Read the Sign - A weekend in Door County

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Lush vibes this way

-> You would be bat-shit crazy to believe a sign that says that with 4 inches of snow on it. Fast-forward three months from now and I may follow its wisdom. It’s February here in Door County, WI. Stores are closed, it’s the “off” season, the businesses still open have limited hours and are for the residents who call this home all year long. This is a good thing… want a cup of coffee? Well, stop by Isely Coffee Roasters and truly appreciate your pour-over while it warms your hands. If you’re getting hungry, go get the fried perch at Sister Bay Bowl while you listen to the 1986 Academy Award winner for Best Original Song, Take My Breath Away. The combination of bowling alley, crispy perch, and 1980’s synthesizers is something. If you don’t walk away with maybe the most profound experience with a fish fry you’ve ever had, well then I will feel sorry for you. When closed is open and lines begin to form for burgers and ice cream by the lake you will find me right here, beer in my hand rocking out to Berlin.

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However, as much as this may sound like the end of the story it’s in fact the beginning. I arrived at Door County Brewing Co.’s taproom to find my friend and Good Beer Hunting Contributor Matthew Sampson spraying down the mash/lauter tun. This space is where Hacienda Beer Co. calls home. Danny and Ben McMahon, the brothers behind Door County Brewing Co., opened this experimental side of the brewery in February 2018. Since then, they have moved spaces and added a 15BBL system. Since the beginning, Matt has worked as the brand and lab manager. With a PhD in Chemistry and a love for beer, he feels right at home. 

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After meeting the rest of the team including operations manager Allyce Mohs and Hacienda Head Brewer Kyle Gregorash, Matt and I headed over to the barrel room for their wild projects.

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Just around the bend from the new brewery, in the original brewing space, rests rows of barrels and three new foeders. The space with its low ceilings, wood structural supports, and small openings towards the back make moving around a pallet of anything a tight fit. Filled bottles lay patiently on their sides. With a drill in hand, a box of nails, and a hydrometer test jar, Matt went to work. As we sampled through barrel after barrel of the same beer, minor differences began to show themselves. Fruit pie, mouth Ping-Pong, and cherries were among some of the words used to describe these different samples. Taking gravity and notes on them, we went down the line. In this little space, Matt and the Hacienda team have had some great results.

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The next morning, I was greeted by Matt and Brooke’s Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, Fern. (Fern is a good girl)

After some coffee and a bite to eat, Matt and I take a drive around Peninsula State Park, stopping to enjoy the frozen view of Green Bay. It’s quiet; the only sounds we hear are our footsteps through the snow and the car running behind us. Heading directly south, we stop at Cave Point County Park.

It’s hard to separate the land from the water this time of year; one engulfs the other from strong winds and waves, draping the coastline with a scene more similar to the Artic Circle. Like the ice itself and the bone numbing winter air, I was frozen. Walking through the trees and out onto the ice, I see Matt one step ahead of me.

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It’s brilliant and it’s “off” season, I walk to join him atop this icy mass. Looking around it is staggering, the calmness of the water and ice. The two of us, cameras in hand, take it all in. It’s so cold out, the motors in my lens struggle to focus. We are a dozen miles south of the brewery and I think I found the “Lush Vibes.”

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A special thank you to the Hacienda Beer Co. team, Matt, Brooke, and Fern.