How The Brass Tap Evolved into a Destination Beer Bar

The Brass Tap has grown into a pretty amazing beer bar. This weekend the spot marks its third anniversary by tapping more than 60 hard-to-find beers.

Nick Marking is a quick study. The owner of The Brass Tap (7808 W. Layton Ave.) wasn’t a seasoned tavern owner when he opened the beer bar in January 2015, but it’s hard to argue with what he’s done with his business in three years.

The Brass Tap offers an oasis for beer lovers in the south suburbs, and those around the city are taking note of his ability to put limited beers on his 80 tap lines.

“I wasn’t necessarily a beer guy but I wanted something that was popular (when we opened),” said Marking. “We took a leap of faith, but I don’t see this craft beer trend going anywhere soon.”

Excellent Timing

The timing of Marking’s business venture was hard to beat. Craft beer was booming three years ago, and Milwaukee’s craft beer scene was just about to explode. The Brass Tap has taken advantage and reserves plenty of tap lines for the local breweries. The bar is even hosting a Drink Brew City tap takeover of 50 beers from 23 area breweries on January 24. It’s the largest collection of Milwaukee beers ever.

“It’s fantastic how many local breweries have opened and the communal aspect is pretty neat,” he said. “If a brewery knocks on my door and it’s local then I’m all for it. If customers like local beer then it’s a win-win. I want to pay it forward.”

Neighborhood Feel

The Brass Tap is a chain based in Florida, but Marking’s location in a south side strip mall has the feel of a neighborhood tavern. The beer list that he’s put together is smart, and the tappings and events that he hosts are worth making the drive.

“I wanted to open something up but didn’t have all of the knowledge,” added Marking. “That’s why I franchise. But we want to make it our own. Tony [Lewanovich] from Champps has done a nice job putting his own imprint on his place, and that’s the model I want to follow.”

Celebrating Three Years with Rare Brews

Marking’s beer procuring skills are on display this weekend during The Brass Tap’s Third Anniversary Party. The beer list for the Friday and Saturday festivities includes more than 60 special or limited beers. There are too many amazing rarities to mention all of them, but the menu features the likes of Founders CBS, Good City Barrel-Aged Density Stout, Bell’s Hopslam IIPA, Lakefront Black Friday Barrel-Aged Imperial Stout, Central Waters Cassian Sunset Barrel-Aged Stout and Dogfish Head 120 Minute IPA.

“The chase to get really good beers is fun,” explained Marking. “Chasing whales is fun.”

Event Details

The Brass Tap Third Anniversary Party
Where: 7808 W. Layton Ave.
When: Friday, January 19 and Saturday, January 20
Time: 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.



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.