La Crosse is steeped in beer history, but until last year, no brewery was hitting on the trendy styles like hazy IPAs, milkshake IPAs, and pastry stouts. One-year-old 608 Brewing Co. has carved out a niche for itself in the hazy brewing industry, and is well worth a visit.
Pearl Street has been brewing beer since 1999, putting out a solid portfolio of suds the entire time, including one hazy IPA that didn’t do much for enthusiasts. City Brewery can typically be smelled when you’re walking around downtown to visit beer bar Bodega or take in a nearly new movie at The Rivoli Theatre (affectionately known as The Riv). And Turtle Stack sits close to the Mississippi River in an enviable location, slinging a more traditional tap menu that can be considered a rarity in the current market, with altbier and black lager.
608 Brewing Co., which celebrates its first anniversary Aug. 7-10, immediately went all aboard the haze train. I had heard great things about the soon-to-open 608 (83 Copeland Ave., La Crosse) when in line for a Forager Brewing Co. beer release in 2018, and for good reason.
Co-owner and head brewer Phil Humphrey told me more than a year ago that he was definitely going to focus on hazy IPAs. Since opening he has, along with keeping sours and pastry stouts (made with adjuncts such as marshmallow, coconut, or cacao nibs) in constant rotation.
The former Flooring Interiors showroom has quickly gained a name for itself by collaborating with other great breweries like Mikerphone and Pulpit Rock. More and more, 608’s beers have reached a level of noteworthiness thanks to better intimacy with the brewing system.
The brewery space itself is about what you’d expect: a lot of large tables, a bar, great customer service top to bottom, and plenty of crowlers to take home. A boost for the brewery and beer drinkers is just how quickly 608 began selling four-packs of pint cans.
For context, Eagle Park Brewing Co. in Milwaukee was ahead of its time in offering 12-ounce cans of hazy IPAs and milkshake IPAs, but decided to go to pint cans, partly because those make it easier for patrons to trade beer. This size also helps with portion control instead of having to down a 32-ounce crowler (Wisconsin breweries can fill larger crowlers than those in Minnesota).
If you head over to La Crosse’s newest brewery, I recommend you try everything on the menu (you can get very short pours of every beer). If you can’t do that, recent standouts have been the adjunct stouts like Comeoniwannaleiya, a stout aged on toasted coconut (now sadly sold out), and pretty much any version of RYPE, 608’s fruited kettle sour series.
For a town so historically steeped in beer, La Crosse used to feel slightly lacking when compared to Rochester, Decorah, or any number of other beer communities. 608 has certainly filled a niche as far as beer styles go, and makes an already solid La Crosse beer market even better.