Working Draft Beer Co. opens on near east side
Come for the beer, stay for the poetry
On paper, Ryan Browne, founder and co-owner of the newly opened Working Draft Beer Co., could be any other craft brewery owner. Browne is a 30-something male, originally from Colorado, who made his first batch of home brew — a clone of New Belgium’s ubiquitous Fat Tire — during his first year of grad school in 2006. But when Browne starts comparing beer to minimalist poetry and discussing the need for businesses to support the arts, you realize Working Draft is more than your typical brewery.
Located at 1129 E. Wilson St. across from McPike Park (formerly Central Park), Working Draft opened in early March. All four owners, Browne, Ben Feifarek, brewmaster Clint Lohman and J Bowen, met through the Wine and Hop Shop, a home brewing supply shop on Monroe Street.
Browne, who got a job at the Wine and Hop Shop when he first moved to Madison in 2011 and also worked as the coordinator of the writing center at Madison College (he received an MFA in creative writing from the University of Alabama), says it was only a matter of time before he started his own business. “Every home brewer dreams of opening a brewery,” he says.
With partners on board and a great location on the near east side of Madison close to the Capital City State Trail, Browne started looking for a head brewer. He turned to Lohman, his former coworker at the Wine and Hop Shop, who had since taken brewing jobs at Vintage Brewing Co. and Wisconsin Brewing Co. With their shared love of the brewing process, Working Draft began to take shape.
The focal point of the bright, airy taproom is the visible brewing area, which Browne says was intentional. “When people walk in, we want them to know they are in a brewery, not just a taproom,” Browne says. “The days you come in here and beer is being brewed, it’s steamy and smells like a batch of beer.”
Beer brewed in-house pours from most of the 16 tap lines, but there is also a gluten-free beer from Alt Brew and a carbonated, non-alcoholic tea soda from nearby Macha Tea Co. An occasional home brew will also take over a tap line, too.
While there is a focus on India pale ales, like the hazy, best-selling Pulp Culture, there are many options to choose from. Browne and Lohman are both especially proud of the Zwickle Vision, an unfiltered pilsner. Browne explains that in the brewing industry, people will often go into a brewery and order the lightest lager possible because it will tell you a lot about the brewery and the skill level of the brewers. “There’s nothing to hide behind,” Browne says. “It’s just like a minimalist poem.” He compares it to a “The Red Wheelbarrow,” a famous poem by William Carlos Williams. “This is an amazing poem! He has nothing to hide behind because it’s only 16 words or 17 words,” Browne says. “That’s a pilsner, and when you hit it and hit it right, that’s awesome.”
As spring turns into summer, full-bodied oatmeal stouts will make way for lighter beers at Working Draft, like a wild rice witbier brewed with locally sourced chamomile and coriander. The brewery currently offers food Tuesdays through Saturdays. Menu items, the bulk of which are sourced from Dan Fox of Heritage Tavern, include ham sandwiches, cheese boards and tacos on Tuesdays. Chocolate from neighbor chocolatier WM Chocolate is also available.
Stay tuned for more space to hang out here (Browne is in talks with the neighborhood about plans for an outdoor patio) as well as more events like the poetry reading on April 30 in honor of National Poetry Month.
“One of the big pieces of our identity with the brewery is that beer is an awesome catalyst for bringing people together,” Browne says. “That’s really why we opened the brewery and designed it the way we did as a hub for people to gather. Beer is fantastic. We love beer. But really, it’s an opportunity for people to gather together.”
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