By Maureen Post Special to Published Apr 14, 2009 at 11:32 AM

In the last six months, we've been bombarded with boutiques, bars and restaurants forced to close their doors. It's a pleasure to say, we have an opening.

St. Francis Brewery, 3825 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., tapped the first kegs and opened the doors for a grand opening last Monday. The only pub on the South Side to brew and serve beer made in-house, St. Francis Brewery intends to embrace the neighborhood and celebrate its uniqueness.

"We used Lake Michigan, the neighboring seminary and the village of St. Francis as inspiration for the pub. We want people to see us as a gathering place," Rick Schmidt, project consultant, says.

St. Francis Brewery boasts a brand new 7,200-sq. ft. building housing a brewery, bar area, dining room and banquet facilities. Everything from individual beers to sandwiches and salads on the dining room menu is tagged with a local name to pay homage to St. Francis.

Current tap selections on its rotating list of home brews and a root beer include South Shore Stout, Mariner Nut Brown Ale and Archbishop Amber.

"Our brewmaster plans to rotate six or seven beers with the season.  As we better understand our crowd, we'll get more seasonal, maybe adding a Maibock or Blueberry Weiss in the summer months," explains Schmidt.

Brewmaster Alan Bundy brews each and every keg on site in a full grain brewery. Customers can take "growlers" with them or attend brewery tours and tastings which Schmidt plans to start in the next couple months.

The Brewery is owned by Copul Enterprises, a local five-man investment group including Cudahy attorney Rick Michalski. The group, comprising a few local physicians and attorneys, is focusing on further development in the St. Francis area.

Schmidt, one half of the Schmidt Consulting Firm and owner of Oakcrest Tavern, was hired on to do the build / design, set-up and to manage the business. As the owner's restaurant industry guru, Schmidt contributed industry expertise in addition to hiring the staff, management and designer.

"In my former life, I opened Water Street Brewery with my brother RC as well as dozens of other restaurants. I've been doing this for 33 years," Schmidt says.

Initially, investors looked to the warehouse located on the north end of the lot as a potential site for the brew pub. After consideration, the group decided to build a new facility but maintains the possibility of development in the warehouse and on other parts of the corner block of land.

Development is a key aspect of Schmidt's and Michalski's planning. Future ideas for the warehouse include a dance studio or mixed-use space for a pharmacy and other retail.

"When you do a project of this magnitude, you hope to attract people to the area and we're hopeful the other corners of Kinnickinnic Avenue and Howard Avenue fill up. We don't want to threaten the business in the area but rather help draw people who might not otherwise venture to St. Francis," Schmidt says.

As for further development, Schmidt and Michalski are setting a strong precedent. Already, the brewery employs 60-70 people who will also work the private banquet room and an outdoor patio set to open in May.

"We have an advantage of being new and that we're going to cover the south portion of the county and city. There's a lot of draw and positives; we're very optimistic. Even if we are big, we're going to be a great local place," says Schmidt.

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.