Beer men Randy Sprecher and Russ Klisch talk about the new local brewing boom.

Pioneers of the Milwaukee Craft Beer Movement
Milwaukee’s recent brewery boom is a long time coming considering that Milwaukee was actually early to the craft beer game when Sprecher opened in 1985 and Lakefront followed in 1987. I talked to Randy Sprecher and Lakefront co-founder Russ Klisch to see what they thought about the recent influx of breweries. Here are the highlights:


Randy Sprecher
On Sprecher’s start:

“When I got started I was the first one to get a brewery license since Prohibition. Nobody knew exactly what to do. It was a dogfight. I was going after more of the import business. We’ve perfected our recipes over the years.


On what it takes to start a brewery:

“There’s a bit of a learning curve. It’s going to take time and we’ll see what happens. Making good beer is a challenge and so is making it consistently. It’s just plain tough. People don’t realize how much work it takes.”


On Wisconsin’s craft beer scene:

“It’s crazy where it’s all going. I told people 25 years ago that we were a strong craft beer state, but Michigan (for example) has been blowing us out of the water.”


Russ Klisch
On Lakefront’s start:

“We saw this budding industry and we thought we could make it work. At the time, Schlitz just closed, Pabst seemed to be on its last legs and Miller was threatening to move the Milwaukee production to Trenton, Ohio.”


On the brewery boom:

“I’m surprised it took this long. I thought there would have been more popping up along the way. I’m surprised they all are coming at once. It’s like everybody looked at Milwaukee and thought it was a beer desert and it could use another brewery. Obviously about 14 people thought that at the same time.”


On the challenges new breweries face:

“You have to be good and you have to have cash flow. Quality lets you play the game but cash flow is king. You have to be able to pay your bills. For us, it’s been an exceptionally long road. All of these new operations had a lot of money put into them, so there’s more of an emphasis that they have to turn the corner a lot quicker.”

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Enlightened Brewing Grand Opening
Enlightened (2019 S. First St.) celebrates the grand opening of its newish taproom over the weekend. The fun starts on Friday at 3 p.m. with a tapping of an ESB, Prototypical Porter and an amber. On Saturday, the place will be open from noon to midnight and the highlight is a keg of Suspended in Thought Oak and Bourbon-Aged Coffee Stout. Food trucks will be around on both days to provide a base. The Enlightened taproom is a cool spot, check it out during the big weekend.


Barley Pop of the Week
My hope for the slew of new breweries in town is that each will be able to produce at least one excellent beer that stands out and earns some buzz. I found that beer at Good City last weekend. Reward IIPA is an outstanding take on a style that’s become ubiquitous. Sure, it has the big citrus flavor imparted by Citra and Amarillo hops, but it also has a nice resiny dankness that makes it complex, and damn delicious. Cheers, Good City.


Quick Taps has a list of 7 Craft Beers as Mouthwatering as Halloween Candy.

Element, a marketing agency in De Pere, teamed up with Badger State Brewing to create its own beer. Read the story about Final Proof.


Events Brewing
Wednesday, Nov. 2: Tasty wet-hopped beers are the featured brews at the weekly meeting of the Milwaukee Beer Society. Get to Best Place (901 W. Juneau Ave.) at 6 p.m. to start tasting.

Wednesday, Nov. 2: Raised Grain is bringing its brews to Ray’s Growler Gallery (8930 W. North Ave.) at 5 p.m. The amazing award-winning Paradocs Imperial Red and the delicious Anniversary Imperial Stout are both going to be there.

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Thursday, Nov. 3: Lakefront is the brewery of the month at The Malt Shoppe (813 N. Mayfair Rd.). From 5 to 7 p.m., Lakefront’s Kyle Thompson will be in the store handing out samples of Lakefront brews, highlighted by SMaSH Citra Ale and My Turn: Latif Double Chocolate Stout.

Thursday, Nov. 3: Draft & Vessel (4417 N. Oakland Ave.) celebrates the 800th (yep) anniversary of Belgium’s Val-Dieu brewery by pouring three of their brews.

Thursday, Nov. 3: The Brass Tap (7808 W. Layton Ave.) celebrates International Stout Day by tapping 10 tasty dark brews at 5 p.m. New Holland Dragon’s Milk with Raspberry and Lemon, Avery Mephistopheles and Lakefront My Turn: Latif are just a few of beers making the list.

Friday, Nov. 4: Draft & Vessel is tapping a different barrel-aged Central Waters beer every Friday in November, which is a great way to appreciate just how good the guys in Amherst do the whole barrel-aging thing. The first beer on the schedule is the Barrel-Aged Barleywine. (Tip: Mark Nov. 18 on you calendar when they tap the amazing Rye Barrel-Aged Chocolate Porter.)

Friday, Nov. 4: Ballast Point hands out samples from 4 to 7 p.m. at Discount Liquor Milwaukee (5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.).

Friday, Nov. 4: Try samples from Summit at Discount Liquor Waukesha (919 N. Barstow Ave.) from 4 to 7 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 5: Ray’s Growler Gallery hosts Third Space Brewing at 6 p.m. Try a few brews from this new outfit.

Saturday, Nov. 5: Champps (1240 S. Moorland Rd.) hosts Kaden’s Wish from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It’s a great event started by 11-year-old Kaden Stark to benefit Make-A-Wish Wisconsin. There should be some great auction items on hand and it’s a worthy cause.

Saturday, Nov. 5: Discount Liquor Waukesha hands out Ballast Point samples from noon to 3 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 5: IPAs are the subject of the weekly sampling at both Three Cellars locations (7133 S. 76th St., Franklin and N72 W13400 Lund Lane, Menomonee Falls) from 1 to 4 p.m.