Time flies when you’re drinking beer. Karben4, a family-owned local brewery, is celebrating a decade of business in the 608 this week. We chatted with owner Ryan Koga to celebrate the occasion.
Q: You run a family business with two brothers leading the pack. What are the benefits of working with family and how does it reflect in Karben4?
A: We have shared faith and values. We don’t always agree, but when we butt heads there is trust that we are at least trying to do what is right. When one of our egos tries to grab the steering wheel, the other can point it out and redirect the effort to simply “work the problem” without worrying about some silly perceived power play that isn’t actually taking place.
Q: In the last 10 years, there have been a few beers in the rotation that have yet to return. If you could bring one beer “back from the dead”, what would it be?
A: Martian Sunrise Red IPA. Delicious beer, great label/imagery, and probably my favorite T-shirt.
Q: Before I met my beer-fanatic partner, I – a born and raised Wisconsinite – would order Miller Lite because it was all I knew. What K4 beers would you recommend to newbies easing into the beer scene?
A: Our Midwesty pilsner or the Helles lager when it comes around. Also, if someone is more of a wine drinker, then Lady Luck Dark Red Ale is my homage to Bordeaux. For white wine lovers, our Slow IPA would be right up their alley.
Q: You pride yourselves in being a place for the community to gather and using your platform to give back to the community. What are some of your favorite 608 events or collabs you’ve done?
A: In terms of community-driven events, I love dogs, first responders, and anything military. So, I think my favorites have been working with dog adoptions and rescues, the Madison Police K-9s and horse-mounted patrols, the Army 1-147th Blackhawk Squadron, and especially the Wisconsin Air National Guard 115th Fighter Wing.
Q: You’re beer people through and through, but what’s your go-to cocktail?
A: Gin and ginger ale. Or whiskey on ice — bourbon or scotch will do.
Q: If you ever have a moment away from the brewery, what are some of your favorite 608 spots to grab a drink or bite to eat?
A: This is an incredibly tough answer because there is an overwhelming abundance of extraordinary places to go, and I worry about leaving places off my list. My safe answer is Umami for steamed buns and dumplings as well as Ha Long Bay for mango curry and the LS7. My in-laws always insist on getting takeout from both places whenever they visit from Michigan, and I am more than happy to oblige. For the record, my full list would take up a book.