Lucky for all of us, I caught myself before starting this piece with something to the effect of, I remember back in the good old days…
Wow, I thought after catching the nostalgic faux pas, when did I become an old fart?
The subject that inspired this mental dimwittery? Capital Brewing Co. of Middleton, Wis.
A nice guy named Ed Janus formed capital in 1984, and the first beers were produced in 1986. That’s pioneer status for craft brewing in Wisconsin. (A sidebar on Ed – I met him via telephone long after he had left Capital for other pursuits, one of which was writing. I talked to him in 2011 upon the release of his excellent Wisconsin Historical Society Press book Creating Dairyland: How caring for cows saved our soil, created our landscape, brought prosperity to our state, and still shapes our way of life in Wisconsin.)
A Capital
I didn’t come across Capital beers until the early 1990s, after moving from the island of Maui to the island of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Capital was one of those rare breweries that specialized in German-style lagers, which, of course, includes bocks. I arrived in Oshkosh in late winter/early spring and quickly learned Capital Maibock is one of the great harbingers of spring.
Capital went through some changes, but its mainstay was always brewmaster Kirby Nelson. Earlier in this century, two pals and I drove from Menasha to Middleton to visit the brewery. It was a foggy Monday. Kirby brought us into a room full of giant aging tanks, each one emblazoned with the name of a Frank Zappa song, and told us to help ourselves to Maibock from one of the tanks. All we had to do was turn a faucet on the tank for more fresh Maibock. So we stood in front of an open delivery door, looking out into the soft, foggy day and sipping beer.
Kirby Nelson left Capital a couple years ago to head up a brand-new operation, Wisconsin Brewing Co.
And the folks at Capital revamped and started producing the ever-popular ales that every other craft brewer does. It seemed to me like an abandonment of their beery principles, so I resisted trying them.
But I should have realized that a brewery like Capital isn’t going to do anything second rate.
My first dip into the post-Kirby Capital was Ghost Ship White IPA, a very nice beer that includes coriander and citrus peel in subordinate roles.
I followed that with Dark Voyage Black IPA. Loved this one. Great smoky darkness playing off the hops. My confidence is restored in this venerable craft brewery, and I look forward to trying more of their beers.