One Barrel Brewing Co. is a relatively recent addition to the Wisconsin craft beer scene, with its Madison brewery opening in 2012. One Barrel also has the distinction of being one of the smallest breweries in the state of Wisconsin–it literally has only a single barrel brewing system and 11 fermentation tanks.. It was technically classified as a nanobrewery when it opened due to its output, which as founder Peter Gentry described to the Wisconsin State Journal, was around 200 barrels per year. However, One Barrel recently signed a deal with Wisconsin Distributers in 2015 that allowed six-packs to hit the shelves, and while it has not yet broken ground on a larger production facility, contracted with Octopi Brewing in Waunakee, Wisconsin, for 1,500 barrels in 2015. One Barrel also ramped up the production of its specialty beers using fermentation tanks at House of Brews.
One Barrel is located in Madison’s eastside Schenk-Atwood neighborhood, a trendy, hipster locale that has seen a recent surge in new bars, restaurants, and apartment buildings. One Barrel fits perfectly, and has quickly made a name for itself. A number of my friends who work on the eastside have told me the attached bar makes a great place for drinks after work, and I was excited to get to sample Penguin Pale Ale for this post. One Barrel’s dedicated following has been one of the main catalysts for its recent production increase.
Despite only being open since 2012, One Barrel has deep roots in the Madison area. Gentry grew up just blocks from the location of the brewery, and the 20-stool bar on the premises was built by his father and a good family friend. Before opening the brewery, Gentry had already achieved success as a home brewer, taking home an Honorable Mention at the 2010 U.S. Beer Tasting Championships.
Penguin Pale Ale is one of One Barrel’s year round brews, and despite the fact that I’m not a huge fan of pale ales, I really enjoyed this one. The beer has a pleasant, hoppy aroma and a beautiful reddish-gold body, almost copper in color, that is complimented by a light head. The taste is great–this is one of the best pale ales I’ve had. In contrast to many pale ales, the bitterness of the hops does not overpower the palate and cause the sip to be soured with a bitter aftertaste. Penguin Pale Ale combines the hops with the addition of 20% American Wheat Malt, which blunts some of the hoppiness, resulting in a beer that has all the crispness of a pale ale without an overwhelmingly bitter mouthfeel and aftertaste. The smooth finish keeps you coming back for more. I also detected a hint of citrus in the beer, which compliments the hops well.
If you find yourself in the great city of Madison, make sure to check out the east side, and when you’re there, make a point of stopping in for a glass of Penguin Pale Ale at One Barrel Brewing Co. In addition to supporting a local brewery with deep Madison roots, you’ll have the opportunity to drink a great beer. Sounds like a win-win!
Aroma – 8/10
Appearance – 10/10
Taste – 8/10
Palate – 8/10
Overall – 34/40
Beer Stats – 5.7% ABV, 40 IBU
Photo: Wisconsin State Journal