So you think your taste in beer is pretty eclectic do you? Here’s an option that’s for true craft beer aficionados only.
Have you ever tried a craft brew made with Ghost Chili peppers? How about one using palm dates, vanilla beans and that’s been aged in brandy barrels? What do you think might be in a porter called “Candy for Breakfast?”
These are some of the beers being made at a new, innovative Wisconsin brewery, which is the first of it’s kind in the entire world.
And perhaps the most interesting thing about it…you help the brewers decide what to make next.
Madison-based MobCraft Beer is the first-ever, crowd-sourced brewery. It’s also the first crowd-sourced company in Wisconsin.
Crowd-sourcing is a unique business model that’s basically been made popular thanks to the rise of the internet. It takes advantage of actual users (ie customers, fans, the audience) in designing products, creating content, generating ideas and in some cases doing the actual work.
Wikipedia is one example of crowd-sourcing. Independent, unpaid editors update and curate Wikipedia articles. Of course, the Wikipedia Foundation is a non-profit.
Another good example of crowd-sourcing that’s a bit closer to what MobCraft does is Threadless.
This online apparel store offers unique t-shirt designs created by a community of freelance artists, which are voted on by the Threadless.com audience. Then the company sells the most popular designs.
MobCraft Beer is doing something similar with people who are passionate about home brewing and unique craft beers.
Home brew hobbyists, or anyone with an interesting idea for a flavor or out-of-the-ordinary ingredients for beer, can submit recipes on Mobcraft Beer’s website.
Members then vote for their favorite recipe that month. The vote counts as a pre-order for that particular beer. Then MobCraft sends out four-packs of beer for people who are waiting to give it a try.
Get more specific details on the process in the video below.
Watch a Video on How MobCraft Beer Works
The MobCraft Beer Story
While all three are involved in the brewing process, you might call Andrew the lead brewer. His great grandfather and grandfather were both wine-makers. (See the video at the end of the post)
Henry acts as CEO and handles business operations like purchasing and logistics. Giotto takes care of many marketing aspects, industry networking and acts as the assistant brewer.
But the truth is, when it’s three guys running a fledgling brewery, whatever needs to get done is your job. It’s obvious this trio is busting their collective butts to make sure MobCraft lives up to its potential. They’re delivering their product to businesses all over the state, going to festivals and trade shows, managing the community of voters and sifting through submissions every month before shipping off around the country.
It’s also important to note that entrepreneurial ventures are nothing new to these guys.
Henry opened his own skateboard shop in Menominie, Wisconsin when he was just 15 years old.
Giotto started a marketing firm in college, and helped run a custom apparel business targeted at college students when he was still attending school.
And that’s where the story of MobCraft Beer begins…at UW Whitewater, where Henry Schwartz and Giotto Troia met. It is also where they met Tony Gierczak, co-founder Andrew’s twin brother.
Tony turned Henry and Giotto on to the art of home-brewing and introduced them to Andrew who was attending UW-Madison studying microbiology. Andrew would go on to be a technical brewer for Leinenkugel’s, and Giotto would spend time working at Capital Brewery in Madison.
All three co-founders have a passion for craft beer in addition to the drive that it takes to start something original.
However, the way Mobcraft Beer operates today wasn’t the original idea. The three friends knew they wanted to start a brewery, they knew they wanted to do something different, but at first that proved to be easier said than done.
In a YouTube video from a PechaKucha conference in Madison, Giotto Troia explains that they first looked at opening their own brewery in Baraboo with the possibility of using Al Ringling’s old home (of Ringling Bros. Circus fame).
Plan B was a concept to create a mobile brewery inside a Winnebago RV (or a Winnebrewgo as they would’ve called it). That idea would have included allowing the public to use equipment for brewing projects. But this plan proved to be too costly, and it was also illegal in Wisconsin at the time.
