Raised Grain Brewing Co. has been going against the grain. But that's worked out just fine for one of the area's best breweries.
Milwaukee’s well-publicized big brewery boom of 2016 brought plenty of hoopla to a number of deserving new area breweries. Raised Grain Brewing Co. (2244 W. Bluemound Rd., Waukesha) didn’t get lumped into the media parade because the brewery’s timing was a little off. The Waukesha outfit open its doors a few months too early in September 2015. No big deal. Award-winning beers, well-timed limited releases and excellent beer helped Raised Grain become one of the most successful newcomers of the bunch. It’s easy to see why Raised Grain is expanding and moving production into a 20,000-square-foot facility at 1725 Dolphin Drive.
In September of 2014, Nick Reistad, a one-time professional cyclist stuck behind a desk at an advertising firm, decided he was looking for something more.
“It seemed like craft beer was something I enjoyed, and something that brings people together,” said Reistad. “I explored it, started working on a business plan and connected with [partner] Kevin Brandenburg. Kevin knew Dr. Scott Kelley. Ultimately, he connected the four of us — Jimmy [Gosset] is Scott’s long time brewing partner.”
Gosset, a vascular physician, and Kelley, a dermatopathologist, have been brewing together for seven years, but clearly have been doing it right for most of that time.
“We met on September 19, 2014 and that night we decided to get it done. We opened the doors a little less than year later,” Reistad said.
A month after Raised Grain opened I made the trip to Waukesha to check it out. I was impressed by the malty balance of the signature beer, Paradocs Red IIPA. Every brewery needs a standout, and this clearly was one.
A year later, I was checking results from the 2016 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. There, in the list of gold medal winners, was Paradocs—a huge accomplishment for any brewery, let alone one brewed by a pair of homebrewing doctors at a brewery just over a year old. Paradocs was just the third beer the duo brewed together.
“None of us were (in Denver for GABF),” explained Reistad. “We were building our food truck that day. I got a couple of texts saying congratulations on the win. I ran out to the guys working on the food truck. We cheered loudly for about a minute and we got back to work.”
Added sales and distribution manager Alex Stanton: “We brewed Paradocs the next day. It was ironic that it won an award and then we had to be up early in the morning on a Sunday to brew.”
Success in the Western ‘Burbs
Raised Grain draws a crowd. Before a February release of the limited (and excellent) Batch 100 Imperial Stout, a line snaked around the strip mall building that houses the brewery. That’s a good sign, and so is the fact that Raised Grain beer has nearly 70 tap accounts and can be found in more than 20 retail stores.
Reistad says the need for expansion became evident by about six months in. “We did some incremental expansions where we went from four fermenters to six, so that boosted us a couple hundred barrels a year,” Reistad said. “Those are filled every day right now. We added our small bottling line, which has proven to be a great decision.”
The Love of Brewing
Despite the early success of Raised Grain, Dr. Kelley and Dr. Gosset haven’t given up their day jobs.
“They are two really busy guys,” added Reistad. “They’re incredibly passionate about anything they do. It’s tough for sure, but they do a good job balancing. Their doctor jobs always come first. Then they come here and relax. It’s a lot of hard work, but for them it’s an enjoyable experience. It started because they wanted to share their beer with more than just their friends. The cool part is that they’re still sharing their beer with friends. They just have a lot more friends.”