Milwaukee’s brewery boom has certainly been fueled by new breweries and the craft beer drinkers lined up to sample their brews. But these upstarts can’t exist without hardware and supplies. Two area businesses are just a couple of examples of those playing a big part in, and benefiting from, Milwaukee’s return to the moniker of Brew City. Think stainless steel.
Name one of the new breweries in town, and the chances are good that Quality Tank Solutions (QTS) played a part in getting it up and running. The family-run company, based in Oconomowoc and with a manufacturing plant in Marshfield, provides pretty much any of the gleaming stainless steel tanks a brewery needs. Owner Jimmi-Jean Sukys estimates 30 brewhouse installations in Wisconsin alone last year with Third Space Brewing, Good City Brewing, Explorium Brew Pub and City Lights Brewing being a small sample of many local customers.
“We don’t just sell the equipment,” said Sukys, who has 30 years of experience in the stainless steel industry. “We start by helping with layout. We build equipment, deliver it and then install it. We even have a professional brewer on staff. We can take them from conceptual to putting beer in that first glass. We want to work with breweries and be their partners. It doesn’t end when the sale goes out the door.”
Added Kevin Wright, brewmaster at Third Space Brewing (1505 W. St. Paul Ave.): “(QTS) supplied the brewhouse tanks, grist case and the cellar tanks, and they sourced and provided (through other manufacturers) the boiler, glycol chiller, cold liquor tank and mill and grain handling. Staying local was very important to us but only if it was a quality product. This business is all about relationships and it’s easier to form lasting relationships with people you easily interact with face-to-face. We were very happy to find a great supplier right in our backyard.”
Good City Brewing (2108 N. Farwell Ave.) opened with a brewhouse filled with QTS equipment in June 2016. Since then, brewer Andy Jones has needed to expand, twice.
“Not only do they do good work but they are local, which has proven valuable to our expansion and growth,” explained Jones. “We’ve needed to order two rounds of additional tanks since opening and their responsiveness and attention to detail in filling those orders have allowed us to keep up with growing demand.”
QTS doesn’t see any signs of slowing. The company is expanding its Marshfield location and plans to add 10 to 15 employees.
“It’s been fun to be able to say not only that we are Wisconsin made, but we are helping ignite that craft industry,” said Sukys. “Milwaukee was so far behind in the brewing scene. It’s been such a pleasure to watch all of these companies with their passions grow, give people jobs and clean areas up. It’s just such a humbling feeling to be part of that.”
Not every brewer needs a large, high-capacity brewhouse. Spike Brewing has that segment covered. High-quality custom-welded kettles and brewing systems have made Spike a rousing success among home brewers and smaller breweries since Ben Caya, a mechanical engineering grad from UW-Milwaukee, started it in 2010. The group projects more than 200 percent growth in 2017 and recently expanded into a 15,000-square-foot warehouse in Riverwest.
“With the surge in craft breweries opening in Milwaukee, we want to be part of the story about how these brewers/breweries get their start,” explained Kyle Hamilton, Spike Brewing’s director of marketing. “They start home-brewing and gain their love for the craft and eventually turn it into a business. It is every home-brewer’s dream to do this, and our goal is that they grow an affinity for the craft while brewing on our equipment, especially in the local scene.”
One new brewer who is benefiting from partnerships with both QTS and Spike Brewing is Kyle Vetter, owner of 1840 Brewing (342 E. Ward St.), which is expected to open this summer.
“I chose to buy my stainless tanks from QTS and my brew system from Spike Brewing for the same reason—they’re both top-tier manufacturers located right in my backyard,” said Vetter. “I’ve borrowed equipment from Spike at 8 p.m. on a Tuesday. QTS had their install team drive through the night from another job to pipe in my tanks because my brewing schedule changed. You just don’t get that level of service from other companies.”