Kohler Festival of Beer

7 Local Beer Experts Give Their 2018 Predictions and Wishes for Milwaukee

What’s in store for the Milwaukee beer scene in 2018? We asked a few local experts what they see on the horizon.

Last year was a fantastic one for the Milwaukee beer scene. Great limited beer releases, fun festivals and a handful of new brewery additions helped create palpable excitement in the area. We weren’t alone. The Brewers Association recently announced that more than 6,000 breweries now operate in the United States and that a whopping 83% of adults live within 10 miles of a brewery.

So, what’s the outlook for 2018? I’d personally like to see local breweries continue to succeed, and I haven’t grown tired of New England IPAs yet, so I’m fine seeing more of them produced by Wisconsin breweries. But what do my opinions matter? I asked a few local experts what they think about the beer year ahead.

Grynder (Photo by Adam Ryan Morris)
Tom “Grynder” Ciula, Certified Beer Judge and Resident Beer Guru

I expect expansion of new breweries in the Milwaukee area to tail off and pick up in the ‘burbs.

Brewers continue to experiment with new hops and the entire process of hopping. I expect in the near future that hop intensity will stay strong longer on shelves.

Brewers will continue to push the envelope to see what consumers are willing to pay for their barrel-aged beers. This will continue as long as those elites living in ivory towers are willing to spend hundreds on eBay for whales.

Mike Doble, Proprietor, The Explorium Brewpub

As far as trends go IPA styles are still king of the hill, but the current trend is toward more traditional lighter styles. I’d love to see more breweries bring back helles lagers, Vienna lagers and other lower alcohol, lighter styles. You’ll see The Explorium Brewpub continue to do that in 2018!

Kyle Vetter loading equipment into 1840 brewery
Kyle Vetter (Photo courtesy of 1840 Brewing)
Kyle Vetter, Brewmaster, 1840 Brewing Company

More products from local and national brands will move into cans. Hazy, juicy, NEIPAs using unusual varieties of hops will become more prevalent in our market.

One trend that is gaining steam in other markets yet hasn’t taken hold in Milwaukee is an increase in craft lagers. One of the hottest breweries in Colorado (Bierstadt Lagerhaus) makes only lagers. Milwaukeeans were raised on lagers so craft examples of crisp clean lagers are bound to do well.

Kathy Flanigan, Journalist and Author of Beer Lover’s Wisconsin

I’d like to see Wisconsin’s stature as a beer state get recognized for the renaissance it is enjoying. Milwaukee has some great breweries and brewing history that gets lost in the craft beer noise. Locals take it for granted and outsiders don’t know about it.

Central Waters draws thousands to Amherst in the throes of winter each year and that says something about the quality of the brewery’s barrel-aging program and the state’s love of beer. The Great Taste of the Midwest is another success story. I would like to see 2018 be the year the rest of the country discovers Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

Steve Pribek, Brewmaster, Urban Harvest Brewing Company

With the number of breweries that have opened in the past few years, it would be great for Milwaukee to get more recognition as a destination for craft beer enthusiasts. They serve as a great complement to the existing festivals and attractions that make our city such a wonderful place to visit.

Henry Schwartz, CEO, MobCraft Beer

I would love to see more access to locally made beer around the city. There is so much good beer coming out of Milwaukee right now but I don’t think it is getting the exposure it deserves. I would love to see more bars serving it, and more customers demand it. I know when I’m out an about I always hunt for something from our own backyard, but often don’t have many options to choose from.

And, I can’t wait to see the sour and wild category continue to grow in popularity, at least on our front this summer, and bring lots of tart and funky.

Brewer Jimmy Gohsman standing behind beer taps
Jimmy Gohsman (Photo courtesy of City Lights Brewing)
Jimmy Gohsman, Brewmaster, City Lights Brewing Company

It’s already happening, but I would just like to see continued support and recognition for the small and mid-sized operations. There are juicy IPAs and barrel-aged beers coming from breweries doing 500 barrels a year that are just as good as those styles coming from breweries doing 50,000 barrels a year.



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.