Field Trips: Copper State Brewing

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The brewery takes over in Green Bay where Hinterland left off

All photos by Kevin Gibson. 

A couple of years ago, I visited Green Bay, Wisc., and was charmed by a pair of the city’s longtime craft breweries, Hinterland Brewery and Titletown Brewing Company. Hinterland since has moved from its original downtown location, doubled down and become part of Green Bay’s Titletown District, just across the street from Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers. But the former meat-packing plant it once called home didn’t sit empty for long.

Enter Copper State Brewing Co., a unique brewery that also includes a coffee bar with freshly brewed java by way of an antique German roaster. You don’t come across many craft breweries that open at 6:30 a.m., but this is one.

That's one of the changes from when it was Hinterland, which had a small bar and plenty of seating for diners, giving it a feel more like a restaurant than a brewery. It was more dimly-lit in those days as well, adding a more upscale feel. The renovation included the addition of a longer bar, perpendicular to where the original bar was. Concrete floors and exposed ceilings preserve an industrial feel, but the high-top seating in the bar area offers up a more laid back feel. Hanging lighting gives the place a brighter atmosphere, and the lights above the bar are a unique steampunk design that seems to combine bells with submarine portholes.

Across the space from the bar is the coffee bar, branded Copper Rock Coffee Co., serving everything from classic coffee to espressos to chai, tea and smoothies. Outside is an attractive patio space with seating for probably close to 100.

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My girlfriend Cynthia and I took seats at the bar, and while she went for a coffee, I perused the beer menu. Beers ranged from Rugged North Lager to Pomegranate Pucker Berliner Weisse, along with a nice variety of other brews coming from the 30-barrel brewhouse. There’s also a six-barrel “pilot” system that cranks out smaller batches, and the pilot beer on draft when I visited was a Chocolate Coffee Peanut Butter Nitro Porter. I ordered a flight of four, which was brought out in a cool-looking wire holder that resembled an antique milk carrier. My choices were the lager, Bare Brick IPA, Silent Canary Double IPA and the pilot nitro porter.

The lager was a clean beer with notes of malt sweetness and fruit, with just a hint of hops. The body was softer than I expected for a lager, but it was an easy-drinker, great for a hot summer day and a great way to awaken the palate.

Bare Brick IPA offered up a clean, citrusy nose that gave way to a beer that was a bit lighter in body than expected (5.4 percent ABV isn’t exactly typical IPA muscle). The beer had a malty body that did its best to balance a quick bitterness that lingered and to an extent quelled the grapefruit flavors trying to present themselves. It was a solid to good, if basic, IPA.

The double IPA hit my palate in a much better light, with those floral notes in the aroma coming through more boldly and then following suit in the flavor of the medium-bodied beer. Silent Canary is surprisingly approachable for a double IPA that checks in at 8.2 percent alcohol, with a smooth finish and a bitterness that is present but deftly backs out of the way through the first several drinks, then settles into its groove.

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Finally, the pilot beer piled on with flavors as sort of a big dessert beer. The beer’s description on the Copper State menu uses the word “bombastic” to describe this one, and that’s fair to say. For starters, it smells like a bag of Reese's cups. The coffee backs off the nose, and the first flavors on the palate are dark, semi-sweet chocolate and peanut butter, with the coffee coming in thereafter at the back of the palate. I will say is that it is a truly interesting and ambitious beer, although as I drank it, it didn’t seem as though the flavors blended the way they were intended to. I enjoyed the sweet facets of the beer, and the dry, coffee bitterness on the finish is something I always take to, but they seemed disjointed here. My guess is drinking a full pint might help those flavors to mesh, and future brews might also find more center. I suspect this one has a bright future, because it has all the ingredients of a go-to.

If you visit, I do hope that Tom is your bartender – quite a friendly and colorful fellow who is ready to help you find what your palate craves. All in all, I was happy to see that space return to being a brewery after more than two decades of being home to Hinterland. When you’re in Wisconsin, you expect a lot of breweries; cheers to Copper State for carrying on that tradition.

Copper State Brewing Co. is located at 313 Dousman St. in downtown Green Bay. Click here for taproom hours.