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Through The Drinking Glass – One Barrel Brewing Company

1BBC “Storefront” (Photo Credit: FBM)

There are over 2,000 craft breweries and craft brew pubs in the United States according to the latest numbers from the Brewers Association. Each year that number grows by leaps and bounds as new brewers and breweries share their wealth of knowledge and delicious innovations with the public. We're starting this new series, “Through the Drinking Glass”, to profile brewers and breweries across the country. On our many FBM road trips we're always hunting down new places to enjoy a great beer and, if they'll give us the time, talk up the owners and brew masters that are leading the craft beer revolution in America.


One Barrel Brewing Company (Madison, Wisconsin)  opened in June of 2012. Owner and head brewer Peter Gentry was an awarding winning home brewer before he decided to open the area's first nano-brewery. Gentry is also  an avid fan of soccer… which is nice.

1BBC owner and brewmaster Peter Gentry (Photo Credit: CRAIG SCHREINER, Wisconsin State Journal)

Free Beer Movement: When did you get the itch to start brewing?

Peter Gentry: Maybe eight years ago I bought a home brew kit for Father's Day, something to do with my dad. We brewed there for a year doing abstract brew then when I went to all-grain I moved it to my house and have been brewing ever since. There have been years when I've brewed a hundred batches and there have been years that I've brewed ten batches. But I won a few awards along the way and I kind of felt like this (opening a brewery) was something I could do so I researched it a lot and decided that this was the niche I was going for; the nano-brewery idea. I think that it's up-and-coming and that's why I'm here now.

FBM: Where did the name of the brewery come from?

PG: It morphed. We were originally going to call it Monona Brewing Company, but people got confused because there's a city here (named after the lake that's near Madison) that's called Monona and we're, obviously, not located in that city. I got together with the brain trust and everyone agreed to change it. So the Monona Brewing logo is actually in the shape of the barrel you see now and it morphed because it fit and I was brewing one barrel at a time.

FBM: What's the philosophy and thinking behind brewing one barrel at a time?

PG: Money is the main thing. (laughs) First it was ten )barrels), then it was seven, then it was three. Then I decided this (one barrel) was the model I wanted to follow. Part of that is because I want to showcase how easy brewing can be; how small scale it can be.  That's why I have my brewery set up the way it is; so you can see. Any “Joe Shmoe” can come in and see it's just three big ass kettles. With trial and error you can figure it out. The idea is to make it (brewing) approachable. Small batches. Experimental batches. So people can come in and have varieties and see the simplicity in which that variety can be made.

FBM: What's the importance of making craft beer? And having people consume craft beer?

PG: They say that 'variety is the spice of life and people are finding that out more and more. Our society is tied down with the need to make more money and drive bigger cars. We're trying to push away from that. To have some variety, to have these experiential expenditures. People are willing to try different chocolates, different friends, different beers things like that. That's why I think this whole thing has boomed here.

We're trying to expose people to the simplicity of making and the simplicity of drinking it.

 Brew kettles for all the world to see. (Photo Credit: FBM)

FBM: What are the future plans for 1BBC?

PG: For styles of beer anything and everything. We're thinking about doing any number of things. People are throwing ideas at us. We're thinking about trying to do a gluten-free beer, stein beers where we throw hot rocks in there, chai tea beers. We've got a hibiscus beer on tap right now; we'd like to do something like that. 

In terms of future plans I always intended to open a second one of these depending how the model works out. It seems to be working pretty well. Taking my knowledge from opening this one and opening a west side one. 

FBM: Tell us your soccer story.

PG: I've played soccer since I was about five. I was pretty good in high school and invited to walk on at Wisconsin, but that cut me after a day so I wasn't that good apparently. I've been playing the men's league in town for years. I sorted retired and started this so I really haven't played in a year or so.

But we do want to kind of make this a soccer place. We watched the Euro Finals here before it was even open. All my friends play soccer. We've got a lot of 56ers players (the local NPSL team) that come in here. That's something we're really going to push.

I wasn't going to get a TV in here except for the (Green Bay) Packer and soccer games!

FBM: Soccer and beer. What is the magic of putting those two thing together?

PG: We'll you get a little bit drunker. (laughs). You're able to cheer a little bit louder. I've been to three World Cups now and it's just a part of it. You go to Berlin, Germany and order a beer and you get to experience their culture. I've had Estrella beer and that holds a special place in my heart because when we were in France for the World Cup we went down to Barcelona and drank many, many of those. 

It brings people together. It's a community. You bring a lot of people into one place for a shared goal.

It brings different cultures together. You don't even have to speak the same language if you get drunk enough. 

House brews from 1BBC. (Photo Credit: FBM)

Check out One Barrel Brewing Company in Madison, Wisconsin and tell 'em the Free Beer Movement sent ya.

Tags: Beer, brewery, Through The Drinking Glass

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