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This is a story of how the world lost an aspiring newspaper columnist and gained a beer-loving entrepreneur.
Along the way, there’s a moose.
It seems like yesterday, but it was probably seven or eight years ago when a young journalism student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison sent a note asking if he could interview me for a class.
It went well, we stayed in touch and last week we met for another interview.
This time, I was asking the questions, raising my voice over the sound of electric drills and saws.
“The taps go there?” I said, pointing to a wall behind a bar long enough to seat about nine stools.
Garth Beyer grinned. “Three hours from now,” he said, “there will be holes in there and faucets sticking out of them.”
Eighteen taps, to be precise, one for nitro cold pressed coffee and the others for 17 of the best craft beers Beyer can find, and he knows where to look.
On Dec. 12, Beyer, 27, will open to the public Garth’s Brew Bar, at 1726 Monroe Street. There will be some “soft” openings for friends and family in the week preceding.
It’s the culmination of a journey that began for Beyer not long after he arrived in Madison – for college, from his native Rockford – and a friend introduced him to home brewing. It led to a broader interest in craft beers, which were gaining traction in college towns and beyond.
Beyer was still writing for campus publications. “My articles gravitated to the beer side of things,” he said. A story about environmental stewardship wound up featuring a brewery that used solar panels. He began a column for The Badger Herald called “What’s On Tap.”
In 2015, Beyer traveled to Budapest with the friend who had introduced him to home brewing. No surprise, they soon found themselves on the second floor of a place called Hops Beer Bar. People were talking and laughing and drinking the craft beers from breweries whose coasters the Hops owner had running up and down his walls.
“I knew I wanted to open a business,” Beyer said, “and I knew I loved beer, so it was only a matter of time until it clicked. It clicked in Hops. Clearly the owner loved the relationships with the breweries and knew beer brought people together. I thought, ‘We need this in Madison.’”
For all his passion for beer, Beyer was wise enough to know what he didn’t know. He took DRAFT magazine’s list of the country’s 100 best craft beer bars and emailed them all, asking for advice on what worked and what didn’t. He also surveyed Madison area craft beer drinkers. Among the tips: Pay attention to noise (Garth’s has an absorbent textile ceiling) and have at least some food available (Garth’s will serve Fraboni’s pizzas and Batch Bakehouse soft pretzels).
Seating will include bar stools, high and low top tables, lounge chairs, longer tables for groups and booths. All in all, a well-lighted space conducive to community and conversation.
It will take place under the watchful eye of Marvin the Moose.
Early on, Beyer had a conversation with his architect about what he wanted on the bar’s interior south wall.
“I want something awesome,” he said. “I have no idea what it’s going to be.”
Without telling Beyer, the architect added a moose head to the drawings that were submitted to contractors.
Somebody said, “You’re putting a moose head in?”
“What?” Beyer said.
Then it turned out his in-laws had a spare moose head – his father-in-law hunts them in Canada.
“Fate,” Beyer said.
Marvin the Moose was still under wraps when I had my tour last week.
Beyer said his wife, Briana, has been deeply involved in readying the bar as well as keeping him on track even amid the inevitable delays (they had hoped to open by October) and mess-ups (a ceiling installer hit a sprinkler and unleashed 280 gallons of water).
Beyer’s colleagues at the Hiebing agency, where he has worked for nearly five years as an account executive – a job he will continue – have likewise allowed him a flexible schedule, as well as designing the logo for the new bar, which will be open 4 to 10 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays, 4 p.m. to midnight on Fridays, noon to midnight on Saturdays, noon to 10 p.m. on Sundays, and closed Mondays.
As part of the journey, Beyer became a certified Cicerone, the beer equivalent of a wine sommelier. It took years, he twice failed the final exam. Now he can curate the beers at Garth’s with total confidence. Marvin wouldn’t have it any other way.
Doug Moe is a Madison writer. Read his monthly column, Person of Interest, in Madison Magazine.
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