In 22 years of brewing, Mark
Duchow has worked his way up from keg washer to brewmaster
of his own craft brewery, Sweet Mullets Brewing, located on
Industrial Road in the Town of Oconomowoc.
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff
TOWN OF OCONOMOWOC - Mark Duchow started his
career in brewing humbly enough.
“I was an engineering student in Milwaukee 22
years ago,” he recalled. “I was looking for a part-time job to
make some beer money. I saw a job as a keg washer at Water
From there, it wasn’t long before he rose to the
top, earning the title of brewmaster. The Oconomowoc native also
went on somewhat of a beer odyssey, gaining experience at
breweries around the country before coming home to start his own
craft brewery, Sweet Mullets Brewing at N58W39800 Industrial
Road, with partner Barbara Jones.
“My beers are a conglomeration of all my
experiences,” he said. “I’ve been called the ‘mad scientist of
brewing.’ I don’t feature your typical beers.”
On Tuesday, he sat down with the Enterprise to
discuss the craft and history of brewing.
ENTERPRISE: The first thing I have to ask is -
what’s the story behind the name Sweet Mullets?
DUCHOW: I wanted to have a fun, memorable name.
And it worked; it’s the most frequently asked question I get.
Plus, I had an awesome mullet back in the 80s.
The most frequently asked
question at Sweet Mullets is how did Duchow get the name. He
says he wanted something fun and memorable, and there's also
a cardboard cutout of the "sweet mullet" he was sporting in
Josh Perttunen/Enterprise Staff
ENTERPRISE: What is the difference between
craft breweries and the mega-breweries?
DUCHOW: The larger breweries are in it for the
production, while the craft brewers are in it for the
creativity. Craft brewers are chaning the idea of what beer is.
ENTERPRISE: What are some customer favorites here
at Sweet Mullets?
DUCHOW: One of the customer favorites is the
Steinbier, or “stone beer.” This is created by dropping
fieldstones that are heated to between 12,000 and 15,000 degrees
into the unfermented beer. That caramelizes the sugar and
creates a toffee flavor with notes of burnt toast. I only brew
this a couple times of a year.
Another favorite is the Jorge, which is a jalape–o
beer. It has the flavor without the heat.
ENTERPRISE: Do you have fun naming the beers? And
what are some of the stories behind them?
DUCHOW: The Jorge was named after a chef I worked
with down in Texas, who wanted me to brew a beer with jalape–o
juice for Cinco De Mayo. I told him that day was only five days
away, and he told me that if anybody could do it, I could.
Reggie 4 is named after my cat, Rye Bob is named
after my dad, Celebration was brewed for the Harley Davidson
110th anniversary celebration and the 75th anniversary of the
WYA C regatta.
ENTERPRISE: What is something people don’t know
about craft beer - or beer in general?
DUCHOW: There is a tremendous history to beer in
general. Drinking fermented grains is part of our genetics.
People of European ancestry are genetically equipped to break
down that kind of alcohol, while people of an Asian ancestry are
genetically equipped to break down the alcohol you’d find in
This resurgence of craft beer or small breweries
is fairly new, it started in the early ‘80s. It’s up to more
than 3,000 breweries in the U.S. now. However, back in the
1860s, there were 2,000 breweries in Wisconsin alone. Every
small town had its own brewery. Oconomowoc had the Binzel
ENTERPRISE: Do you sell bottles of your beer?
DUCHOW: No, but there is a possibility of a
canned product. Canning is more en vogue and glass is on the way
out. The cost of bottles has gone up 600 percent since the
modern day recycling program was implemented, where it’s all
melted down only to be remade into bottles.
Other drawbacks of bottles are that light can hit
the beer and turn it skunky. The oxygen in the space between the
liquid and the cap can also work to damage the flavor. In a
bottle, the oxygen is 200 parts per million. A can is 200 parts
ENTERPRISE: What will be trending in the next
three to five years?
DUCHOW: Sour beers are becoming popular. If you
want to know what will be popular in the Midwest five or 10
years from now, look at what’s popular in the West Coast now.
ENTERPRISE: What is your favorite beer?
DUCHOW: My favorite beer is Pabst Blue Ribbon,
because if I’m drinking Pabst, that means I’m out fishing.