Enlightened Brewing Company Looks Back to Move Forward

Enlightened Brewing Co. is leaning on its roots to create the Rough Draught Series, a cleverly named experimental brewing program.

The Rough Draught process makes a lot of sense. Enlightened creates 10 barrels of wort in its large brewhouse and then splits that up into three, 3.5-barrel tanks. Owners Tommy Vandervort and James Larson can then get creative with each of the three smaller batches by adding different yeasts to each, dry-hopping them differently or even adding a mix of fruit and spices to each.

The 3.5-barrel tanks are the first stainless steel tanks Enlightened owned and were first put to use when the brewery occupied the first floor of the Lincoln Warehouse (2018 S. 1st St.) five years ago. The brewery first opened in a small space on the second floor of the same building in 2013.

“From a historical standpoint, those tanks really got us going,” said Vandervort. “That was the first ‘real’ brewery that we had, once we got downstairs in the Lincoln Warehouse. It’s kind of nice to have that anchor still here at the new brewery where we ramped up and started doing it professionally.”

Enlightened has grown into a decidedly larger space since its Lincoln Warehouse days. In spring of 2019, it moved into a sprawling space at 2020 S. Allis St.



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“When we were really small we could make whatever we wanted at any time,” said Vandervort. “With a bigger system you want to develop flagships and consistent production. It keeps the lights on. Once you have that going there’s a desire to go back to the smaller brewery mindset to experimenting.”

The first Rough Draught release was a series of three hazy IPAs. The second happened in late July during a Summer Block Party at Enlightened. Those three creations were a French saison, a Belgian saison and a blonde ale dosed with a beer-soluble CBD powder. Expect more hazies in the next round, and a batch of pilsners in the fourth iteration.

A busy brewery benefits from the fun of experimentation. And small batches help limit risk when introducing creative approaches to the beer drinking public.

“It’s a lot easier for us to take something small and throw it out there,” said Larson. “If the public wants it, then we can scale up to a larger (brewing) system.”

The first four batches are just a start. Expect Rough Draught to become a big part of Enlightened in the future.

“We want to do as much with Rough Draught as we possibly can,” added Larson. “We want it to keep going and have its own persona under the umbrella of Enlightened. It may not be the same Enlightened branding or thought process. Let’s get weird with it. Let it off the leash and see where it goes.”



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.