Back in, say, 2017, breweries were for, well, beer people – the sniffers, the contemplators, those who debate the merits of Czech vs. German pilsners. (I am one of these people.) Sure, everyone was welcome, but the product was, usually and naturally, the center of attention.
Breweries opening in 2022 enter a market more crowded than ever – by midsummer, metro Milwaukee had 53, up from just 19 seven years ago, not to mention another handful of brewery taprooms. In other words, the beer people might be spoken for. But the other 90% of the population spends money, too.
As I sit in the spacious and lively taproom of the new Ope! Brewing in West Allis, I’m seeing this 90%, of many ages and walks of life, spending money. Quartets on high-tops are laughing together, a couple nestled in a cozy couch lean together to look at a phone, a group in Brewers gear chatter about Christian Yelich’s swing over their pints. In one corner, just in front of the open garage-style doors, cheers erupt after a steel-tip dart hits a bullseye. About half my fellow patrons are women, a bit unusual for a brewery.
The day after this visit, construction began on the expansive front patio, where, by the time you read this, there should be cornhole, bocce, volleyball courts, fire pits and dedicated space for food trucks.
VOTE FOR MILWAUKEE’S BEST BEER!
What’s Brew City’s best? We’ve picked 16 of our favorite Milwaukee craft beers for a March Madness-style tournament, but it’s up to you to pick the winner! Will it be bright and hoppy? Dark and malty? A zippy lager? Every one is worthy of the title; who will claim the sudsy crown?
Ope’s not-so-secret sauce is that there’s something for just about everyone here. The menu of liquids ranges wide, with (quite good) house-made hard seltzers and fruited sours in equal number with IPAs and lagers on the 16 taps. Multiple non-alcoholic beers (not brewed on site) are available, too.
I had high expectations for the beer, given head brewer and co-owner Kyle Ciske’s track record at The Explorium Brewpub in Greendale, but the brews were disappointing on my first visits – most were OK, none was outstanding, and some were clear misfires.
The gotta-try beers from these first batches were the light and refreshing kölsch called But Is It Traditional? and the ’Scuse Me pale ale. The H2Ope hard seltzers were flavorful and crushable, and the Ope! Sourry series of tart Berliner weisses was another high point, particularly the strawberry rhubarb version. I expect the beer to improve as Ciske and co-owners Adam Anders and John Onopa dial in their new 15-barrel brewhouse.
As you can tell from those beer names, the “brand” is very clever, banking on a Berensian Midwestern cultural terroir that certainly seems to be peaking right now. They’re going to sell some T-shirts for sure.
Beer people like to say that beer can be for everyone. That might be true, but beer, seltzers, games, comfy couches and food trucks are definitely for everyone.
Ope! That’s a Good Name
- Jeet Yet? Oatmeal milk stout with Valentine coffee and vanilla
- Didn’t See Ya There Hazy IPA Laaager American lager
- The Perfect Screw-Driver Orange milkshake IPA (the brewery is in the former home of Perfect Screw Products.)
- Let Me Sneak Past Ya Hazy IPA
6751 W. NATIONAL AVE., WEST ALLIS
Hours: Wed-Thurs 4-10 p.m., Fri-Sat noon-11 p.m., Sun noon-7 p.m.
Food: No kitchen, food trucks available