Recently, there was an opportunity for a brewing collab between Briess and Pure Madness Brewery Group. The results were a Helles Bock and a Farmer Fest Beer, otherwise known as an Oktoberfest style, with recipes featured below. These beers were served at Briess’ Grower Appreciation Dinner to celebrate last year’s harvest with our grower partners in Wyoming and Montana.

Dan Burick, Briess Mountain Division Manager and Max Schaefer, Director of Brewing.

But wait, who is Pure Madness? What’s the craft brewing scene like in Wyoming? And how did Pure Madness get involved in brewing these beers? There’s a lot more to the story below…

You could say it all began in 2009 when Melvin Brewing was started in the back of a Thai restaurant in Jackson, WY. What began as a 20-gallon system soon became a 3-barrel system and the team began serving beers along with Asian street food, kung fu movies, and old-school hip hop. Fast forward a few years, and Melvin Brewing was awarded Small Brewpub of the Year at GABF 2015 and Brewing Group of the Year at GABF 2017. Along the way, they opened a 30-barrel facility 45 minutes away in Alpine, WY. If you’re not familiar with Alpine, WY, it’s on the far western edge of the state nestled in the Bridger-Teton National Forest, and has a population of 750.

A couple of years later, in 2012, Roadhouse Brewing was formed near Jackson Hole, WY. The founders wanted food to complement the brewing and beer to complement the cuisine. That’s what happens when a brewery is started by a home brewer/entrepreneur and a chef/restauranteur. They took over the billiard room at Roadhouse Pub & Eatery and threw in some brewing equipment. Pretty soon, Roadhouse also had a 30-barrel facility and taproom where they rotate between ten taps. For two years in a row, Roadhouse was named a Best for the World™ B Corporation, ranking in the Top 5% of all B Corps its size, worldwide, for its sustainable business practices. It’s been more than 10 years since they founded the brewery, and they still try to capture the spirit of Jackson Hole, WY, in everything they do.

In 2022, Melvin and Roadhouse decided to join forces and form Pure Madness Brewing Group. The breweries are only 35 miles apart (walking distance in Wyoming), and combining their resources and innovation made sense. They are now the largest brewing group in Wyoming and have a powerhouse team of talented brewers and production staff. As they say, “If your beer is not madness, it’s not beer.” The combined breweries produced about 50,000 barrels in 2023 and have the capacity to grow to 80,000 barrels going forward with investments that are planned. From a branding standpoint, I’d describe the elephant + bear logo as pure magic.

So, when Briess was searching for a beer to serve at our Grower Appreciation Dinner in NW Wyoming, we needed to look no further than just down the road to Pure Madness. What better way to celebrate our growers than to brew a couple of beers in Wyoming using barley that was grown in the state? The nearby Bighorn Basin has some of the best barley growing conditions in the world, with warm, dry days and cool nights. Many barley growers in the region use water from Buffalo Bill Dam to get just the right amount of water to the barley at just the right time.

The breweries of Pure Madness take innovation seriously and we collaborated to determine the best beer styles to brew. In the combined company, they have a flexible 5-barrel R&D brewery in Jackson to support their production brewery in town and a 7-barrel R&D brewery in Alpine that supports the production brewery in the same building. Helles Bock and a Farmer Fest beer seemed the perfect styles, and the ball was rolling.

Synergy Select milled for the beer.
Wort clearing up in the grant.
Mashing in the later tun.

Max Schaefer, Director of Brewing, and his team love trying all things new in malt and hops. The Bighorn Helles Bock was brewed on the 5-barrel system in Jackson, and co-worker Evan Barnett brewed Farmer Fest Beer at the pilot brewery in Alpine.

Max Shafer, Brewmaster of Pure Madness – Roadhouse and Melvin.

About the Beers

Bighorn Helles Bock is a golden lager with modest hop bitterness with nice aromas coming from Zuper Saazer hops. The beer came in at 6.5% ABV.

Bighorn Bock Formula:

  • Synergy Select Pilsen Malt
  • Briess Caramel 20 Malt for a touch of color
  • Triumph hops for bitterness
  • Zuper Saazer hops (25 IBU)

Farmer Fest Beer is also a lager but brewed in the Vienna Oktoberfest style. Slightly darker in color with mild Nobel hop bitterness and flavor; ABV is 6.0%.

Farmer Fest Formula:

  • Goldpils® Vienna Malt
  • Synergy Select MaltGems®
  • Carapils® Malt
  • Bonlander® Munich Malt
  • Triumph hops (20 IBU)

Both beers turned out great! Not surprisingly, the Farmer Fest/Oktoberfest beer was the more popular of the two. It was a touch more malty and balanced for easy drinking. If you’re making a swing through the west on this year’s adventures, stop by to check out what’s happening at Pure Madness!

Roadhouse Brewing, Jackson Hole, WY.