Local brewery partners with UW-Madison Arboretum

Osage oranges contribute to new beer flavor

MADISON, Wis. - Something new is brewing from fruit collected at the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum.

Levi Funk, the owner of Funk Factory Geuzeria, a sour beer brewery near the Arboretum, created two new beers using Osage oranges and American persimmons from the Arboretum.

According to a release, Funk was walking with his family in the Longenecker Horticultural Gardens when he noticed the Osage oranges, a rock-hard, pale green, floral, citrus fruit.

Funk said he is constantly looking for new fruits that are closer to Madison, so he contacted David Stevens, the curator of Longenecker, to see if he could use the Osage oranges to make a test batch of beer.

Osage oranges originally spread throughout the Midwest as a hedgerow plant. Stevens said to his knowledge, the fruit had never been used for anything.

According to a release, the Arboretum is devoted to maintaining natural life cycles and letting the fruit fall where it may. However, the Longenecker gardens are curated, more ornamental and less wild.

"We’re a little different here, but we still don’t want to encourage people to pick up and harvest things,” Stevens said.

Stevens said he liked the idea and gave some of the Osage oranges to Funk Factory, since the choice aligned with the organization's goal of advancing knowledge of natural resources.

Funk Factory created two different beers out of the collaboration: one using the Osage oranges and another using American persimmons.

According to a release, Funk Factory works with local farmers to source a variety of fruits from Wisconsin. Since the Arboretum is on the other side of South Park Street from the brewery, Funk said working with the Arboretum was a natural fit.

“There’s a sense of location about a lot of our beers already," Funk said.

In the future, Funk said he's hoping to partner with Stevens and the Arboretum to brew larger batches and consider other fruits. 

The first two beers will be available at the Funk Factory taproom for a tasting event on May 6. Part of all proceeds goes to supporting the Arboretum.


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