Perspective Brewing Facade

The Milwaukee Brewery Boom Heads West

The coming openings of two new breweries is adding to a city that was somewhat overlooked not too long ago.

When the founders of Ope! Brewing Co. went searching for a building in the Milwaukee area to accommodate their new brewery plans, they were met with an astonishing amount of indifference. But one business-savvy community welcomed them in a big way – West Allis.

“We’d been looking at other buildings and we couldn’t even get anyone to return phone calls or emails,” said Ope! co-owner Kyle Ciske. “As soon as we started looking in West Allis, they were really helpful getting this deal done and helping to make sure that everything got through planning commission meetings and common council. [The city of West Allis] has been instrumental.”

West Allis, population 60,000, has hardly been known as a home to a robust brewing community. Its first craft brewery, Westallion Brewing Co., popped up in 2017, and its second didn’t appear until Layman Brewing opened in late 2020. But the beer scene is rapidly changing in Milwaukee’s western enclave. Ope! and nearby Perspective Brewing Co. will significantly add to the mix when they open at some point in the spring or summer of 2022 (opening dates for both are tentative).

Photo courtesy of Ope!

Ope! and Perspective

The two new breweries are decidedly different even if they are less than a mile apart.

Ope! (6751 W. National Ave.) is setting up shop in a 13,000-square-foot building that used to house the Perfect Screw Products Corp. It resides on a 1.5-acre lot across the street from The West Living, a gleaming luxury apartment complex that serves as a signpost of a West Allis Renaissance.

Owners Adam Anders, John Onopa and Ciske have plenty of indoor and outdoor space to work with. Ciske, who spent five years brewing for Explorium Brewpub, leads a brewhouse that is starting out with a two-vessel, 15-barrel system. There’s room to easily expand brewing capacity when the time comes. Expect all three owners to contribute to the brewing process, and the tap list to be extremely varied.

“It’s not that hard to look at trends in the brewing industry,” Ciske explained. “You see what’s selling and you want to do those things. But you know some people just want a beer-flavored beer – a lager or a pale ale. You can’t abandon all those things to only make hazy milkshakes or pastry stouts. We will do that, but we won’t abandon some of the classic styles.”

An expansive 6,000-square-foot taproom and a half-acre beer garden provide ample opportunities to get creative with the Ope! experience.

“We have a lot of room to work with so we can do a lot of fun things,” said Anders. “But at the same time we have a lot of room we have to do work on. It’s a lot of filing the space but making it not feel disjointed.”

Photo courtesy of Ope!

The smaller Perspective Brewing Co. (7508 W. Greenfield Ave.) is nestled in a busy downtown stretch not far from relative newcomers to the area like the craft-beer focused Camino and is a short walk to Element 84, another new upscale apartment development on 84th Street.

The owners, brothers Dan and Ben Naus, are both high school science teachers, and both attended an immersion course and were part of brewery internship in Colorado. Ben will take care of the brewing duties on a seven-barrel system.

Perspective has a 1,500-square-foot taproom planned as well as a small outdoor beer garden. The 12 taps will pour all sorts of beer styles.

“I love European beers, specifically Belgians,” said Dan Naus. “My wife loves stouts and porters. My brother loves IPAs and my sister-in-law loves sours. We are hoping to have something for everyone.”

The Naus brothers began their teaching careers at West Allis Central High School, but other than that have no ties to the area. The city was similarly helpful with their brewery plans.

“We like the downtown location. It’s trending upward,” said Naus. “(West Allis) helped us find funding, helped us manage loans. They’ve been super helpful and very responsive. I met the mayor, Dan Devine, and he’s a big craft beer fan so that’s always helpful, too.”


Small Business Friendly ‘Stallis

Starting a small business is a difficult process, but according to Ciske and Naus, West Allis helped make it a lot easier.

Patrick Schloss, the city’s economic development executive director for the City of West Allis, says it’s important to maintain a vibrant economy through the addition of exciting small businesses like breweries and restaurants.

“(Breweries) bring a place where people can get together,” explained Schloss. “We make sure that we help. We’re here to be a resource. Our role is to stay out of the way, but we want to be easy to get ahold of when needed. We want to be business friendly and make that process as smooth as possible. There are new people moving to our city looking for fun, unique places. We have a very diverse and vibrant business community, and that’s exciting.”

For brewery owners, the allure is pretty simple.

“The demographics of West Allis are rapidly changing right now,” explained Anders. “The median age is skewing younger and median income is skewing higher. It’s really developing into more young professionals and young families. For us, that’s the bread-and-butter demographic for craft beer.”

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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.