News broke today that both befits National Beer Day and represents a step in the right direction for the "Tied House" law, prohibiting brewery ownership in the State of Wisconsin for those who are already affiliated with a bar, restaurant or retail liquor store.
As soon as mid-May, James Beard Award-winning chef Justin Aprahamian and Like Minds Brewing Company partner John Lavelle, will open Like Minds, a brewery and restaurant at 823 E. Hamilton St. in the former location of The Hamilton cocktail lounge.
This good news comes on the tail of a less encouraging announcement last fall that the brewing company would set up shop in Chicago, due to the Wisconsin law which prevents individuals who already possess a bar, restaurant or retail liquor license from obtaining a permit for a brewery. The so-called "tied house law" also prevented a partnership between George Bregar and Karen Bell of Bavette for Company Brewing, as well as impacting early operations for Enlightened Brewing Company in Bay View.
Fortunately, thanks to a closer look at the state statute by the Department of Revenue, and more particularly a provision which allows a brewery to maintain indirect interest in a restaurant with a Class B license, Lavelle and Aprahamian have been given the go ahead for the new Milwaukee project.
"It was just crazy," says Lavelle. "Right after the news was released and the articles came out about the situation, we were contacted by Rep. Dale Kooyenga. And he really worked with us to get things moving. But, it wasn't until we finally got the right people at the table – from The Tavern League, beer distributors, lobbyists, the governor's office – that we found out that this was even possible."
Plans for the space
"It's been interesting to even think about another place ... Sanford has been such a great place, where I've been really able to do so much that I've wanted to do," says Aprahamian of the move, which marks a milestone for the chef who has dedicated his entire career to his work at Sanford.
The new project is an exciting one, says Lavelle, who adds that it's not only exciting to move some brewing back to Milwaukee, but also to see his friend and partner launch his own restaurant concept.
"It's great to see him being able to branch off like this," says Lavelle. "And I want to make sure that we're raising the bar in terms of the beer that we make so that it lives up to that."
The current space has been modified a great deal, notes Lavelle, with the back portion of the venue (formerly used as an event space) being divided for use as both a brewery and kitchen. The northern portion of the space has been opened up, and will accommodate both the tap room and restaurant, with seating for about 70 in the restaurant, along with communal seating for another 20 or so customers that's tied to the bar.
The brewery portion of the space will house a seven-barrel brewing system which will produce beer for distribution in Wisconsin, as well as for use at the brewery and restaurant.
"We've transitioned over to doing only sours at the Chicago Brewery," says Lavelle. "But, in Milwaukee we'll be doing a fair amount of experimental beer, a lot of the culinary inspired beers ... probably mostly Belgian forward beers, Trappist, Doubles, Triples and Quads ... things we can't do at the facility in Chicago."
Meanwhile, the restaurant menu will be small and focused, says Aprahamian.
"We'll do a fair amount of charcuterie and cheese, definitely a really good burger and some sandwiches," he says. "And then there will be some really super focused things that you really want to eat with beer."
Aprahamian says he's most excited about the interplay between the brewery and restaurant.
"First, I'm excited that we'll really be making the beers that we've always talked about making," he says. "But, in addition to that, we'll really have the platform to play with things and to take both the food and beer to another level."
"As an example, we're bourbon barrel aging black tea," he goes on. "We'll use the bourbon barrel for beer and then the tea in the restaurant. There is just really so much we can do, and I'm excited to explore that territory."
Watch OnMilwaukee for additional details as they develop.
Lori Fredrich (Lo) is an eater, writer, wonderer, bon vivante, traveler, cook, gardener and girlwonder. Born and raised in the Milwaukee area, she has tried to leave many times, but seems to be drawn to this quirky city that smells of beer and alewives.
Some might say that she is a little obsessed with food. Lo would say she is A LOT obsessed with food. After all, she has been cooking, eating and enjoying food for decades and has no plans to retire anytime soon.
Lo's recipes and writing have been featured in a variety of publications including GO: Airtran Inflight Magazine, Cheese Connoisseur, Cooking Light, Edible Milwaukee, Milwaukee Magazine and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as well as on the blog Go Bold with Butter, the web site Wisconsin Cheese Talk, and in the quarterly online magazine Grate. Pair. Share.