Let’s start by looking back at the historical roots of brewing in Wisconsin. Leinenkugel’s and Briess have some things in common, including a history in brewing that goes back more than 145 years. Leinenkugel’s started brewing beer in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 1867. Chippewa Falls is on the Chippewa River and next to the city of Eau Claire, which means “clear water” in French. It seems an appropriate place to start a brewery! Leinie’s startup was only nine years after Wisconsin became a state! Briess’ journey began in the Moravia region of Czechoslovakia in 1876 when first-generation Ignatius Briess began malting barley in his homeland. Third-generation family member Eric Briess immigrated to the United States in the 1950s and established a relationship with Chilton Malting Company in Chilton, Wisconsin. With all the changes that have taken place in beer and brewing during the past 145 years, it’s interesting how these two Wisconsin-based companies remain leaders in craft brewing.

Family leadership has characterized both companies. Leinenkugel’s is being managed by the sixth generation of the Leinenkugel family. Briess is owned and managed by the fifth generation of family leadership. Neither company would be where we are today without decades of pioneering and persevering family members with a passion for beer and brewing.

briess malting leinenkugels beer brewing history
Historic photos of Briess’ K-Ball roaster (left) and Leinenkugel’s bottling line (right).

Leinenkugel’s Brewmaster John Hensley has been working with Briess malts for many years and had these comments:

“Leinenkugel’s has a long history of using Briess malts which goes back further than anyone can recall. Historically, Briess has always supplied a diverse selection of high-quality specialty malts for not only our core brands but also new offerings such as Toasted Bock, Chocolate Dunkel, and recently un-hibernated Sunset Wheat. It’s always a pleasure to tell our guests and fans that we source most of our specialty malts from another long-lived Wisconsin company, Briess Malting in Chilton.”

Both of our companies have been involved with many products that beer lovers enjoy, so it’s beyond the scope of this story to mention all of them. Instead, we’ll focus on how specialty/seasonal beers have brought Briess and Leinenkugel’s closer together over the past several years. Leinie’s typically offers two seasonal beers at a time, including Toasted Bock, Chocolate Dunkel, and the resurrected Sunset Wheat. The wide variety and high quality of Briess’ specialty malt portfolio have allowed for continued collaboration, which enables consumers to enjoy a rotating variety of beer styles during different seasons.

Leinenkugels Sunset Wheat
Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat

Leinenkugel’s Sunset Wheat represents the transition from summer to fall. It’s a Belgian-style Witbier with citrus notes and a hint of blueberry. This beer has been a fan favorite, so much so that it was re-born from an online consumer petition with fans begging the brewery to bring it back. Leinie’s turned to Briess and we worked with them to get the right malts for this recipe. Grab some while you can as it’s a very limited release.

Leinenkugels Toasted Bock
Leinenkugel’s Toasted Bock

Leinenkugel’s Toasted Bock is an excellent representation of this popular and historic German style. Traditional Bock beer originated centuries ago in southern Germany, with notes of toast and biscuit for the consumer to savor as temperatures cool down. Slightly sweet, rich, and malty notes are the foundation for this masterpiece of a seasonal brew that will be available at retailers soon.

Leinenkugels Chocolate Dunkel
Leinenkugel’s Chocolate Dunkel

Leinenkugel’s Chocolate Dunkel reminds us of shorter days and seasonal celebrations, both large and small. This beer brings out flavors of rich, decadent coffee and chocolate cake that warm you up during those long winter nights. What appears dark in color actually drinks smooth and light, a rare combination.

Legacy partners in the brewing community are important for long-term success. Briess appreciates the long-running support from Leinenkugel’s over many decades and especially recently as we partnered to create these enticing seasonal offerings.

I’ll end on a personal note. Working in the brewing industry creates some unique opportunities, which in my case come full circle nearly 20 years later. I cut my teeth in the brewing industry during two different internships at Leinenkugel’s while attending the University of Wisconsin-Stout. I always had an eye on the brewing industry as a career, and what better place to begin this journey than with Leinenkugel’s in Chippewa Falls? It continues to be a privilege to offer Leinenkugel’s the finest specialty malts from Briess and to work with them on meeting consumer demand for new and interesting flavors.