Community Supported Beer? House of Brews aims to act locally

2010-10-28T16:45:00Z 2010-10-28T22:59:05Z Community Supported Beer? House of Brews aims to act locallyBARRY ADAMS | badams@madison.com | 608-252-6148 madison.com

Fresh carrots, potatoes, onions and strawberries are among the locally grown produce commonly delivered weekly to subscribers of Community Supported Agriculture programs.

A few of the more than 40 CSAs in southern Wisconsin offer meat, cheese and flowers.

The newest local offering will come in a bottle, be packaged in a case and have a head.

What could be the first the Community Supported Brewery program in the country is scheduled to launch early next year on the Far East Side.

Page Buchanan, who has been making 10-gallon batches of beer in his driveway for the past 15 years, is spending $300,000 to transform a 7,500-square-foot space at 4539 Helgesen Drive into the House of Brews, where he plans to make 800 barrels of beer a year. Most of it will be sold to area bars and restaurants, but a portion will be packaged into 22-ounce bottles for members of the CSB, who will pick up their drinks in the brewery’s tasting room.

“A lot of people like the idea a lot more than I thought,” said Buchanan, a former union labor representative in Janesville. “The subscribers are going to have a say in terms of what I brew.”

The CSA concept began in the Madison area in 1992, according to the Madison Area Community Supported Agriculture Coalition. This year, about 9,000 food shares were sold, serving an estimated 20,000 people, according to Kiera Mulvey, the coalition’s executive director.

“Knowing the person who’s growing your food and having access to them is certainly an integral part of a CSA,” she said. “You can go right to the source of your food. You can take a more active role.”

The majority of CSA deliveries are seasonal, but Buchanan’s proposed CSB isn’t dependent on the weather. His plan calls for about 50 members who would pay about $180 for a half subscription or about $360 for a full subscription. Full subscribers would receive 12 bottles of beer each month, plus two educational events a year and an invitation to the brewery’s annual appreciation dinner.

Buchanan wants to use as many ingredients as he can get from Wisconsin. His flagship beer, brewed in a 10-barrel system, would be a medium-alcohol rye beer. But his 22-gallon brew kettles will allow him to experiment with a variety of beers and styles. Part of his plan is to create beers specifically for individual restaurants and bars.

“There’s a large part of the community that’s always looking for a new beer,” said Keith Symonds, a brewing consultant who is helping with the project. “He’s got a nice market here.”

Buchanan has been thinking about opening his own brewery for years, but when he was laid off in March 2009, he began working full time on his business plan. The CSB component came after talking with a fellow beer lover who has a CSA farm.

“The light bulb just went on,” Buchanan said.

To pay for the project, Buchanan took out a loan from the Small Business Administration, recruited investors and took out a second mortgage on his home. He has also received the support of his wife, Michelle Buchanan, who owns Isthmus Acupuncture.

Buchanan has talked with the owners of the 7th Settlement Brewery in Dover, N.H. That brewery is also proposing a CSB but isn’t expected to start brewing until spring, said co-owner Dave Boynton.

“I really want to develop this model with Page and other people so that we can transfer this across the country,” Boynton said.

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