To cut back on startup costs, the MobCraft team chose to pursue contract brewing, so they only need to own a few pieces of equipment. Otherwise, MobCraft is sharing space and beer-making gear with House of Brews in Madison.
It might seem strange that two breweries you could consider competitors can work together, side-by-side. But Henry Schwartz told us that’s the norm in this growing, yet still young industry.
“Craft beer represents 8.2% of the beer produced, the rest are the domestic beers. So craft breweries are still banded together to increase awareness for craft beer,” he explains. “It’s increasing in competition but still very friendly and collaborative.”
Another example of this kind of unity is Stillmank Brewery, maker of popular local beer Wisco Disco. Before opening his own facility in east Green Bay this summer, Brad Stillmank was using space at Milwaukee Brewing Company.
- Find out about 15 Craft Beer Makers in NE Wisconsin
Since launching in the summer of 2013, MobCraft Beer has been spreading its creations around the state and the country while putting dozens of beer ideas up for votes.
It’s not uncommon for micro brews to have funky names and whimsical labels. MobCraft’s brews are no exception. They understand that the way they package these beers is an important part of the experience. Each recipe has a story, whether it’s based in fact or fabricated with fiction.
For instance, November’s winning beer is called Don Durio and includes the flavors of cashew nuts as well as the notoriously spiky and smelly Durian fruit. This is the beer’s back-story as told on MobCraft’s blog…
“Young Don Durio, now a famous 16th century Spanish explorer, is humiliated at the local harbor by another local ship captain for not having a grown man’s mustache.
Durio bets the rival ship captain that, if he’s able to return home with treasure from the far reaches of the world, he can shave off the rival captain’s mustache.
The bet is set. Durio sails for the island of Madagascar, gets shipwrecked, and in the process of looking for food, discovers the infamous fruit. Durio names the fruit after himself, ‘durian’ and in process of returning home with all of the stinky fruit, gets a “filthy mustache.”
But another beer has a more relatable story. Becky’s Peter got its name because the person who submitted the recipe wanted his wife to get some recognition. The hope being – she’d see the value of his home-brewing hobby.
The artwork for all of the Mobcraft beers is created by their own illustrator who will typically work with the person who submitted the winning recipe.
One example (pictured on the right) is Beelzebub’s Run, a chocolate-raspberry porter. The imagery features what appears to be a Harley-riding, horned-raspberry humanoid.
Since MobCraft gets its ideas from its fans, they’ve wisely chosen not to keep many secrets. Details of recipes are shared on their website so that home brewers can try things out for themselves if desired.
It’s not always fun and games for this startup. They’ve had to deal with different laws when determining how to distribute beer across state lines. They’ve also had to be wary of what can and cannot be used as ingredients in beer as per the FDA.
But when asked if they’re enjoying themselves, Henry Schwartz doesn’t mince words.
“Oh heck yeah! We’re making beer for a living! And even better – turning people’s ideas into beers! Every batch we’re bringing on a new partner in the process, which makes it really fun!”
Yet another first for MobCraft involves plans for the future. They are the first Wisconsin-based business to take advantage of new crowdfunding legislation in the state, which expands on federal crowdfunding laws. (Read more on the Journal Sentinel online)
MobCraft is using the fundraising platform CraftFund, another Wisconsin organization, which has the specific goal of helping craft breweries secure funding.
While MobCraft is expanding its reach, the brewery’s presence is still somewhat scarce in Green Bay and the Fox Cities. Currently, you may be able to find MobCraft Beer at Ridgeview Liquor in Ashwaubenon as well as at Cock & Bull Pub on Main Street in Green Bay.
If you’re a fan of craft beer, encourage your favorite bar, restaurant or store to consider ordering this stuff. But why wait? Cast your vote, place your pre-order and try the next batch yourself.
- Website: Visit MobCraft Beer online
- Social: Find MobCraft on Facebook and Twitter
- Video: Watch Henry Schwartz talk about MobCraft’s Story