By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 04, 2021 at 10:04 AM

It’s been a while since I wrote about Layman Brewing opening in West Allis last autumn and when I ran into co-owner Sarah Warran recently, we realized it might be time for a little update.

Layman, which opened in the old Kokopelli’s at 6001 W. Madison St. in August 2020, finally has a beer that I mentioned in that November story available on tap.

It’s called Opasbier and it’s brewed from an old family recipe. Seriously, that’s not just hype.

“We put Opasbier on tap last night,” says Warran, who co-owns the brewpub with her husband Kyle Ida.

“That's our prohibition-era farmer's beer made using the recipe our brewer Kyle's parents found while cleaning out the family cabin in Muscoda, and the beer that started this whole adventure for us.”

Turns out that in addition to that beer recipe, a lot more interesting Prohibition-era info has turned up on Kyle’s grandfather, Walter Fleming, too.

Opasbier mash.

“We've also been learning more about Kyle's great grandfather's prohibition exploits as his family sorts through more of his records,” says Warran. “Apparently in addition to being a railroad foreman, this guy owned a whole cheese factory and kept it fully staffed through the Depression.

“We've seen enough brewing systems converted from old dairy equipment to have a pretty good idea what he was really doing, especially given his connections to John Dillinger's alcohol distribution operations. Maybe Kyle accidentally found his way into the family business – the brewing, not the mob – after all?”

An earlier batch of the beer was put on draft in September, but after that initial keg, others suffered from a kegging issue and so the beer was pulled and a new batch was brewed.

Milling on the patio.
Milled grain.

I stopped over for the brewing of that batch and watched at Kyle milled the grain out on the patio, basically by hand, and then mashed in and it was fun to just hang and talk about the beer, brewing and some upcoming changes at Layman, that are expected to be announced in detail soon.

Layman has eight house-made taps running – which is a pretty good feat considering it brews one-barrel batches – and Opasbier is expected to become a flagship, along with another multi-grain farmer’s ale called Tractorbrau.

More on Layman at its website

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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.