Once a month, a small group of Milwaukeeans get together to talk, laugh, drink beer and learn. Yep, learn. About beer. And what's the best way to learn about beer? Drink it. A lot of it.
On the first Tuesday of every month, Comet Café hosts "beer school," where for $15, 45 lucky people get to sample and learn about a handful of unique beers -- 10 beers, to be exact.
Adam Lucks, Comet's executive chef and co-owner, created Milwaukee's beer school with his childhood friend, Drew Malley. The Chicago natives first encountered beer school at Chicago's Map Room restaurant, where Malley tended bar.
"There was just something so great about their school," says Lucks. "And we decided it was something Milwaukee could use, and that we could make it more fun."
So far, they've been successful. With a core group of regulars and sold-out attendance at many classes, beer school has become something of an underground phenomenon.
Well ... kind of underground. Though class sizes are small, certain businesses in the area have gotten wind of the event -- like Lakefront Brewery, which has already volunteered to host a class. And Lakefront isn't alone; Three Floyds and Unibrew breweries also have hosted classes.
As "dean" of beer school, Malley has been around beer for a long time. He began as a beer buyer for Whole Foods before he was even 21.
"I was buying beer before I was even old enough to buy beer," he laughs. And he had a few other teachers along the way, including the Map Room and the actual "three Floyds" from Three Floyds. These days, he is largely self-taught. "I'll just take some beer home, look it up on the Internet and read about it while drinking," he says.
For each beer school, Malley chooses a theme. Students will learn all about Belgian beers in one class, or imperial stouts or IPAs (one of Lucks' personal favorites). Some classes even have sequels; "Belgian 101" was followed by "Advanced Belgian."
But it's more than just some local people drinking some beer. "Everybody gets to know everybody," says Lucks. "It's like one big group of friends. With one really talky friend with a microphone."
Now approaching its second birthday, beer school is about to get a little brother. After a successful trial run, Lucks and Malley are officially giving birth to Comet Café's "beer dinner" in February. Lucks and his sous chef will carefully prepare a five-course dinner -- French-inspired, he says -- and serve each course with a beer specially matched to the flavors of the food.
What's next for Comet Café? "It's hard to say," says Lucks. "We constantly like to come up with weird things that we think are funny. It's not about raking in money. We like to do things because they're fun, and if we break even, we consider it a success."