Lion’s Tail Brewery Targeting 2022 for Tosa Opening

The Neenah brewery’s second location will take root in a former garden and pet store on North Avenue.

A plan to build a brewery and taproom in Wauwatosa took a leap forward Friday as Neenah’s Lion’s Tail Brewing closed on its purchase of a former home and garden store on North Avenue.

Wisconsin Garden & Pet Supply, 8520 W. North Ave., closed this fall after 68 years in business. It leaves behind a complex of buildings totaling 4,615 indoor square feet, as well as a sheltered outdoor area where tomato plants, flowers and ornamental grasses were once sold that now figures to be an excellent beer garden.

“We can’t wait to join such a fantastic Milwaukee beer community and an incredible neighborhood like the one in Wauwatosa,” the brewery said in a Facebook post Friday. “We’re proud to be a small part of the growth we expect for this city in the years to come!”

Lion’s Tail opened as a brewpub in downtown Neenah in 2015 and has more or less maxed out production in its current space at about 800 barrels this year. It sells its kegs and four-packs of cans in most of central and eastern Wisconsin, including Milwaukee and Madison.


 

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The new facility will allow Lion’s Tail, which self-distributes its beer, to add accounts in those existing markets, as well as ensure a more steady supply to shops, bars and restaurants that already carry its beer, said operations and marketing manager Nick Leak. Like many small breweries, Lion’s Tail began packaging much more of its beer in cans last year as the pandemic set in and draft sales dried up. Its colorfully labeled cans became a more steady presence in local bottle shops last year.

Lion’s Tail’s portfolio is a hybrid of contemporary and traditional styles, with hazy IPAs and over-fruited sours alongside European-style lagers and wheat ales. Its flagship beer Juice Cloud was at the leading edge of the New England/hazy IPA trend in Wisconsin, making a name for Lion’s Tail among the state’s beer geeks in the brewery’s early days.

With shaky timetables for government approvals and construction, Leak said it’s unclear when the Wauwatosa brewery might open, though he does expect it will be in 2022. The brewery and taproom will employ 10-20 people, part and full time.

The brewing equipment hasn’t been ordered yet, Leak said, but Lion’s Tail owner Alex Wenzel, who grew up in Mequon, is leaning toward a 15-barrel brewhouse that could allow the company to more than double its production. Documents submitted to the city call for annual production of 1,000 to 2,500 barrels in Wauwatosa. The Neenah brewery has a 10-barrel brewing system.

Galbraith Carnahan Architects of Wauwatosa is designing the property remodel, which will include new construction over a driveway that bisects the property. And Leak said Lion’s Tail is working with Duffek Construction, which was the general contractor for Eagle Park Brewing’s large brewery and taproom in Muskego.

Building, design, liquor license and brewing approvals from the city and state are still pending, but closing on the property after months of negotiations is a big step, Leak said. He declined to provide the purchase price or overall project cost.

“It’s been a long time coming, but we’re really excited,” he said.

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Executive editor, Milwaukee Magazine. Aficionado of news, sports and beer. Dog and cat guy. (Yes, both.)