Hailing from just over the state line in Illinois, Ben and Amanda Rossi have always felt connected to Wisconsin.
Now, the couple, which has copious experience in the hospitality industry is working to open The Copper Turtle Brewery & Taverne in the 3,200-square-foot former Bavette La Boucherie space at 330 E. Menomonee St. in the Third Ward by summer.
(Bavette recently moved around the corner to 217 N. Broadway.)
As Ben and Amanda work to open the Milwaukee brewery – which they hope will be doing business by July or August – we caught up with Ben Rossi, who has 24 years of experience behind him – including operating a brewery in Illinois – to ask him about their plans.
OnMilwaukee: What are the basics of your plan for The Copper Turtle?
Ben Rossi: The Copper Turtle Brewery & Taverne is hopefully going to debut late this summer. An exact date is not set currently. We will brew on a seven-barrel brewhouse and have six copper serving tanks behind the bar in the Taverne. We will have a small locally sourced food menu.
The Copper Turtle Brewery & Taverne is going to be an upscale style drinking establishment that just so happens to brew its own beer in house. There wll be a very well-manicured cocktail list along with excellent wine choices as well.
You guys are from Illinois, so why Milwaukee?
I have grown up living on the state line and been a midwesterner my whole life. When I turn left from my home I'm in Wisconsin in under five minutes. I spend a ton of my time in Milwaukee and it's my favorite city on Earth.
Did you look at other spaces here or did you like the Bavette space from the get-go?
I looked at several spaces all across the city. It is actually two separate units that we are renting. The Bavette space, which is already a built-out restaurant use. Then the vacant corner space adjacent to it which works perfectly to install the brewing operation. It made it a very seamless transition to our proposed use.
And the Third Ward?
Absolutely love it.
What can we expect in terms of brew styles? Do you specialize?
Beer styles will be accommodating to all levels of beer drinkers. From easy drinking lagers, the ubiquitous Wisconsin amber, and the ever popular IPA. Something for everyone.
What do you think The Copper Turtle will bring to the brew scene here that is new and interesting?
The Copper Turtle Brewery & Taverne will be bringing plenty that is new to the scene in Milwaukee. First and foremost we are the first using the revolutionary design of the Paul Mueller company's Copper Serving Tanks. These tanks will be the focal point of the entire space. We also are not pigeon-holing ourselves as just a brewery.
This is a taverne, a drinking establishment, so we have opportunities to imbibe for all people, not just beer drinkers. We are also on environmentally conscious and focused business, aiming to keep as close to 100 percent as we can of our waste recyclable, as well as practicing eco-minded business concepts, and donating portions of our annual proceeds to sea turtle conservation.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.