Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” is a poem known for its utter nonsense. But in the counterintuitive logic of Wonderland, it further illustrates a world full of adventure appropriately laced with confusion. When taking something as all-encompassing as poetry and applying it to Carroll’s world, it almost seems Wonderland would be incomplete without it. And, in the end, the poem is understood as a poem.
Every brewery is the same, until it’s not. Time, place, and prevailing ideas shape what can exist in a space. And where the less creative see limitation, the receptive see potential. Many cities have taken to embracing the onslaught of craft brewers. When done well, each brewery brings something distinct to the area in both beer selection and culture. A great brewery imparts their vision onto the existing landscape, demanding more of its patrons and the community.
Take, for instance, Willy Street in Madison. The atmosphere is distinct from other parts of the city. Many who have yet to visit often assume it’s the bastion of something too extreme. There’s a lot of passion on Willy Street, no doubt, but whether as outrage or compassion, the manifestations of that spirit derive from an ingrained sense of community.
Working Draft Beer Company, with a hand resting on the heart of Willy Street, finds a way to reflect value and project direction, insisting groundwork be laid for thoughtful interaction. From a group arguing to impugn reality to an artist creating what will become their magnum opus, the fluidity that comes with a working draft actively shapes ideas to cohesive fruition.
Ryan Browne, a poet and co-owner of Working Draft Beer Company, says, “The idea of embracing process, whether it’s the brewing process, what’s happening back there [referring to the brewery], how that connects to what’s coming out of the tap to your glass, making the travel, or that journey, or that process transparent, we’re embracing it.” This isn’t something unique to Willy Street, but the application is. It has to be. Creating a place that patrons want to spend time in and tailoring the environment to the landscape places the burden of manufactured desire on the business, the brewery, the artist.
Thinking about constructing worlds within worlds isn’t something that comes naturally. I once heard the work of Bob Dylan described as “genius because everyone that’s exposed to it believes they could’ve done it just as well.” Powerful, often complex vision delivered in a way anyone can unpackage. Succinct moments conglomerating into a present, perpetual by nature, where an individual’s inertia carries through. Breweries that inject this spirit into everything, from the beer to the taproom, partake in the social experiment of civilization in a meaningful way.
The starting point is not coercing more from others. It’s expending the otherworldly amount of energy required to assert yourself as a prescient force. What better way to know what’s to come than to exhibit the future you strive to create? In this vein, Working Draft exalts the arts. “Our mural here,” Ryan talks of a 200-square-foot piece showcasing what links all beer and known life together—water, “is by Jenie Gao, who’s a local muralist. … That was really thrilling. We get to work on something for so long and hand it over to someone, to an artist, and say ‘we trust you to shepherd this to a completed product.’” Results, by themselves, don’t change the world, and where some see every path as a means to an end, the more practiced see an interwoven reality, everchanging and never ending. Every patron who enters sees the mural, and once that happens, they change. The image can’t be unseen, and the individual can’t remove what they felt in that moment. As for the artist, Ryan and the team at Working Draft have conveyed value. “Carving out space in our budget to pay her to do it—to help an artist to live.”
In a very tangible way, injecting beer into the arts delivers experience. Working Draft Beer Company is a brewery and art gallery showcasing rotating exhibits by local artists. If they haven’t yet, an artist residency program is soon to be implemented. I think of a painter I know who has been working hard on capturing the movers and shakers in Milwaukee in a meaningful way, highlighting not only who they are, but the waves they’ve tsunamied onto the shores of society, eroding the temporal to find truth and build upon it a collective of their visions. Creating the right beer to drink while taking in all this artist’s current body of work has to offer is a concerted way to create mood: the tour guide who doesn’t care where you end up as long as you’re going in the right direction.
Sometimes when a beer drinker walks into a brewery, they react to the space, to something beyond the beer. Why this look? Why this music? Why no televisions? Why here? Why now? The poet’s spirit shines through in Ryan’s words. “You gotta know the rules before you break ‘em. You just gotta know, and then when you break a rule, you gotta know why you’re breaking it, and, even if it’s just for yourself, you gotta be able to justify it. Clint [the brewmaster] holds true to that in the brewhouse. And we try to do that when constructing this space too. You know, when we’re breaking the rules—why? What’s the strategy behind it? What’s the audience impact?”
When a brewery recognizes what it is in the zeitgeist and knows what rules it’s breaking, it delivers beers created around that understanding to become a hub of creativity in all scopes of reality. Each patron unwittingly grabs a rope upon entering the establishment and pulls it until it’s tight as a spoke. Callooh! Callay! Our love for beer is shaping reality. Let’s be conscientious seeking out those that have taken the time to structure their influence.
May tonight’s truth be tomorrow’s impetus.
Kyle Jacobson is a copy editor for Madison Essentials, and a writer and beer enthusiast (sometimes all at once) living in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin.
BROUGHT TO YOU BY THE EXPERTS AT WINE AND HOP SHOP, CHECK OUT:
WORKING DRAFT BEER COMPANY
for rotating taps and beers being forever tweaked as working drafts.
A few shout-outs to breweries Ryan sees as integral to shaping Wisconsin’s beerscape.
ALT BREW (Gluten-free Beer)
HOP HAUS BREWING COMPANY
ONE BARREL BREWING COMPANY
WISCONSIN BREWING COMPANY