For a year now, I’ve been consulting for Illinois Tollway on a project in Rockford, ninety minutes from my home on the best day imaginable. One hazy Saturday at work, I realized Rockford is only one hour south of Madison, home to Funk Factory Geuzeria. Since I drove my personal vehicle that particular day (as opposed to the work sanctioned, cigar smoke-free, cruise control-less, auto-stop equipped Chevy Cruz) I decided to head straight to Wisconsin’s capital city after work.
Funk Factory’s gig is aging and blending Lambic style beers, thus creating Geuze. They also specialize in an unblended Lambic known as Meerts, basically made from second running on a Lambic brew day. To the very letter, they follow traditional Belgian Lambic brewing processes, but they don’t actually house their own brewing system. Instead, Funk Factory sources wort from an array of various breweries within a certain radius of Madison; places like Octopi Brewing in Waunakee, and Penrose in Geneva, IL. It takes roughly three years before they have an actual Geuze to sell.
Upon arrival at this marvelous dreamscape, I parked and while exiting my car I immediately locked my keys inside. I do this literally once per year, whether it’s my work car, my personal car, or my own home. The routine as it has become: don’t get frustrated. Merely call the first locksmith who pops up on Google. After the first split second of suicidal madness surrounding the vision of my keys lying on the seat, my business education comes flooding back and the idea of sunk cost comes to fruition. I then somehow am able derive value from paying a stranger $85 for the literal three seconds it takes to unlock my door.
The locksmith knew Funk Factory and said he couldn’t make it over for about 90 minutes. This presented a challenge as I didn’t intend to stay that extra thirty minutes or so since I had dinner plans at The Loyalist in Fulton Market, two and a half hours away. But where else would I go? Arby’s? Peruse the magazine rack at Walgreens?
While at the taproom bar, I read about the turbid mashing process, a labor-intensive technique involving taking the mash through multiple temperature rests via infusions of hot water and subsequent removal of starchy wort that is not fully converted.
As far as I knew this annual door lock botch-job I’d committed did nothing but accidentally extend my stay at Funk Factory. The good news was that most of their beers hover around 4% ABV. The other good news was that I was at Funk Factory. The bad news was that I started panicking about being late to my dinner, and I really considered shattering my own damn car window.
Once the wort is finished, Funk (the owner’s last name, if you can believe that) pumps it into his Koelschip, in the back of a truck, that he then parks outside each of the breweries overnight to let the local yeast do their thing through open air fermentation. It has long been a belief among wine-makers that different geography offers different microflora singing various notes depending on location. The wort is then transferred to red wine barrels, primarily French oak, and by season, they are stacked in rows inside the barrel room. There they shall sit for at least 30 months with periodic quality control tastings.
I wondered if I should really trust my locksmith. I knew after the first Meerts aged on black currants that if he took longer than the ninety stated minutes, I’d be at that bar minute for minute until eventually I became locked out of the taproom as well.
They have foedres. Three 500-gallon wooden vessels that were imported from Cognac, France. Funk uses them to create the Meerts. This highly sessionable beer has a profile of mild-sour flavor, low acidity, and soft bubbles. The fruit addition variants I got to try definitely stood out.
Funk Factory has a collaborative project with Octopi Brewing called Untitled art. Basically this project frees up both breweries to create the most abnormal beers they can muster without compromising the vision of their strict fermentation processes at home. These are some of the best beers I’ve had in recent history as well as some of the coolest looking artwork on the craft beer market.
I had a strawberry sorbet berlinerweiss which was an Untitled Art collaboration with Mikerphone Brewing. It was basically neon pink and I don’t really know how. I also had the Meerts aged on cherries, and yet one more aged on kiwi and melon. After my locksmith came/left, I devoured an imperial stout just called Black Stout, a dark as night Untitled Art piece, and picked up some cans and a 16 oz Funk Factory glass.
I was glad my locksmith provided me ample time to taste such a fruity array of Meerts without rushing me out the door. It was quite calculating on his part and I appreciated his balance – the fact that he didn’t allow me to keep drinking more and more. Even at 4% ABV, he had the foresight to keenly know that there really is no end to that tart rainbow.