Good things come to those to wait, right?
Just ask Chris and Mark Flynn, who are about to celebrate the grand opening of their Littleport Brewing, 214 Third St. in Racine, in July.
The brewery opened to the public in mid-April after the Flynns spent nearly a last decade planning.
“We were overly optimistic, especially me,” says Chris Flynn, as we sit in the office of DP Wigley, across the street from the brewery. “But then we didn't expect the roof to blow off twice and stuff like that.”
The Flynns also own Wigley, which sells plants, essential oils, bird seed and other products in an 1849 mill building along the Root River, The building also houses their home brewing supply store, Hop to It.
The Flynns bought the mill building in 1998 and the stables building that now houses the brewery at the same time.
They installed a U-shaped bar and a brew system smack dab in the middle of the space, adding some tables and some simple decor, while maintaining the original exposed brick walls and structural timbers.
A garage door was added at the entrance and the place was ready.
A beer garden will be installed along the west side of the building in the coming months.
A faded old sign arching over the entrance will soon be painted with the brewery's name.
It’s located downtown, just across the street from Racine Brewing Company.
“It was William Lathrop’s stable,” says Flynn. “It was a livery. But it has always been our warehouse.
“We sell, beer and wine making supplies that's Hop To It. And a lot of bird seed and garden seed and grass seed, and fertilizers and dog and cat food. We always kind of had the brewery on the back burner.”
The name is a reference to Racine’s maritime aspirations as well as the birthplace of Christine’s father, Littleport, Iowa.
In 2012, John McGivern was in Racine for his “Around the Corner” show and he asked Flynn where she saw herself in five years.
“I said, ‘microbrewery,’” she recalls. “It’s been nine years.”
In the meantime she and Mark have been honing their skills, earning awards for their brewing and hosting brew club brew sessions.
“Mark has won many, many awards for his beers,” says Flynn. “I won two awards. These buildings have a really strong Welsh tradition. I found the national beer of Wales, which is Double Dragon. And I found the recipe and I made that and I got an award for that.”
That beer will be on tap regularly at Littleport, where currently the taps dispense some Littleport brews and some beers from other Wisconsin breweries, like Company Brewing, MobCraft, Karben 4, Ale Asylum, Titletown and Indeed, among others.
The first house-brewed beer on offer was a Scottish light.
“It's cheap, it's drinkable, it's standard, and enough people like it,” says Flynn. “And it came out really good.
“Mark is really good at knowing what people like,” says Flynn, “and we've got a really nice assortment of beers, some of our own, more all the time.”
Flynn says that business has been good; enough so that they’ve already expanded Littleport’s hours.
“We have like 60 people a day,” she says. “At first it was Thursday and Friday open at 4 until 9 on Thursday, 10 on Friday. But we decided to open at noon on Friday and then noon to 10 Saturday and noon to t on Sunday.
“We've been surprised. I look over there and I don't see anything happening on the outside, but I know we've got good bartenders and I go over and the bar is lined with people.”
Because it hadn’t yet opened, the pandemic didn’t affect Litteport all that much says Flynn.
“I'm really glad we didn't open a year ago with COVID,” she says. “Although some of our friends, Rustic and Public and Racine Brewing, they said they did well selling growlers out the door during COVID, I think it's best that we opened when we did. Now everybody's just so eager to be out and socializing. It's been really busy.”
As an added benefit, the Flynns are also their own customers.
“We're buying from ourselves, which is nice,” says Flynn. “Because we sell all the grains and everything over here.”
The Flynns already have a canning and bottling line and plan to start packaging within a few months.
“Once we get rolling, we're going to have lots and lots of beer,” says Flynn. “We have a big walk-in cooler and it's got a retail room and then a great big wholesale room. We have letters of intent to purchase from (a number of area retailers).
The Flynns are also making hop water, which they plan to package for retail. And they have other ideas, too.
“We'll probably make wine at some point, too,” says Flynn. “The wine license is pretty easy to get. We've got the room.”
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.