By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published May 24, 2024 at 11:35 AM

While other craft brewers have expanded their operations with second taprooms or pilot breweries, pioneering Lakefront Brewery has never followed suit.

Until now.

Lakefront announced Friday that it has signed a letter of intent to buy Kenosha’s Public Craft Brewing, which occupies a 1910 building that was constructed as a home for the Barden Department Store.

(Read a story about Public Craft Brewing and its historical building here.)

Lakefront does not plan to change the name of the Kenosha brewery, which opened in 2012 and moved to its current location in 2019. Just around the corner is Rustic Road Brewing, which also opened in 2012.

“Kenosha is an up-and-coming area with many businesses moving in,” says Lakefront Brewery President Russ Klisch. “The population is growing with housing being developed and it is a good time to become established.

“The Public brand is established, positive, and will work hand-in-hand with the Lakefront brand. Public Brewing has a solid reputation for its beer and food.”

Klisch said that the opportunity to buy the brewery came about as the Public Craft Brewing owners plan to retire.

Lakefront and Public Craft Brewing are both distributed in Racine, Kenosha and Walworth Counties by CJW, and Public Craft is the only packaging brewery in the distributor’s home portfolio. Thus, according to Lakefront, Public Craft Brewing is considered CJW's “hometown brewery.”

“Public Brewing makes a nice selection of sour beers which Lakefront doesn't have in its portfolio,” said Lakefront’s Sales Director John Huber. “And CJW will be able to distribute Public's sours, and other beers, through our distribution network.”

Public Craft currently has a 4-year-old QTS Brewing system, manufactured in Oconomowoc, with an annual capacity of about 2,500 barrels.

According to Lakefront, the system is, “in good shape. The brewery is nicely laid out.”

There is also a large taproom and restaurant space, with fun seating areas in the department store’s old display windows, that has a capacity of 299. A large kitchen, stage and green room are also on-site.

Lakefront plans to develop a brewery tour along the lines of its own popular tour for Public Craft.

Lakefront says it will honor all the Public Brewing gift cards and deposits that were put down for events that are booked there. Lakefront will be interviewing the current staff for employment and is not planning to cut any positions.

No timeline has yet been announced for closing of the sale.

“We look forward to the opportunity to serve the Kenosha area great beer, great food and great times,” says Klisch. “Cheers!

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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 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 has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.