How are we already on Week 3 of the college football season? Time needs to slow down imo. However, we are now also on our third Wisconsin brewery profile, which is a good thing. This week, we are talking with Rockhound Brewing Company’s owner about how he got his start in the brewing business.
If you are looking for some good chow and great beer, you should make sure to stop by Rockhound before the game on Saturday and then happily march yourself down to Camp Randall full and buzzed.
Check out everything you need to know about one of Madison’s coolest breweries below!
Name: Rockhound Brewing Company
Location: 444 South Park Street, Madison, Wisconsin, 53715
Key Beers: Balanced Rock Rye IPA; Plowshare Farmhouse Ale; Mosquito Bite IPA; Boghopper Cranberry Saison (just tapped!)
Awards Won: Jess and JOE GAGE, two good friends of mine, say it is their favorite brewery in town and they drink a lot of beer.
Brewery Tour: By appointment only.
Here is my interview, conducted via email and lightly edited, with brewmaster and owner Nate Warnke.
What got you started in the brewing industry?
My wife and I homebrewed a few batches of beer in 2004. It didn’t take long for it to became a fun and creative hobby for me, and my wife took the role of taste tester. I kept buying more and more brewing equipment for my hobby and started taking the result to parties where I got lots of feedback and encouragement. I’ve always had a desire to start a business and opening a brewpub was a natural fit for my interests. After some very careful calculations and the go ahead from my wife, Tracy, I left my corporate job in 2014 and was able to open Rockhound in April of 2016.
What did you go to school for?
I have a bachelor’s degree in geology from UW-Madison and an MBA from UW-Whitewater. My scientific background comes in handy when it comes to brewing as chemistry and biology are huge parts of the brewing process.
When did you change your career path to brewing?
July 1, 2014. Sure, there was lots of homebrewing and planning before that date, but that was my last day at my corporate job. I walked out the door on good terms with my former employer, my head held high and no regrets.
What is your favorite beer that your brewery makes?
My all around favorite is Balanced Rock, our rye IPA.
It’s been my go-to since my homebrew days. But I also really enjoy the seasonal changes. Plowshare, our farmhouse ale in summer. Shot Rock, our Scotch ale in winter.
What is your favorite beer that another brewery in Wisconsin makes?
That’s hard to say as I have a go-to at each brewery. But overall, I’m always intrigued by the beers made by Vintage Brewing Company in Madison because of the great breadth of styles they produce. Always some good inspiration from those folks.
Do you follow the Wisconsin Badgers?
Of course! I’ve lived in Madison my whole life, and went to the UW.
If so, how do you think they’ll do this week against BYU?
The Badgers should have a solid win against BYU, however if the Badgers get complacent, it could be closer than the numbers predict.
Is your beer distributed in Madison?
Just a little, so far. I get a few kegs into bars and restaurants once in a while, but Rockhound doesn’t bottle or can. Of course the best place to get it is at the brewpub where we have up to 16 on tap.
Which beer should Badgers fans drink before/during the game?
If the weather is nice, as it’s predicted to be, Plowshare farmhouse ale, or for the hoppier beer crowd, Mosquito Bite - our American IPA. The latter is our best seller and we just put on a fresh batch of a slightly updated recipe with more aroma and flavor hops. We will happily fill a growler for folks. And a Crowler machine is in the works for the future.
What do you listen to while brewing?
It changes all the time. Everything from one hit wonders of the past to recently released pop music. But I can say that I definitely have a thing for 70s rock music. Led Zeppelin, The Who, Pink Floyd, Queen, the early Aerosmith stuff, etc.
Why is beer important to you?
Beer has become a huge part of American social culture. It has the possibility of helping people come together and have a real experience through real life discussion. It helps neighbor to get to know neighbor. Whether it’s at my brewpub, or in their own back yards, when someone joins a friend the first thing a lot of people say is, “Can I get you beer?”