Old masters, New Tricks: LakeFront Brewery is the most awarded Craft Beer Brewery of all Wisconsin Breweries
Based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Lakefront Brewery was founded in 1987 by brothers Russ and Jim Klisch. It all started after Russ gave Jim a book on beer making for his birthday, and Jim made a rather remarkable homebrew. Russ, feeling the sibling rivalry, was convinced he could craft a better one...and so began the Klisch brothers entering beer contests and even winning awards for their homemade brews. It wasn’t long before family and friends encouraged Russ and Jim to turn their hobby into a business.
The Klisch brothers decided to start small and chose a location within walking distance of their home - an old bakery building in Riverwest. On December 2, 1987 they sold their first Lakefront Brewery batch of Riverwest stein amber lager to a neighborhood tavern, and haven’t looked back since.
With the brewery’s doors open, Lakefront’s popularity grew - and so did their production. By 1988, sales jumped to 72 barrels; by 1989, 125 barrels; and sales began doubling after that. When production reach 3,000 barrels in 1998, Lakefront Brewery had outgrown its tiny space and the Klisch brothers took the operation to Milwaukee.
Their new (and current) location housed the Milwaukee Electric Railway and Light Company’s coal-fired power plant in 1908. It was later sold to the City to house Milwaukee’s Forestry Department, and was about to be torn down before Lakefront Brewery moved in. The Klisch brothers have beautifully restored the old building and brought new life into the historic structure.
Today, Lakefront Brewery is known for producing the first certified organic beer to be bottled in the United States (in 1996), with their Lakefront Organic extra special bitter (ESB). The ale is made using all organic ingredients including 100 percent organic malt and hops. On top of this, they were named the first certified organic brewing company in America. Adding to the list of firsts, Lakefront Brewery is the first indigenous brewing company, using only Wisconsin grown ingredients.
Lakefront is also known for changing the definition of beer, allowing them to sell and market a government approved gluten-free beer for those intolerant to wheat. Their gluten free brand is called New Grist, and uses sorghum and gluten free yeast to brew this version. The brewery even had to petition the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to allow their gluten free product to be named a beer, despite not containing the 25 percent malted barely that was previously required, again making them the owners of the first gluten free beer in America.
In 2007, Lakefront Brewery was recognized by the Wisconsin Department of Tourism as the first brewery in the state, and the first business in Milwaukee to receive the Travel Green Wisconsin certification, which recognizes tourism related businesses that are environmentally conscious. To achieve this certification, the brewery had to demonstrate ways in which their staff and vendors reduce waste, energy consumption, and act in ways to improve the environment.
Around the end of 2013, Russ Kilsch extended his tour hours into the night and opened the Lakefront Brewery Beer Hall, where hand made German style foods are served. These foods include everything from cheese curds to beer battered fish, and on Friday nights, the brewery runs its own fish fry in the beer hall featuring music from the Brewhaus Polka Kings.
Since opening, the organic brewery has received awards in almost every renowned beer competition there is. Overall, the craft brewery has a lot to show, now producing 36 beers: 9 year-round, 11 seasonal, 3 organic, 1 gluten free, and 12 limited releases.
Lakefront Brewery encourages visitors to come taste and enjoy their innovative, award-winning Wisconsin beers at their stunning brewhouse in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Don’t miss out on their brewery tour either - it’s voted one of the best in the country by ABC News! For only $10 you receive a souvenir pint glass, four pours of beer, a coupon for a complimentary beer, and of course a fun and informative brewery tour.
Members of our Beer of the Month Club are lucky enough to enjoy a variety of craft beers from Lakefront Brewery. Subscribe today for an exclusive taste at this unique brewery.