Inside Good City Brewing
Take a virtual tour of the city's newest brewery, the first on the Lower East Side.
Milwaukee’s booming brewery scene has arrived on the Lower East Side. Friday at 11:30 a.m. Good City Brewing will officially open to the public at 2108 N. Farwell Ave. Founded by three self-described “hop heads,” the brewery is part of a wave of new breweries coming to Milwaukee this summer.
The brewery’s logo features a key and that guides the company’s motto of “seek the good.” Partner David Dupee, a lawyer and founder of the equity crowdfunding platform CraftFund, says “we want every one of our customers to live life like the mayor has given them the key to the city.” The beer menu, which will expand over the coming weeks to offer nine beers, lists the three key values of the brewery – excellence, people and place.
The taproom has aspects of all of those values, with aesthetically pleasing design flourishes ranging from large garage doors that open to the street to a fireplace for the colder months. Partner Dan Katt, who also runs real estate development firm Craft Development, noted that the partners deliberately chose not to add a television to the space. The brewery is visible from the taproom, but clearly separated with the taproom having a warm design while the brewery portion Katt compared to a factory in the suburbs.
While the brewery will have food, Dupee doesn’t want you to call it a brewpub. “We are a brewery first and foremost,” he notes, “but if we’re going to do food, we’re going to do it well.” To that end, the brewery hired Guy Davies, former executive chef at the Rumpus Room, to handle the food at the taproom. During a media preview, Davies notes “we’re on the East Side of Milwaukee, there are a lot of tastes and preferences.” The one-page menu features appetizers, burgers, salads and a handful of dinner entrees and “is intended not to be intimidating,” Davies says. He was quick to emphasis the local firms that supply his kitchen, including Clock Shadow Creamery and the Milwaukee Pretzel Company.
Jeff Gray, former manager of the Malt Shoppe, will manage the taproom for Good City.
During the brewery tour, I was treated to samples of four of the beers the brewery will debut. Motto, a pale ale, Clean Cut, a session India Pale Ale, Risk, an India Pale Ale (and the one that convinced the partners they were ready to start a brewery) and Detail, a porter. While I’m far from a beer expert and generally drink beer with the motto “the darker, the better,” the distinctive hops strains used for each beer were immediately noticeable. If your preferred beer of choice is Miller Lite, this probably isn’t the place for you. The porter, the darkest brew, was easily my favorite.
While the brewery hopes to begin canning next year, they’re offering 32 ounce “crowlers” today. A play on term growler, the grab-and-go format popular with many breweries, the crowler is a manually-canned aluminum can filled with a beer of your choice. The brewery, which will be self-distributing, also hopes to get their product onto the tap lists of a number of area establishments. For the time being, if you want to drink Good City beer, you’re going to have to come down to their taproom.
The Actual Brewing
Production will be led by brewmaster and partner Andy Jones. Jones is a graduate of the University of California – Davis Master Brewers Program, and brewed at Goose Island Brewing in Chicago before becoming plant manager at Lakefront Brewery. At Good City, Jones oversees a substantially smaller operation than he did at Lakefront. Lakefront produces approximately 45,000 barrels a year, while Jones says Good City anticipates doing about 1,500 this year through a 17-barrel system. The N. Farwell Ave. location could support production of up to 10,000 barrels annually before the group would need to lease additional space.
Jones, who enjoys beer talk like kids love a candy shop, noted that almost all of the brewing equipment is from Quality Tank Solutions of Oconomowoc. Far from an off-the-shelf solution, Jones praised how the firm let him interact directly with engineers to create a custom solution for Good City. Jones is joined in the brewery by head brewer Ray Sachs, who is making the jump to become a full-time brewer after serving for years as an architect with HGA.
Good City, which had a start-up cost of approximately $1.5 million, raised money through friends and family, a $30,000 white box grant from the city and a Small Business Administration loan.
Alderman Nik Kovac, in attendance for Wednesday’s ceremonial unlocking (complete with giant key), praised the brewery as “a great addition to the North Ave, Prospect, Farwell corridor.” Kovac praised the grant program and its apolitical nature, and encouraged those in attendance to raise awareness of its availability, noting that businesses “don’t need to through a political process to get these grants.” The city-wide program is administered by the Department of City Development.