In the rising tide of craft breweries, MobCraft, of Madison, Wis., is responsible for a number of firsts and onlys. The group probably made the first beer using durian. Employing some legal finesse, the brewery was one of the first to ship bombers directly to consumers. And they are the first in the world to use crowd sourcing to determine what to produce.
The MobCraft business model is novel but straightforward. Anyone can submit an idea for a beer. Suggestions have ranged from more traditional recipes to beers with wacky ingredients or favorite foods; the list of past beers ranges from a tame wheat IPA, to a Pilsner-style lager made with durian and cashews. For about three weeks, the public can vote for a favorite recipe by pre-ordering that beer. The recipe with the most votes is put into production, and from there, the beer can be shipped (to most states) or picked up at the brewery. People who chose a losing beer can transfer their order to the winner. Any remaining beer goes to liquor stores in Wisconsin.
The owners and founders, Giotto Troia, Andrew Gierczak, and Henry Schwartz, feel that crowd sourcing adds to the community aspect of brewing. The consumer buy-in creates a genuine sense of ownership for drinkers. In addition to producing customer-generated recipes, MobCraft has collaborated with several Wisconsin breweries and even liquor stores to create custom batches.
Their first release, in September 2013, was a chocolate banana stout that was selected by fans. The recent Batch 100, which celebrates the milestone number of individual beers sent to market, is a Belgian golden strong ale with Door County cherries.
Batch 100 strongly displays the aromas expected of Belgian yeast, not unlike the way a saison does. A mix of black pepper, citrus, and other phenols hits the nose immediately, but it takes just a sip to notice that the strength and body take it far beyond the saison category. The cherries do not dominate, but they add a roundness to the palate, which would otherwise be darker stone fruit and spice. Notes of tamarind jam, honey, clove, and cardamom linger, and the heaviness of the high alcohol and low carbonation make this a nice after-dinner beer for a rainy spring or summer night.
Forty cases and 10 kegs were released, while the rest of the batch was sent to hibernate in barrels. Look for barrel-aged variations of this beer for many months to come.
MobCraft’s beers are not available in Minnesota, and can’t be shipped here, but they are widely available in Wisconsin, with the closest retailer to the Twin Cities being Chicone’s Liquors Mart, 2312 Crest View Drive, Hudson.