Full house: MobCraft and House of Brews throw another pre-GTMW party

There's double the tents from last year. There'll be breaks between musical acts because y'gotta breathe some time. And the art gallery from last year's Mob the House pre-Great Taste party at House of Brews has been jettisoned because it's just too hard to wrangle two parties in one house.

You know, a house when with no fewer than three families living in it.

(Actually a very conservative characterization of the amount of contract and helping-hand brewing that House of Brews does, but that's another story.)

MobCraft may be pulling up stakes for its new Milwaukee digs soon (-ish), but the creative team behind the crowdsourced brewery hasn't packed up yet, and the night before the Great Taste of the Midwest is as good a night as any to party. I sat down to discuss this year's Mob the House with Henry Schwartz of MobCraft and Page Buchanan of House of Brews, and sampled most of the MobCraft beers that'll be on offer.

Though I didn't have them all, Schwartz himself was taken aback at the bounty he'd amassed. "I don't think I've ever put this many of our beers together at the same time, ever," said Henry, indirectly confirming to you, the potential Mob the House attendee, that there will be more MobCraft brews in one place at the event than anywhere ever before.

"Last year was a little bit loud with the beer and the music in the same tent," Schwartz said, so there will be four beer stations in their own tent: Alt Brew's gluten-free station, MobCraft, House of Brews, and the guest taps. Food carts (Slide, Porktropolis, and one more to be named later) will be on Helgesen Drive facing the brewery's parking lot, with long tables between the two areas. The band stage will be in the second tent on the far end of the lot. Proceeds from the guest taps and midway games (ring toss and the like) will go toward the Wisconsin Brewers Guild.

It's still a free party to attend, though, and pour tickets are only $3.50 each or seven for $20. The beer list from MobCraft alone should keep you busy enough:

  • Yard Beer, a new session lager; "A beer that tastes like beer," per Henry
  • Wheat Men Can't Jump, a recently-released wheat IPA with juniper berries
  • Hop Gose the Grapefruit, a hoppy gose with citrus peel (duh)
  • Cervezarita, an imperial mezcal barrel-aged Mexican lager with lime
  • Aloha Danke Schön, a cocoa-coffee-coconut witbier that frankly loses me a little
  • Whiskey Barrel-Aged Old Fashioned Berliner Weisse, getting a little minty as it ages
  • Arabian Date Night, a barleywine with dates, very fruit-forward but not exactly an exemplar of the style
  • Batshit Crazy, MobCraft's award-winning coffee cream brown ale
  • Trixie's Forbidden Grapefruit Double IPA, the second collaboration with Trixie's Liquors (The mint stout will come back this year, and may also be barrel-aged for a separate release.)
  • Most Mobbed, an supremely balanced imperial IPA that's also a re-run (with minor tweaks to the hop bill, "because," Schwartz said, "Miller Coors tried to sue us") of MobCraft's first ever bottled release
  • Sippin' on G+J, an aggressively hopped and juniper-berried pale ale that tiptoes delicately around TTB regulations against using liquor words in beer names
  • Fest Only Beer, a beer festival-only sour beer with a very appropriate name, since MobCraft only pours it at festivals
  • Sour Support, a raspberry-ginger sour ale
  • Noctis, MobCraft's long-awaited bourbon barrel-aged Russian imperial stout with a shitload of adjuncts

Six tapped samples, six packaged samples, and a hell of a lot of trademark MobCraft weirdness

Batshit is great at its best, Cervezarita is the limiest damn beer I've ever had (and when it gets warm enough, really transmits mezcal flavor better than I've previously given it credit for in its bottled iteration), and Yard Beer is going to quench a lot of summer thirsts. I tasted the Gin and Juice pre-juniper addition -- a couple of these beers, plus the MobCraft/House of Brews collaborative strawberry-rhubarb wheat are going to be cutting it awfully close to partytime when they finish -- but it's already as juicy as the Most Mobbed v2.0 but without the malty balance.

A note about Batshit Crazy. I say it's great at its best, because it wasn't quite at its best during this sampling. To Henry's chagrin, the can he opened was soured. He told me this isn't the first they've heard of accidentally soured Batshit, and that the canned release has been the first time the MobCraft brain trust has had to consider a recall. The souring, he said, has to do with a hangup on the pre-fill canning line, and an insufficient application of sanitizer, combined with some warm storage temps. It's nothing that'll harm you, but you'll definitely know it if you get a sour can; it's tart. I tried to stay positive, pointing out that A) Batshit has been intentionally soured for other releases anyway, and B) the accidental souring wasn't actually that unpleasant, but it was clear that this is a sore spot for Schwartz and the MobCrafters.

"When's Noctis gonna be ready?" asks one of the other patrons from an adjacent table as Henry offers up some of the opened bottles for free tastings.

The answer from Henry was "it's ready now," and the patron got his pre-order filled by the time he left the taproom. I gotta be the adjunct stout guy and say you really, really need to try Noctis, which hit distribution channels this last Monday. There's a potent nose of cinnamon, and the barrels come through with a familiar coconut note. Cranberry tarts things up, cutting through the dark, roasty elements but playing off the tannic chocolate flavors. That chocolate really blooms hand-in-hand with the vanilla on the palate as it warms. Lest you think it's all adjunct and no cattle, so to speak, let Buchanan assuage your concerns. "The base beer," Page moaned in a very beer-purist kind of way, "was phenomenal on its own!" I strongly recommend buying a bottle before the visiting Great Taste hordes swoop in and make life more difficult for you.

Much has been said and written about the father/son relationship between Buchanan and the MobCraft boys, and it's basically all true. They riff off of each other, tell stories about how one pooh-poohed the other's goofy recipe, or how one accidentally made a ghost pepper gas bomb in the middle of the other's brewery, and basically it was an amusing as hell hourlong+ conversation that I kind of want to release as a podcast. (Don't worry, guys, I won't. This time.) Friday's Mob the House will have a ton of great beer, great food, and great music, but maybe greatest is that this is your best chance to be part of a ridiculous and charming beer family for a day.

Thanks to Page and Henry for sharing their beers and their time, a kindness that did not ensure positive consideration but did make this story possible