Drive roughly 25 scenic miles west of Madison, along Highway 14, and the Firm Worm Bait & Liquor welcomes you to Arena, Wisconsin. After driving about a quarter mile, taking a right on Oak St, then passing though a blocks worth of urban core, the road swings hard left to parallel a long pasture. This leads to some white fencing and a battered mailbox stating T. Porter. You have arrived at one of Wisconsin’s most unique and admired breweries, Lake Louie Brewing Company.
Co-Founder, Tom Porter on Lake Louie Brewing Company
Lake Louie is a small pond that Tom Porter built his house upon. He purchased the land from his Uncle Louie, who had endured many years of kids sneaking onto his property for a bit of skinny dipping. Tom earned a living as an engineer until he underwent a mid life re-evaluation. He was tired of working for someone else. He had been homebrewing for awhile and discovered he really enjoyed it, and he was good at it. Upon recovering from the resulting epiphany, Tom quit his secure job, cashed in his 401K, built a tiny brewery in his garage, and immersed himself into the art, science, and business of brewing. In January of 2000, Tom saw his fledgling company produce its first beer. And eleven years later, Tom found himself to be quite successful and hopelessly unemployable by normal standards.
In the early years as a one-man band, Tom began brewing on a 3-bbl system, working with a few small fermenting tanks. He did everything—production, packaging, cleaning, delivering, invoicing—and he did it relentlessly. Insomnia became an asset; and the business grew. Tom produced 153-bbls his first year; and is now cranking out 3,000-bbls a year, and cannot keep up with demand. The original garage brewery is now but a piece of an immaculate, constantly growing facility. And all of this was accomplished without being on a municipal sewerage system.
Lake Louie Beers
Driving this growth is the superb quality of the beers produced. Lake Louie is an ale producer. There are 11 beers; five year-around and six seasonals. They cover the flavor spectrum from mild and pleasant, hoppy yet balanced, to a couple of absolute incredible beasts. The strongest selling beers are Warped Speed Scotch Ale and Arena Premium Pale Ale. All of Lake Louie’s beers are extremely well made, a testament to Tom’s insistence on very high standards and Tim Wauters’s skill in the brewhouse.
Two of the beers deserve a bit of explanation. The IPA, Kiss the Lips, is quite popular, and came about when Tom’s wife DeeAnn worked in the brewery. After a few months she went to Tom and quoted a country song, “I can’t kiss the lips at night that chew my ass during the day”. She went back to her career in engineering, and a new beer was born.
The other is a personal favorite called Mr. Mephisto’s Imperial Stout. Mr. Mephisto was a local TV personality who hosted a late night cheesy monster/horror movie show that Tom was enamored with. The movies may have been B-grade, but the beer is stunning—huge and rich, exhibiting a great depth of complex and alluring maltiness.
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