Start with water. Add your grain of choice. Then hops and yeast. It’s a five-thousand-year-old recipe that still holds its fizz. But it doesn’t begin to describe the chemical magic that is beer.
“Yes, those are the basic ingredients,” said Eric Rykal, Head Brewer at The Brewing Projekt on Oxford Avenue in Eau Claire. “We do some beers with just those four ingredients and some with other more experimental ingredients. We make experimental beers because that’s what we like.”
The Brewing Projekt is the newest of the Chippewa Valley’s brewpubs. It opened to the public in April of 2015.
Rykal, who is well-studied in science, claims that there’s nothing wrong with the tried and true of stouts and lagers, but in this magical new age of microbreweries, experimentation is the key to notoriety.
“I think standing out from the crowd is the hardest part of being a brewery right now. With so many beers on the shelf, we have to distance ourselves from the competition. I think our focus on new, strange ingredients and flavor profiles along with the general quality of our product helps to forge our identity for us”
Another young microbrewery, Lazy Monk, has just opened at its new location on Madison Street. The Firehouse in downtown Eau Claire is renowned for its wide variety of beer selections.
“I’d say Eau Claire is right on track with the rest of the region in terms of breweries per capita and quality of beers,” said Rykal. “Obviously places like Minneapolis are experiencing a much bigger boom, but we are seeing some really quality beers coming out of western Wisconsin.”
The Brewing Projekt, like its competitors, serves its product fresh on location. Modern ethics of sustainability help flavor the choices.
“We try to source our ingredients as locally as possible. With some things, like malt and hops, that’s not entirely possible to do.”
And the imaginative ingredients in Rykal’s brews strive to attract diverse palettes – because a viable microbrewery, though respectful of beer’s purest traditions, does not cater to “beer snobbery.”
“Gosh, I sure hope not. We brew beers with raspberries, cherries, chamomile flowers, blueberries, citrus zest, and many more. We love fruity beers”