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For Madison, Wisconsin-based entrepreneur/blender/iconoclast Levi Funk, the apparent conflict in philosophies between his two brands isn’t a conflict at all.
While his blendery and passion project, Funk Factory Gueuzeria, is focused exclusively on spontaneously fermented and wild ales, the more recent launch of his Untitled Art brand is a radical departure, with its focus on cutting-edge current styles like hazy IPA, heavily fruited kettle sours, and even hard seltzer. Still, for Funk, these two approaches aren’t as divergent as they may seem. As one of the earlier spontaneous brewers in the United States, he took risks to test a concept and develop a practice that could work. Untitled Art continues that experimentation and risk-taking in beers that he also enjoys drinking—even if they are very different than the spontaneous beers that put him on the map.
In this episode, Funk discusses both, talking through his approach to spontaneous brewing and blending, from breaking rakes in the breweries that make his wort, to understanding which flavors will and won’t age out of wild and spontaneous barrels. He discusses blending strategies, his own palate and how it impacts the beers, their methods for adding fruit, and more.
As the conversation turns to Untitled Art, Funk focuses more on business than brewing, delving into the unusual business structures he’s developed with distributors in their 23-state footprint. He’s built a brand by breaking all the rules, with no appeal to geography or locality, no personally identifying elements in the brand, no salespeople, and no marketing budget. Yet the brand’s lack of communication has become a selling point, as consumers engage and enjoy the beers on their own merits.
Untitled Art has embraced hard seltzer with open arms, working to overcome the disdain that a number of brewers have for the segment.
“It’s the most recent iteration of an evolution in beer that a certain group of breweries are going to write off and say ‘this is not beer,’” says Funk. “But I bet you that 90 percent of the beer that brewery makes, at some point in history there was a group of brewers who said, ‘That is not beer.’”
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