Sophie Bolich

Lakefront Brewery Installing Vintage Copper Lauter Tun

Originally used in a German brewery, the kettle will be displayed at beer hall.

By - Jan 18th, 2023 12:35 pm
Rendering of lauter tun display. Photo courtesy of Russ Klisch.

Rendering of lauter tun display. Photo courtesy of Russ Klisch.

Lakefront Brewery‘s newest piece of equipment is also its oldest. After nearly six decades of international travel, a 1960s lauter tun will find its final resting place — on display inside the Milwaukee beer hall.

Once a working part of the production facility, the copper kettle was retired to storage in 2014. Upon its return to the brewery, its new purpose will be decorative rather than functional.

Originally built in 1965, the kettle was first installed in a German brewery, where it remained until 1980. It was later sold to Buffalo Brewing Company, a New York brewery. Five years later, it went to Franconia Brewing Company in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania. Six months later, in 1999, the kettle went up for auction and was bought by none other than Russ Klisch of Lakefront Brewery.

“We installed it in the year 2000, and used that kettle until about 2014,” Klisch explained. “So that actually was a functional piece of equipment here for many years.”

The brewery soon outgrew the capacity of the kettle and replaced the relic with a larger, stainless steel model.

Nearly a decade later, the Riverwest brewery, 1872 N. Commerce St., is completing an overhaul of its outdoor space. Amid plans for a new staircase, outdoor deck, permanent genderless bathrooms, a sheltered bar and seating along the riverwalk, Klisch said building code called for a vestibule at the back entrance. In a spark of inspiration, he decided to fashion the old kettle into a ceiling for the small room.

“The kettle will be hoisted up about 10 feet in the air, so it’s almost going to go to the ceiling,” he said. “Then we’re going to cut off the bottom of the kettle so you’ll be able to look up into it.”

A placard detailing the kettle’s history will be installed next to the vestibule.

During the brewing process, the tun is a vessel used for lautering, separating the wort from the solids of the mash “like a Mr. Coffee maker,” as Klisch described it,  “When everything’s heated up, all the grounds stay there but the liquid comes through. And that’s really what a lauter tun is. But it does the same thing with grain.”

The kettle is also outfitted with rakes, which cut through the grain bed to aid in the lautering process. At Lakefront, those rakes will be arranged as if in action, so that guests can feel as if they are a batch of beer being brewed, Klisch explained.

“A wort’s eye view, so to speak.”

A crew is working to polish and restore the kettle ahead of its installation. In addition to tarnishing and protein build-up, the kettle was once sprayed with foam insulation that needed to be removed. “That was a big part of the restoration, which was rather sticky,” Klisch said.

Lauter tuns are still used in the brewing process today, though many of the earlier copper models have been replaced with stainless steel for easier cleaning and maintenance.

Klisch said he hopes to have the kettle ready for viewing within six weeks or so. As for the outdoor work, “it’s all coming along,” he said, noting that the vast majority of work is expected to be complete by Memorial Day, if not earlier.

Despite construction, the beer hall remains open Monday through Thursday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Lakefront Plans

If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us