Welcome back to Tailgating Szn! Now that the bye week is over and we’ve given our livers a rest and our families some face-time it’s time to forget about all of that and get ready for some more football! This weekend’s matchup against Nebraska is kicking off at 6:30 p.m. CT, which gives us plenty of time to grab a few cold ones and crack ‘em open with the boys.
One of Madison’s finest breweries, Karben4, just started canning their beer at the end of August and would be a perfect addition to any cooler on Saturday. I’ll be at the game this weekend and I’m very excited to drink beer outside in the shadow of Camp Randall and then laugh at Nebraska for four quarters.
IT’S GOING TO BE A GREAT DAY!
Name: Karben4 Brewing
Location: 3698 Kinsman Blvd., Madison, WI 53704
Key Beers: Fantasy Factory IPA; Dragon Flute APA; Block Party Amber Ale; Night Call Smoked Porter
Awards Won: They’ve won an award for the Fantasy Factory label, which, well...duh. That thing is freakin’ beautiful.
Here is my interview, conducted via email and lightly edited, with brewmaster and co-owner Ryan Koga.
What got you started in the brewing industry?
I tripped and fell into it, really. I started working at a local craft brewery (Yellowstone Valley Brewing Co in Billings, Montana) during grad school for rent money. It was part-time on the bottling line. Over the next 1.5-2 years I worked my way up to Head Brewer/Production Manager.
What did you go to school for?
I was pre-med in undergrad. B.S. Human Biology, minors in Chemistry and Psychology. I also have a M.S. in Athletic Training (sport medicine).
When did you change your career path to brewing?
I was working at YVBC when I finished grad school. I actively applied for positions in the medical field to no avail. At one point I applied for Physician Assistant school. Even though I was at YVBC for over six years, I would probably say I didn’t whole-heartedly change my career path to brewing until I set out to open my own brewery, Karben4.
What is your favorite beer that your brewery makes?
That’s a tough one as they are all my children ... my favorite one this last year was America AF- our Watermelon Berliner Kolsch.
What is your favorite beer that another brewery in Wisconsin makes?
New Glarus Raspberry Tart
Do you follow college football?
Off and on. With my young children and a small business I don’t have a lot of free time or brain capacity, so I usually just stick to the Packers. However, now that I live in Madison it is hard to not participate in discussions about Bucky. I will always back the Badgers!
If so, how do you think the Nebraska vs. Wisconsin game will turn out?
Is your beer distributed in Madison?
Yes, and across the entire footprint of Wisconsin.
Do you offer tours of the brewery?
Yes—free on Saturday afternoons.
Which of your beers should Badgers fans drink before/after the game while tailgating?
It might depend on the time of year ... but Fantasy Factory IPA (Author’s note: now available in cans!) seems to make everything better.
What do you listen to while brewing?
Usually audiobooks and podcasts. I learn a lot that way, and when you are doing repetitive or labor-intensive tasks it’s nice to be watching a mental movie. The few times it’s music, it usually starts with Led Zeppelin and goes from there. If I’m really tired and need a pick-me-up, then it’s usually heavy metal.
Why is beer important to you?
I believe that the only important function beer can perform is to be a catalyst for gathering to share time with loved ones. It is meant to enhance life. It comforts during sorrow and celebrates when the sun shines. Life is far too precious to take even a day for granted, and in some small way great beer is the physical embodiment of that mantra. As a profession, brewing is important to me because it is the crossroads of art and science. I love working with my hands and solving dynamic and challenging problems. I also love the people I am fortunate enough to work alongside- true and dedicated craftspeople.