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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Nov. 23, 2014

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In Dining

The new summer-all-the-time tent towers over the Horny Goat Hideaway grounds. (PHOTO: Horny Goat Hideaway)

In Dining

The sand in the tent is heated to 75-80 degrees. (PHOTO: Horny Goat Hideaway)

Endless summer on the South Side


Jim Sorenson is making a pledge that sounds mighty irresistible. "Summer will never end here," he flatly promises.

Here is the Horny Goat Hideaway, the initially small South Side brewpub that in less than two years has exploded into a beehive of constant activity and expansion. Sorenson owns the business with a silent partner, and he is backing up his vow about summer with a massive 14,600-square foot tent that has risen in the past few weeks over the outdoor volleyball courts the Goat built last year.

Coils have been buried 18 inches into the ground to heat the sand on three courts to between 75 and 80 degrees. The tent's air will also be heated to summer temperatures, and professional volleyball tournaments are planned for the winter.

The facility also has a 20x20-foot stage for bands and perhaps theater performances, seating for about 200 and a monster-sized television screen.

"We have the largest video wall in the city outside of Miller Park," Sorenson recently said. "It's 16x10. That's bigger than the bedroom I grew up in."

Sorenson said the tent's sides will be removed in the summer, but the roof may stay, giving the Goat an all-weather facility.

The new structure is the most dramatic evidence of the Horny Goat Hideaway's sudden emergence as an unlikely recreational hotspot. Located in a gritty industrial area of the South Side, the Goat is anchored by a smallish 1931 brick building constructed by the city as its first high pressure water pumping station for the fire hydrant system.

The city sold the station after it was decommissioned, and the structure served as a private residence and the Pump House bar, according to Sorenson, before he and his partner bought it two years ago. The new owner's background is in marketing craft beers, and he quickly set up a small brewing operation in the two-story pumping station. The Horny Goat brand was born.

In November 2009 the Horny Goat Hideaway brewpub opened with a seating capacity of 130 on two floors. Six months later it unveiled an expansive 200-seat outdoor patio along the adjacent Kinnickinnic River, and business immediately quadrupled. The patio continued to grow, adding a year-round glass-walled bar as well as more fire pits and boat slips.

Volleyball courts boosted the customer base, and Sorenson and his partner enlarged the Horny Goat Hideaway footprint to acquire extra parking and room to further expand the business. The Goat bought Milwaukee Marine across the river this year for its parking capacity and boat slips, and it is currently in the process of purchasing two more parcels contiguous to its main parking lots. When that is completed, the Hideaway property will stretch over two city blocks.

Milwaukee Marine continues to operate and now rents its facility from the Horny Goat.

Sorenson said his business averages 14,000 to 16,000 customers a week in the summer, but that figure dips to 5,000 a week in the winter. He hopes the new tent will double the winter numbers.

"We don't want to be a restaurant or a brewpub. We want to be an entertainment complex," he declared.

Some new menu items are planned, but Sorenson said the Hideaway will continue to emphasize pub food.

The Horny Goat Brewing Co. produces six beers year-round plus a seasonal brew that changes quarterly. At the Hideaway alone, it goes through 140 half-barrels a week in the summer. That is nearly double the onsite monthly brewing capacity.

The Stevens Point Brewery contract brews the bulk of Horny Goat products, including kegs sold to taverns and bottled beers that are distributed in five states. Seven more states will be added in March, Sorenson said.

Plans are afoot for Horny Goat to build a 30,000-barrel a year brewery on the Hideaway site in 2013, but that is not the important news now. Pub events and sales manager Kara Hansen is organizing beach theme parties for the cold weather.

"Come on down here this winter," she says. "You can dig your feet into the warm sand when there is 10 feet of snow outside."

Talkbacks

blewparrot | Nov. 9, 2011 at 11:48 a.m. (report)

Having been there a number of times I concur with what the vast majority of peeps are saying ... location and overall set-up is awesome, but the service leaves alot to be desired. After my last visit and waiting approximately 8 minutes at the back bar with no acknowledgement from the non-busy bartenders/servers my posse of eight amigos walked out! Being an award winning homebrewer, I'm here to tell you their beer definitely is ho hum at best! They need to improve many things or they will become another casualty of the terrible service club, fickle economy and be otta business.

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Aardvark | Nov. 8, 2011 at 3:51 p.m. (report)

I really hope the Horny Goat owners read these comments and take note. I echo many of the talkbackers here. Great location/atmosphere, but awful beer. I haven't had much of the food and service has been hit or miss. Improve the beer!!!

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jwintaz | Nov. 7, 2011 at 9:16 p.m. (report)

how many of these comments are by horny goat employees?

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SBH215 | Nov. 7, 2011 at 3:00 p.m. (report)

I was in at the Horny Goat last week for Lunch- one of the managers stopped to chat at our table. He was telling us all about the new additions to the property and gave us a personal tour... We also got to sample one of the new brews Imperial Vanilla Brown- so good. It is amazing what this new company has been able to do-every time I come in they have improved the property-menu-beer-etc. I have yet to have a bad experience there. GO HG and Thank you for bringing a breath of Fresh air/something new to Milwaukee.

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MilwaukeeTruther | Nov. 7, 2011 at 2:38 p.m. (report)

Mr. Sorenson might want to get out a tape measure for his screen. He must have never been to the Bradley Center, the iPic or any Marcus Cinema before.

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