It’s no secret Wisconsinites adore their beer, but not many cities in the state can rival the rich brewing history of La Crosse. Part of that history, still in the making, is with Pearl Street Brewery.
Back in 1999, Joe Katchever came to La Crosse from Colorado to found PSB with his father. Together they worked in a small brewhouse in the heart of La Crosse’s downtown, Pearl Street, before moving to the old La Crosse Footwear building in the city’s north side.
Katchever still serves as PSB’s owner and brewmaster, but is now joined by a crew of about 20 people who live and breathe brewing.
"Most of my job is to keep the beer tasting the same batch after batch after batch," Andrew Roth, a PSB brewer’s apprentice said. "We’ve got tuns and oats we take on the brew days, we sample them afterward, to make sure that every time you crack open a Downtown Brown it tastes like a Downtown Brown."
Just after 6 a.m., Roth began his day measuring out ingredients while listening to classic rock. Blending science and art is what the brewery does all day, and getting their first and most popular beer D.T.B. up and running is just the beginning of the show.
Roth never stopped moving throughout the morning, constantly adding water, combining grains and putting liquids in a kettle, all to create beer.
Then the bottling process begins. Taking a batch of previously brewed D.T.B., a crew quickly worked to get the bottle from the line, straight to your refrigerator.
“So what the machine does is it blows all the air out and then the counter-pressure fills the bottles with beer," Joe Katchever said. "This is a capper head and what this does it simultaneously slaps six caps on the tops of six bottles. And it just…boom! Slaps six caps on there. Then these bottles advance to the end. They’ll get picked up by the conveyor belt. The conveyor belt takes them to the other machine and that is the labeler, and it will pick a label up and chop it on the bottle, and make it nice and straight. There are brushes over there that smooth it on the bottle and it shoots them out on the other side.”
Fully biodegradable materials and locally sourced ingredients demonstrates PSB’s commitment to the La Crosse Community.
“Not only do we make beer, but we are also very involved in fundraising and charity work here as well. That’s actually a really big part of what we do here,” Katchever said.
Moon Tunes in Riverside Park and promoting local businesses through its Tour de Pearl biking events are just a few of the ways PSB works to keep residents out and active all summer long.
"It feels exciting. It feels great to give back to the La Crosse community," Katchever added.
If you want to get a first-hand look at the brewery, PSB run tours every Friday and Saturday, giving plenty of opportunity to see a piece of living La Crosse history for yourself.
For another adventure, make sure to check back next Wednesday for a new episode of Hometown Tourist, and a chance to make the La Crosse area your own.