Brewery: Lakefront Brewery
Location: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Production: 33,368 BBLs
Year Founded: 1987
Brewmaster: Marc Luther Paul
Brewmaster’s Favorite Beer: “I love all Lakefront Beer! Herren Pils from Keesmann Brauerei in Bamberg”
Innovation / Awards: Answer: “Lakefront has a ton of exciting things happening. We will max out brewing capacity at our current location in 2015. To prepare ourselves for this, the owner is looking at a location in the Menominee Valley in downtown Milwaukee to build a second brewery. This will free up our brew staff in the current location to focus on specialty barrel aged beers, sours and who knows what. We’re also opening 10 new states with draft in September and we’re currently wrapping up new style beers and packaging that will start to hit the market towards the end of the year. Look for our next 25th Anniversary Series Volume 3 beer to hit the shelf at the end of next week. It’s an Imperial Pumpkin aged in Brandy Barrels and it taste amazing!
Our most recent nationally recognized award was a silver medal for Fixed Gear American Red at the Great American Beer Festival in 2012.”
Awards are listed on Lakefront’s website: http://www.lakefrontbrewery.com/awards
Availability: Lakefront is currently available in 36 states. We export our beer to Israel, Japan, Australia, South Korea, Brazil and Germany.
About: According to Brewery President Russ Klisch, the whole brewery started with his brother, Jim. Near his birthday, Jim expressed interest in beer making, and Russ humored him by giving him a homebrewing book. To Russ’ surprise, Jim read the book, and brewed a beer. By Russ’ account, Jim was no gourmet cook, but he made a pretty good beer. Impressed, Russ decided he could brew one better. In short, sibling rivalry and common interest lead both brothers to begin entering homebrewing contests and winning awards. It wasn’t long before family and friends encouraged them to turn their hobby into a business.
The Klisch family has roots in the beer industry: their grandfather worked for Schlitz, driving a delivery truck and also worked as a chauffeur for the Uihlein’s. Russ remembers his grandfather bringing home short fills to his dad: “it was a cool job if you got to bring beer home at night.” Several family members also owned taverns. With that family history and their common interest in beer making, the brothers started their business. They decided to start small and chose a location within walking distance of their home: an old bakery building in Riverwest, at 818 East Chambers Street. They began brewing with 55 gallon stainless steel drums and used dairy equipment. On December 2, 1987 they sold their first barrel of beer to the Gordon Park Pub. With the brewery up and running, the infamous tour started soon after!
As Lakefront’s popularity grew, so did their production: by 1988, sales jumped to 72 barrels; by 1989, 125 barrels; and sales began doubling after that.
In 1990, owner Russ Klisch built his own bottling machine and began bottling their beer. As the brewery expanded, more used equipment was brought in to meet the demand. Once, a food critic who visited the brewery, commented that they had a “Frankenstein operation”, because all their equipment had lived and died in a previous life. In 1998, production had reached nearly 3,000 barrels in the small 3,600 square foot space, and Jim and Russ decided it was time to move.
The search was on for a new location and the City of Milwaukee had a building to sell. In 1908, Lakefront Brewery’s current building housed the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant. It was later sold to the City to house Milwaukee’s Forestry Department. But in 1998, the City was considering tearing down the old power plant to uphold a contract with a nearby apartment complex unless a local business was interested in the location.
At the same time, demand for Lakefront’s innovative beers increased. Jim and Russ concluded they had outgrown the little bakery, and it was time to move on. They looked at several sites, but decided on this location upon the City’s recommendation.
The move was completed and additions were made to both the building and brewery. In 1999 the Lakefront Brewery Palm Garden began hosting their fish fry. In 2000, Russ replaced the homemade brewing equipment with a real brew house. Production has increased throughout the years, and in 2012 had reached 33,368 barrels.