Brenner Brewing Launches Happy Hour
Micro-brewer offers nine of its beers, six guest beers and a “magic” way to lower prices.
For my first happy hour column of 2016 I will perform a magic trick. When I walked into Brenner Brewing Company (706 S. 5th St.) last night they did not have a happy hour. But, “Abracadabra, Alakazam” — and voila, Brenner now has a pull tab happy hour. Admittedly, the real magician is Mike Brenner, and his magic props were purchased at B&K Bar Supply in downtown West Allis; I was merely the assistant, or catalyst, to be more precise.
The first time I visited Brenner Brewing Co. was for the Arte Para Todos 2015 thank you event in March of last year. I’d heard about Brenner through my girlfriend, who is involved in the local arts scene, and early reviews of his beer were overwhelmingly positive. As a gluten-intolerant person, my girlfriend couldn’t drink anything on the menu, considering the brewery has a basic license where only beer from Wisconsin can be sold. Brenner accommodated her with a little something from his personal stash and the event solidified (for me) his passion for the arts in Milwaukee.
Mike Brenner has taken a long and winding road to becoming a brewmaster. He has been a busker, a college dropout, a graphic design student, an arts advocate, an agitator, a home brewer, and a gallery owner, to name a few. No matter what role he finds himself playing, Brenner does it with a signature brazenness. Today that bold character is more commonly expressed through his beer and less so through his antics. With a little more than a year of operation under their belt, Brenner Brewery Co. has become one of the premier microbreweries in the Midwest.
When I was putting together my traditional local craft 6-pack Christmas gift for my discerning beer-loving cousin in Minneapolis, I had to include Brenner’s City Fox Pale Ale and their limited edition Witchcraft. I’ve already lauded the City Fox in this column and the Witchcraft deserves special mention. It is a 13.5 ABV Russian Imperial Stout made with molasses, locally sourced buckwheat honey, Anodyne Coffee and nine different malts that is oak aged with vanilla beans for over a year. It was sold in 12 oz, red wax-sealed bottles and available only on draft at Anodyne in Walker’s Point and at Brenner Brewery. Witchcraft was quite simply the best beer I had in 2015 and thankfully it will be back next Halloween.
At the moment Brenner beer is available in about 170 bars and stores throughout Wisconsin. The company currently does all its own marketing and distribution, although that may change soon. Given their shoestring budget, initial cost overruns and struggles with the city, they are only open Thursday through Sunday. Brenner gives two tours on Thursday/Sunday and 4-6 on Friday/Saturday. The tasting room is open Thursday 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., Friday 12 p.m. to 11 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The happy hour that Brenner and I concocted runs Thursday 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and Friday 3 p.m. to 6 p.m., and involves novelty pull tabs that give you a chance of receiving a half-priced or 50 cent drink.
If MillerCoors is the corporate/historical tour, Lakefront is the humorous tour (they hire local comedians as guides) and MKE is the generous drinking tour, then Brenner is the art appreciation tour. While you don’t actually get to venture next door into the Pitch Project, which houses 22 artist studios and lots of gallery space, Brenner speaks about his dedication to and incorporation of the arts into his beer business. Each bottle label features a design licensed and purchased from a local artist, and when their new website is up it will include Milwaukee music playlists.
There are 15 tap lines in the Brenner tasting room, six for guests and nine for their own brews. The Star Baby IPA was their first product and it is fantastic, maybe even better than the City Fox Pale Ale. The Bacon Bomb rauchbier might be their most well-known creation and makes for a great bloody mary chaser. On the heavier side they have a delicious mix of sweet and sour with the Soundcheck sour cherry chocolate stout on nitro and regular tap, as well as the 8.1 ABV AffenKönig hopfenweizenbock, a complex German brew. The Anxious robust porter is pretty simple, but a cocoa nib-flavored and vanilla oak-aged version should be ready in a couple weeks. Brenner also teased a sour brown Belgian that has been in one of his French oak tanks for four months and has about another four months to go.
Brenner recently collaborated with the Milwaukee Barons, an organization dedicated to bringing a professional outdoor soccer club to our city. The Barons beer is a solid German light pilsner, great for drinking on (would-be) game days. Brenner has a very precise Austrian-built growler filler and the best fill-up prices in town. If you don’t have your own 64oz jug, they sell $6 Brenner growlers, along with other gift baskets and mugs. Brenner also wins the award for best beer name with their Butterfly Farts summer ale.
Even though Brenner doesn’t have a license to make food they still offer Bavarian pretzels, fresh cheese curds (not deep fried), peanuts, chips and other snacks. They also carry soda, juice and energy drinks. During Packers games Brenner hosts a potluck viewing party and if you bring a dish to share you receive $2 off all pints. Beers are also available in taster size for $2-$5. This Sunday afternoon should gather a rowdy crowd as the Packers begin another quest for Super Bowl glory. Brenner’s quest for glory has taken many turns and this latest direction is certainly the tastiest.