. Maybe this will get big someday.
As far as Kenosha, this has been our true home. I grew up in the Chicago area and we now live in Winthrop Harbor. But my wife and I found that there was more to offer in Kenosha. This (Kenosha) became our area for entertainment and where we met most of our friends. People seemed warmer in Kenosha. There was no other option (to open the brewery) than Kenosha, really.
CMF: The corkmeetsfork blog is certainly about Kenosha as far as events go, but I write about food as much as I do wine. So I have to ask, what’s your favorite food with beer?
GY: Pizza, absolutely. There are so many pizza combinations with beer. A Belgian beer with goat cheese and pear for instance.
CMF: Everyone that reads this is really into food, or they would have unsubscribed long ago. But most are also into wine, not beer. How can I convince more than 1,000 wine fans that they should come to our Rustic Road beer dinner at Pazzo on March 20th?
GY: If you enjoy adventures in pairing fine wines with food, you’re going to enjoy an even bigger adventure with beer. It’s like wine. If you have a rich dish, you need a big beer. If you like to take wine chances and you’re adventursome, you’ll love this adventure.
CMF: Other than pizza, what matching secrets do you have when it comes to beer and food?
GY: Black Ale with ginger. Both are big and strong flavors and can stand up on their own. I’ve also found it’s hard to match hoppy beers with food. Stouts and spice don’t mix, they clash.
CMF: What do you get out of hosting a Rustic Road beer dinner or when offering your flavors at a beer festival?
GY: This is our first beer dinner, but we’ve done several festivals. I love to get their reaction – sometimes it’s wonderful and positive and sometimes it isn’t – but I still love that interaction! Regular customers, they like you (Rustic Road beer), they have liked you, but real honesty comes from those that don’t know you and you have to pay attention. When I hear someone say, “This is the best beer at the festival,” that’s pretty exciting.
CMF: What was the most difficult part of opening Rustic Road and what came easier than expected?
GY: Two things stand out as being difficult for me; Finding the money and determining the right scale for the project without compromising the product. I had internal debates on what this thing actually was. I was pleased at how I found a good landlord, location and partner. Paul McDonough owns the building and couldn’t have been more easy to work with. I’ve heard horror stories about commercial landlords. I consider Paul a partner. He cares more about making a legacy in downtown Kenosha than he cares about the money.
CMF: Speaking of partners, you’re serving pizzas from Pazzo at Rustic Road. How did that relationship develop?
GY: They’ve been great to work with. Eric (Chef Flentge) has been coming in since we opened and he suggested that we do something together. They’re great people and I enjoy spending time with them. Planning the dinner was a no-brainer.
CMF: What is your 5-year plan with Rustic Road?
GY: A larger production facility. We’re eventually going to outgrow our capacity and I’d like to grow beyond Southeastern Wisconsin. Beer and food go hand-in-hand too, and I’d like to eventually add food to the pub.
CMF: Craft breweries have been known to get a little creative with their names and labels. How did the Rustic Road idea come about?
GY: The Wisconsin Rustic Road program protects the old winding roads and old farming roads in the state. It exemplifies what Wisconsin is really all about. Most of the roads exist in the northern part of the state. I’m trying to bring a little of this rustic northern philosophy to the southeastern part of the state.
CMF: Thanks for spending the time with me Greg. I’m really looking forward to our beer dinner together on March 20th.
We would truly love to have you join Greg and myself for this outstanding pairing opportunity. The cost is $49 per person and one can reserve by calling either Pazzo or Rustic Road. Both phone numbers are listed below the menu that follows:
six-courses crossing great food with great beer
PAZZO and RUSTIC ROAD BREWERY
WEDNESDAY MARCH 20, 2013
sweet, salty & bitter
Beer Nut Bon Bons with Dates, Olives, Ginger,
Walnuts and Cheddar… skewered with a Pretzel
RUSTIC ROAD St. Georges Pride English Bitter
blondie & peanuts
Butternut Squash filled Wontons
with a Blonde Ale Peanut Sauce
RUSTIC ROAD Simmons Island Imperial Blonde Ale
sports bar nut
Chicken Drumstick stuffed with Chorizo in a Nutty Ale
Jamaican Jerk sauce with a Carrot, Celery
and Blue Cheese Slaw
RUSTIC ROAD Hazelnet Harvest Amber
Pancetta wrapped handmade Pork Sausage
with roasted Brussel Sprouts and a Pale Ale Mustard
RUSTIC ROAD Kenosha Pale Ale
black & tan
Stout braised Short Ribs atop bronzed Onion Rings
and a roasted Tomato Ketchup
RUSTIC ROAD Irish Dry Stout
mug o’ chocolate
Chocolate Pint du Créme with Almond Brittle
and a Queen Bee Belgian Honey Ale Foam
RUSTIC ROAD Queen Bee Belgian Honey Ale
pazzo 6pm reception $49 per person
price does not include tax or gratuity
Call Pazzo or Rustic Road to reserve
(262) 653-9879 (262) 320-7623
Or sign up online through Eventbrite!
Special Guest Bartender
We will also lead off the March 20th Beer Dinner with a special appearance from Alex Boyd, a bartender and beer expert from Rustic Road. Alex will pour draft beer selections from RR at Pazzo from 5pm to 6pm…leading us into the dinner. For those that can’t make the full dinner, stop by to taste beforehand.
Robert J. Mitchell