In the winter of 2015, the beer guys at Champps Americana—co-owner Tony Lewanovich and beverage director Justin Smith—decided to turn over the taps of their burgeoning beer bar to some rare brews. The result was a crowded scene and the start of an event that has quickly become one of the most amazing one-day collections of limited beers in the Midwest.
The third iteration of the event, the Craft Beer Anniversary Party III, takes place on Saturday, December 2 at Champps (1240 S. Moorland Rd.). The doors open at 10 a.m.
The menu for this year’s bash is a whale hunter’s (aka: rare beer aficionado’s) dream and one where a standout like Goose Island Bourbon County Stout appears as an also-ran. Thanks Goose, but I’m more interested in pours of Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout or Central Waters Bourbon Barrel-Aged Black Gold (2016 and 2017 vintages) that Champps plans to tap. Want to taste what local breweries are doing with barrel aging? Try Good City Barrel-Aged Density Imperial Stout, Third Space Haunted Barrel Candy Bar Porter or Raised Grain Barrel-Aged Anniversary Stout. If you’re not big on stouts, Champps has eight different ale offerings from Toppling Goliath ready to pour.
So how does Champps manage to secure such an astonishing portfolio? Hard work and planning.
“The planning for each event starts out roughly 18 months in advance, so next year’s event is already underway,” said Lewanovich. “The excitement, the rush, the many phone calls and debates are what make this event great. I would never say that it is ‘difficult’ to amass these kegs. It is fun. It is competitive. The breweries themselves want to be on that list so it creates a more competitive angle.”
Lewanovich bought Champps in 2012 and set out to transform a chain sports bar into a craft beer destination in the western ‘burbs. Not an easy task. Ample space and a family-friendly, welcoming vibe have helped Champps pour a lot of beer. Breweries like high-volume accounts, and that certainly doesn’t hurt when you’re trying to get rare brews. Still, Champps proceeded with caution in the early going and avoided stepping on the toes of established beer bars.
“We were very concerned about the reaction that we would get if we just jumped into the deep end and started carrying crazy beers without taking the proper time to earn the respect from the breweries, distributors and the consumer,” explained Lewanovich. “So many great beer bars in Milwaukee have earned a deservedly high level of respect from these groups. The Bartolotta Group, Sugar Maple, Palm Tavern, Burnhearts have been doing this forever and have a longer running relationship with some breweries. New guys such as us, The Hale House and Brass Tap have taken that same long-running respect into our business models.”
How far Champps has come will be on full display on Saturday. Be sure to get there early if you want a barstool.
“There is nothing more fun than what we will be doing this Saturday,” added Lewanovich. “We circle this day on the calendar and start working towards it. It goes without mention that I have the privilege of working with one of the best collection of employees that anyone could ask for. Without their dedication, commitment, passion and energy, none of this would ever be possible.”
Champps Craft Beer Anniversary Party III
Saturday, 10 a.m.
Beer List (expect more than a few other surprises)
- Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout
- Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
- Central Waters Bourbon Barrel-Aged Black Gold 2016
- Central Waters Bourbon Barrel-Aged Black Gold 2017
- Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale
- Central Waters Y2K Barleywine
- Bell’s Bourbon Barrel-Aged Black Note
- Bell’s Whiskey Barrel-Aged 30th Anniversary
- Goose Island BCBS 2017
- Goose Island BCBS Barleywine 2017
- Indeed Brewing Co. Barrel-Aged Rum King
- Indeed Brewing Co. Barrel-Aged Whiskey Queen
- Indeed Brewing Co. Barrel-Aged Rum King/Espresso Variant
- Indeed Brewing Co. Barrel-Aged Rum King/Coffee Variant
- Oskar Blues Barrel-Aged Ten Fidy 2017
- Surly Barrel-Aged Darkness 2017
- Surly Double Barrel Pentagram
- 18th Street Brewing Bourbon Barrel-Aged Hunter/Coffee Variant
- Half Acre Vanilla Big Hugs 2016
- Avery Bourbon Barrel-Aged Tweak
- Three Floyd’s Crack the Skye
- Raised Grain Barrel-Aged Anniversary Stout
- Third Space Haunted Barrel Candy Bar Porter
- Good City Barrel-Aged Density
- Stone Tequila Barrel-Aged Xocoveza (Anejo)
- Revolution Bourbon Barrel-Aged Markland Brown Ale (Cocoa/Vanilla)
- Tyranena Carnal Knowledge in the Morn
- Great Lakes Barrel-Aged Christmas Ale (2016)
- Toppling Goliath King Sue Imperial IPA
- Toppling Goliath Galaxy Pseudo Sue Pale Ale
- Toppling Goliath Dragon Fandango American Wild Ale
- Toppling Goliath Kettle Clogger Imperial IPA
- Toppling Goliath XHops Emerald Pale Ale
- Toppling Goliath XHops Amber Pale Ale
- Toppling Goliath Pseudo Sue Pale Ale
- Toppling Goliath Golden Nugget IPA