More than 1,000 craft beer enthusiasts filled Wisconsin Brewing Company’s beer garden on April 24 to support Ukraine in the war with Russia. The beer festival raised $30,000 in relief funds for Ukraine, with more donations expected. The fest featured five beers based on Ukrainian recipes made by Madison breweries with recipes from the Pravda brewery in Lviv, Ukraine, in a worldwide project called “Brew for Ukraine.”
“I’m so happy to see all these people who came here to support us. It means a lot,” says Yana Selivanova of Madison, who grew up in Ukraine and now works as a nurse at a local hospital. She was sipping a glass of Putin Huylo, a golden strong ale made by the brewers at the Great Dane Pub and Brewing Co. (The beer’s name is a dig at Russian leader Vladimir Putin.) Selivanova was also gratified that people took this opportunity to try Ukrainian beers.
“It was a massive success,” says Wisconsin Brewing’s Kirby Nelson. “The weather gods smiled upon us, and we had a huge turnout, one of the largest crowds we’ve ever had at the brewery.” They went through 20 half barrels of the Ukrainian beers, and the line to get the beer “was non-stop for five hours,” says Nelson.
The other Ukrainian beers at the festival were Syla, a Belgian tripel made by Giant Jones Brewing; Frau Ribbentrop Belgian wit from Vintage Brewing; From San to Don, a Ukrainian imperial stout by Grumpy Troll Brew Pub in Mount Horeb; and Red Eyes, a red ale from Working Draft Beer Company. Other Wisconsin brewers, including Lakefront Brewery in Milwaukee and Sunshine Brewery in Lake Mills, have offered beer from what Pravda calls its Victory Series.
Mark Knoebl, brewmaster at the Grumpy Troll, says the success of the effort proves how international many beer styles have become. His imperial stout, termed Ukrainian, would likely be called a Russian imperial stout under different circumstances. It featured a bold dark malt bill that gave it a black color and a slight smokiness. It was a standout among the five beers. Giant Jones’ Belgian tripel was a solid example of the style, starting a little sweeter than I expected, but finishing clean with a light, spicy dryness. Working Draft’s red ale had an edgy pine hoppiness. And Vintage Brewing’s light Belgian witbier was crisp, with a soft lingering sweetness.
Over the next several weeks most of the beers will be on tap at the breweries that made them.