The amber ale is in a can that has no lid, because Jim McCabe has pulled a Louie’s Demise right off the assembly line. Yes, the Milwaukee Brewing Co. founder really named it for a man killed in a bar fracas, beer still in hand. No, it will never taste fresher than this. He walks you through the heart of his operation, past fermenting tanks and a computer terminal with the coy label “HAL 4000.” Just up a nearby metal stairway, the magic happens.
Here brews the beer, and a batch of O-Gii comes to life. Giant bags of Rishi tea, suspended by industrial chains, hang into a stainless steel kettle. A beer teapot? “We started playing around with unusual ingredients, always looking for subtle flavors,” McCabe says. “We’ve joked about hanging everything but Christmas hams in here. It’s flavor.” Which explains the origins of Sasquash, made with pumpkin and charred sweet potatoes. Or Anodyne Brown, crafted with Anodyne coffee beans. Or any of the company’s dozen-plus offerings. It’s a far cry from McCabe’s homebrew days in the 1980s, when he studied engineering at Marquette and played in bands called Homegrown and Whirled Peas. But upstairs in a lodge-like office, stocked with guitars and cozy chairs, he can reminisce about those days over a cold one.