By Clay Riness —
Craft brew is all the rage these days, and for good reason. What’s more delicious than a meticulously brewed specialty beer? The region is blessed to be the home of a number of outstanding microbreweries and brew pubs. And now, there’s another to add to your bucket list.
608 Brewing Company is the triumph of partners Phil and Lorie Humphrey and Ryan and Danielle Beach. At the heart of it is Phil Humphrey’s love of home brewing. “I’ve been home brewing for seven or eight years. I like beer and I like making beer. When you brew at home, your neighbors always tell you your beer is good because they want free beer,” he says, chuckling. “Luckily, I ended up getting pretty good at home brewing … I won some awards, which gives you some confidence.”
Humphrey served in the Army National Guard in the same transportation logistics unit as Danielle Beach. Over the years they became great friends but drifted apart after they were out of the service. However, as luck would have it, Humphrey and the Beaches began running into each other a few years later at breweries and brewing events.
“I hadn’t even realized they were into craft beer,” he says. “Then last summer I started seriously thinking about doing a craft brewery. I started writing a business plan, because you have to find a way to raise startup capital. It takes money. I wanted investors who would be involved in the business. I was trying to think of people who had interest in beer and had time availability and investment capital.” Humphrey asked his friends the Beaches if they had any interest … and the answer was a resounding YES.
They began searching properties for lease and ultimately settled at 83 Copeland Avenue in La Crosse, a location they view as excellent. Securing an SBA loan to purchase equipment, they went to work, eventually opening their doors to the public in August of this year. While Humphrey is on hand daily, the Beaches, who reside and have careers in Oshkosh, come to La Crosse on weekends to work in the brewery. “They both help out in the tap room and Ryan also helps on the brewing side,” says Humphrey.
Beer, wine and food tourism is as popular as ever, and the folks at 608 are delighted to be a part of it. “I don’t really view other brewers as competition,” admits Humphrey. “The more we have, the better for tourism, which makes this more of a destination. People like to buy local and they’re willing to pay a little more if it’s a great product and it benefits the local business owner.”
608 offers a variety of beers, and its menu is ever changing. Among the offerings are First Born (golden ale), What’s Up Dawg? (porter), Tropic Thunder (New England IPA), Hip Hop Party (American IPA), and many more.
“At the moment we have a lot of hoppy beers,” Humphrey explains. “One of the not-very-hop-forward beers is First Born, the first beer we ever brewed. It’s got a little fruitiness and has been popular with the folks who are looking for our lightest beer. Another is one we call Pounder, which has kind of a PBR malt backbone to it.”
He continues with some thoughts on pale ales: “We have a lot of New England style IPAs right now, and I kind of wish that they weren’t called IPA, because that really isn’t an IPA by tradition. Traditional IPAs are bitter with a big hops punch. The New Englands are a complete opposite; they’re cloudy, hazy, have a lower carbonation level. It’s more like drinking juice with a kick. I have three or four of those on tap right now and they’re all far outselling the IPA I did that is more toward traditional. The younger crowd loves the New Englands, and a lot of people that say they don’t really care for IPAs (and we get that a lot) try these and say, ‘Yeah, I’ll drink that.’”
Most of Humphrey’s brews are 5% ABV (alcohol by volume) or more, whereas something like Bud Light can be as low as 3.2 depending on where you buy it. “One thing I’ll give to the big manufacturers, they make the beer taste exactly the same every time,” he says. “From a brewing science side that’s quite amazing. If I brew the same beer twice in a row and try to control as many variables as possible, there’s still going to be a slight difference.”
Prices vary because some brews cost more to make than others. A 5-ounce tasting of one beer costs $2-3. A 12-ounce glass runs $4-6. A 16-ounce glass, only available for beers with lower ABV, runs $5-6.
The Humphreys and the Beaches are hoping for a bright future. “In the brewing world, if you’re not already planning for your next expansion, I think you’re already failing,” Phil Humphrey opines. “We love this location, but we know this building is not big enough for the long term. In Wisconsin, you can only have one tasting room, but you can have two breweries. You can have a production facility and also a testing/pilot brewery, but that’s a future conversation for my partners and me.”
If you enjoy pub crawls and brew tastings, check that bucket list of yours. 608 Brewing Company should be on it.
For more information on 608 Brewing Company, visit www.608brewingcompany.com, call (608) 519-9686, or stop in at
83 Copeland Avenue in La Crosse during business hours.