Old Pump House Now Churns Out Beer
Horny Goat Hideaway is a brew pub with an ever changing list of craft brewed beers.
“We’re in the business of having fun,” says brewmaster Dave Reese about the Horny Goat Brewing Company and its brew pub, the Horny Goat Hideaway. “Too many beer drinkers take themselves too seriously.” Not at Horny Goat. After all, just look at their name. “Drinking beer should be fun. We wanted to reflect that with the name.”
The Horny Goat beer label was launched in April 2009 by CEO Jim Sorenson. The Horny Goat Hideaway opened a few months later, in October 2009, along the Kinnickinnic River, at 2011 S. 1st St. It’s located at the site of a pump house built in 1929 after the city found it would be cheaper to construct a building than to purchase a new fire boat to gather the water needed to fight fires. From the outside, the building doesn’t look much different from the area’s other older industrial buildings, but inside is a different story.
The interior was completely remodeled in 2006 by the previous owners, leaving it move-in ready for the Horny Goat, which uses every level. The street level contains the bar, a seating area, and an area designated for in-house brewing. Through a large glass window, patrons can see Reese’s beer-making laboratory. The upper level contains more seating, while the basement contains large vats where Reese’s beer ferments. Reese says the Horny Goat loves its urban location and is proud of the fact the company moved into the city, while others are moving out. “There wasn’t a whole lot here when we came on the scene,” he says. “People are developing around us now. This is our home. We believe in investing in the community.”
Reese has been Horny Goat’s brewmaster since November 2009. He was originally going to be the Hideaway’s manager, but when the establishment needed a brewmaster, he decided to take that position instead. He even received a brewmaster degree from Chicago’s Siebel Institute of Technology. “At one point I either wanted to be a rock star or a brewmaster,” says Reese, weighing his hands back and forth. “Tough choice!”
Reese describes the on-site brewing set-up as a pilot brewhouse. He develops all of the beer recipes, but the most popular flavors go to Stevens Point Brewery for bottling. The Horny Goat Hideway was created as a vehicle to get the beer out to consumers and serves as a good test market. “We get enough people here that I can turn out beers fast and be creative. I have a lot of freedom.” The original flavors include Exposed, Hopped Up ‘n Horny, Belgian-style Wheat, Horny Blonde and Stacked Mill Stout. Some of the seasonal brews include Oktoberfest, Baby Got Bock, Watermelon Wheat and Chocolate Cherry Stout. Many of the beer names play off the Horny Goat name, but Reese says some, like Watermelon Wheat, avoid this because he doesn’t want the beer to get lost in the name. The Hideaway has 10 different flavors of beer on tap at all times and Reese is always creating more. He’s “pretty fearless” when it comes to developing flavors, he says, so customers can be assured of something new every few weeks.
The development time for each flavor is always different, and requires experimentation to get it right. “Sometimes I get the whacky idea to put mango in beer,” he says. “But I’m comfortable enough with the materials now, so I know how they’ll react.” For more classic beer flavors, Reese finds at least five similar beers from other breweries to sees what he likes and doesn’t like before developing his own. The key, he says, is “singing” in tune with the yeast. “Once you learn the yeast, it’ll tell you what it likes.”
This is a boom time to become a brewmaster, Reese says. “The craft beer revolution is happening now. There’s never been a time with more opportunities.” But there is also a lot of competition. “You have to be aggressive and you can’t be afraid to knock on doors and be told no.” And you must be willing to do a lot of cleaning and scrubbing floors. “We’re basically glorified janitors,” he jokes.
These days, Horny Goat offers a lot more than unique beer flavors. General Manager Bobby Scarcello says the establishment is like three venues wrapped up into one. In 2010, the bar expanded outdoors, constructing one of Milwaukee’s largest patios. Out there, customers can enjoy a full bar, additional seating, fire pits and live music, all overlooking the Kinnickinnic River. Boat slips were also added so boaters could stop by and enjoy the atmosphere. During the winter, much of the area is heated so customers can still venture outside.
The 2010 expansion also constructed four volleyball courts. In the winter, they are enclosed in a big, heated tent so that play can continue year-round. Glycol lines run beneath the sand so that it is always 72 degrees. This summer, the property will expand even further, adding an outdoor kitchen, which will be located near the volleyball courts.
Tom Fell has been visiting the Horny Goat Hideaway since last summer and likes stopping by on his boat. Though he enjoys the food all year, he says summer just provides a different atmosphere. He likes putting his feet up around the fire pit and checking out the volleyball games. “It’s just an all-around fun place to be.”