Before craft beer became a household beverage, these unique and flavorful beers were few and far between. Trying to create their own path in the beer market with no blueprint, brothers Jim and Russ Klisch created Lakefront Brewery in 1997 in the heart of the beer capitol of the world, Wisconsin. Lakefront has literally been a pioneer when it comes to beer and the only thing that might be better than the beer is the most entertaining beer tour you will ever experience.
Lakefront Brewery by 1998 was growing far too popular for the small space that had grown to produce 3,000 barrels per year so they purchased and saved a building on the riverfront that had at one point been the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant. This building not only provided the much needed space they needed to continue to grow, but it also provided the room that has become a stunning tasting room. In the years since moving into their new home, Lakefront purchased Bernie Brewer’s Chalet that was made famous in County Stadium, home to the Milwaukee Brewers. They added a place to order some iconic Wisconsin food and provide a perfect spot to enjoy a famous Friday Fish Fry.
Lakefront Brewery is a brewery of firsts. In 1996 Lakefront Brewery became the first certified organic brewery in the country and made the country’s first certified organic beer and then in 2006 they became the first brewery in the nation to receive federal approval to brew a gluten-free beer. Lakefront created “New Grist,” the country’s first government allowed gluten-free beer that is made from only water, rice, sorghum, hops, and gluten-free yeast grown on molasses.
When you walk into Lakefront Brewery you will be stunned at what a beautiful setting they have created, but along with everything else they have done, none of that matters is the beer is brewed to impress. There is no tougher beer audience than that of Milwaukee, while Wisconsin has been tagged “America’s Dairyland,” the state takes just as much pride in the history of beer as it does in the dairy industry so you know they will let you know very quickly whether your brew is up to standard. Lakefront Brewery has been a hit in every possible way you could measure success. Constant growth, today they are producing over 35,000 barrels per year, awards, numerous and in some of the biggest competitions in the world, and simply in great taste.
When it comes to beer, it is all about taste. Lakefront has a beer for every taste, but don’t limit yourself, this is one place to expand your beer horizons. If you are looking for a Belgian beer, clearly Lakefront has mastered this beer as the Lakefront Organic Belgian White took first place in the Belgian category for National Organic Craft Beer and took the Silver Medal at the Los Angeles International Beer Competition. When it comes to a stout you are not going to find many as flavorful and rich as the Fuel Cafe which is started off with organic Fuel Café coffee. In addition to the staple beers, the Lakefront seasonal brews have become widely popular. Lakefront brews a Pumpkin Lager, their largest selling seasonal beer. They also take advantage of the famous Door County cherries by producing Lakefront’s Cherry Lager. If you want to enjoy a cold Lakefront beer and are kayaking you can tie your boat to the dock right outside of the brewery and enjoy a beer break.
Finally, we are on to the beer tour. As one of the Lakefront Brewery tour guides Katie said, “you aren’t going to find shiny and flashy presentations here.” What you are going to get is entertained and the opportunity to enjoy some beers along the way. The tour might be 30 minutes, or it could be 45, honestly the last thing you will be doing is keeping track of time and you will only be wishing that it would go on longer. You start off with a little history about beer, you will get to find out how Lakefront Brewery got started and then you get to walk through the guts of the brewery itself. Prepare for some jokes, audience interaction, and you better participate or you just might be brought to the front of the class. A truly unique tour that is unlike any other brewery around and then you wind back at the tasting room with some tokens to sample some more Lakefront Beer. This might be the best value in town as well, for ten dollars you get the tour, five tokens for very nice sized beer samples and then you can turn in your plastic cup for a Lakefront Brewery beer glass to take home with you. To tell you just how popular, they have tour after tour after tour. The tours are as nearly as popular as the beer itself.
Once you finish your tour or if you just want to go in for lunch or dinner, Lakefront has some great food that it has paired perfectly with some of their beers. You can’t leave Wisconsin without experiencing fried cheese curds and if you think you have had cheese beer soup before, you haven’t like this version. No skimping on the beer or the cheese, just rich and addicting this is a spectacular soup. If that is not enough cheese for you, the mac & cheese is great and those restaurants that choose to add lobster, well they can keep that, give me the succulent pulled pork to create a unique and flavorful version.
Lakefront Brewery has not only created a great tasting lineup of beer, but they have done it in the Wisconsin way. Independent and doing it their way such as allowing employees to work on a beer flavor that they think might work; called “My Turn Series.” Once you enter Lakefront Brewery you feel like Klisch brothers did when they first started brewing beer, you are just are just having a beer with friends. A unique and inviting experience that is a must stop when you are in Milwaukee.
For more information visit: Lakefront Brewery
(Photos Courtesy Stephan Martin)