New craft breweries pour into Milwaukee
Milwaukee is seeing a boom in craft breweries. So much so, it has some beer drinkers wondering if they’ll all make it.
In just the past year-and-a-half, 11 new craft breweries opened in the city.
"It's a little bit scary at times as a brewery owner seeing so much competition out there," Andy Gehl, co-founder of Third Space Brewing admitted.
It’s competition that barreled in at the same time. Most of these founders put together business plans when Brew City was primarily about the big guys.
"We had Pabst, Blast, Schlitz, Miller. You know Miller's still here. So people saw it as the big industrial beer city and maybe not so much as a small beer city," Kevin Wright, co-founder and brewmaster at Third Space Brewing said.
But those in the craft beer industry say our city was overdue for this craft brewery boom.
"It's actually kind of surprising it took this long for it to happen in Milwaukee, Dave Cartwright said.
Cartwright is the Wisconsin Craft Manager for Beechwood Sales & Service in New Berlin. He's been in the industry for nearly two decades and has witnessed the changes over the years.
"There's so much more awareness. The consumer is much more educated and sophisticated in terms of their beer knowledge and their palate. You have to come out with a quality product,” Cartwright said.
Third Space Brewing in the Menomonee Valley opened in September 2016. It brews blends, so you won’t find them anywhere else.
“It’s not something you can mimic the exact hop profile,” Wright explained.
Third Space then markets their beers with a friendly message.
"Too much beer is becoming kind of elitist and snobby and we're trying to say hey... we can do really cool, interesting, fun beers. We can geek out on them, but they're for everybody," Wright said.
Less than five miles away is Good City Brewing on Milwaukee’s east side. This brewery opened in June 2016 and is focused on diversity. It has brewing styles for the beer geeks and for the masses.
"We've got an incredible pilsner and a National Champion Double IPA and that spans a wide gap of people who have either been drinking craft beer for years or who are just starting to try breweries that maybe aren’t household names,” Dan Katt, co-founder of Good City Brewing said.
Good City, Third Space, and MobCraft Beer all hit a homerun they didn’t expect, at least not right off the bat. They secured deals to have their beer sold at Miller Park.
Two of them currently have their beers on tap at the new Local Brews bar inside the stadium. All three have their beers available in cans around the ballpark.
"That's two million people who have your beer in front of them. Whether or not they're buying it, they're seeing it, seeing other people drinking it,” Wright said.
David Dupee, co-founder at Good City, agrees. “It’s great brand awareness to only be around for 11 months and be in a venue like that.”
The next move for some of the new breweries is getting their beer into more spots around town.
"So it's a question of can we get that space on limited tap handles at a bar or restaurant and can we get that shelf space at the grocery store and at the local liquor store," Gehl said.
The new guys have confidence in their product. They even think there’s room for more craft breweries in the city if Milwaukee chooses to drink local.
New craft breweries have also opened recently in some of the suburbs, including Greendale, Cedarburg, West Allis, and Glendale.
Wisconsin as a whole now ranks 12th per capita for craft breweries, according to the Brewers Association. Vermont takes the number one spot.