Good City Brewing – Bringing West Coast Hops to Milwaukee
As I wrap up coverage of the Twin Cities, this edition of Brewery Spotlight provides a glimpse at where The Wandering Gourmand is going next – Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I chose to highlight Good City Brewing first because the brewery epitomizes everything about Milwaukee’s rebirth in craft beer. While Milwaukee is the original Beer City, USA (the birthplace of Pabst, Miller, Schlitz, and Blatz), the city was slow to participate in the beer industry’s latest boom of homegrown breweries.
“Milwaukee has just not seen the beer growth of other similar, and in some cases, smaller market cities. I think it’s a reflection of the overall startup culture here that lags. It has not seen a whole lot of activity outside of the pioneering breweries like Lake Front, Milwaukee Brewing, and Sprecher,” says David Dupee, one of Good City Brewing’s three founding partners. The Kaufman Foundation agrees, listing Milwaukee at the bottom of their list for entrepreneurship activity in major metropolitan cities in both 2015 and 2016.
This is something Good City Brewing aims to change. Not only is the brewery an anchor in a neighborhood that desperately needs businesses like a brewery, the entrepreneurship theme also rings true in the brewery’s branding with their beers carrying names like Risk, Reward, and Motto.
“We want to encourage more people to take those risks,” says Dupee. It’s also worth noting that Dupee is a founder of CraftFund, an equity crowdfunding platform for food, drink, and real estate development.
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Good City Brewing Story
“There’s a local mentality still. People want to cheer for the local brand. There just haven’t been many local brands to cheer for until recently,” says Dupee. “The market is under-served and has a beer history with a strong German heritage. A lot of beer is consumed here. A lot of people are moving downtown here – the millennial market. As palates continue to change, there’s a lot of opportunity for a local brand.”
It’s the reason why he and co-founder Dan Katt made a pact to establish roots in Milwaukee while attending their respective graduate schools. Together, the two teamed up with Andy Jones, whose brewing resume includes stops at Goose Island Brewery and Lakefront Brewery, to open Good City Brewing. As someone who abandoned his own rust belt roots from Youngstown, I can relate to and admire their story.
Good City Brewing’s risk is paying off quite well. After only 9 months in operation, the brewery was crowned champion of Brewing News’ 2017 National Imperial IPA Championship. Once you try their Reward Double IPA, you’ll understand why.
Yet, awards won’t necessarily win over the palates of local consumers – especially in a city that trends toward lagers. As Dupee reminds though, those palates are changing. Good City Brewing was projecting 30 to 40 accounts by the end of 2016 but wrapped up the year with 100. The brewery is already planning to expand its taproom and add a permanent canning line.
Good City Brewing’s Location
Good City Brewing is located in Milwaukee’s densely populated East Side. The neighborhood has trended towards the residential side with neighborhood stalwarts like Wolski’s Tavern and Scaffidi’s Hideout filling the libations gap. Good City Brewing became the anchor the neighborhood needed to help propel a newer craft beer scene. Not that I’m taking away from classic establishments like Wolski’s Tavern. I’d rank it as a must visit bar in Milwaukee over any of the four Draft 100 Top Craft Beer Bars in Milwaukee.
As predicted, Good City Brewing is ushering in a new wave of beer to the neighborhood. Shortly after opening, Like Minds Brewery opened up.
Good City Brewing Beer and Food
“We intentionally called the first beer we planned to package Motto because this is what we’re about. It’s a clean, drinkable, hop forward style. A few weeks ago, we had 6 or 7 hop forward beers on draft. We’re not going to apologize for that,” says Dupee, summing up Good City Brewing’s beers. The aim is to replicate West Coast IPAs for Milwaukee. “There’s a hole in that market. Even some of the good breweries in Madison tend to be a bit more malt forward.”
His description is spot on. From Risk IPA to Motto Pale Ale to Reward Double IPA, the beers were fresh, juicy, and bursting with flavor. At the same time, Good City Brewing also dots in pilsners, marzens, and stouts.
Beer isn’t the only reason to visit Good City Brewing though. The brewery also has an outstanding kitchen led by Chef Guy Davies who previously worked at local restaurant group Bartolotta’s Rumpus Room, a gastropub. Not only will you find lots of Wisconsin influences on the menu like pretzels, brats, pickled vegetables, and cheese boards, you’ll also find a few Australian options from Chef Davies’ upbringing in the Land Down Under like curried French fries, Laksa, and Barramundi.
No matter the influence, each dish is designed to pair well with food. The Good City Team meticulously studied the menus of brewery kitchens like Founders Brewing, Brewery Vivant, and Surly Brewing. “I didn’t want to be known for pub fare,” says Dupee, “But something more upscale.”
Good City Brewing created an atmosphere fitting for the newest wave of craft beer and one worth checking out the next time that you’re in Milwaukee.
Brewery Snapshot is a monthly column where I review a brewery that I stopped into on my beer journeys. I typically don’t have the opportunity to interview the head brewer or owner; in this instance, I did.
Visit Milwaukee sponsored my trip. As always, my opinions remain my own.