We were killing time in Milwaukee, Wisconsin waiting for my sister’s plane to arrive, so my parents decided they wanted to take me on a tour of the Miller Brewery. We get there by about 3:15, and when we ask the woman behind the counter when the next tour departs, her eyes fall.
“Our last tour was at 3,” she says. “I’m so sorry!”
My dad mutters something angrily to my mom about not checking what time the place closed and we turn around and head back to the car. She searches on her phone to find another brewery and reads a few out loud, but sees they’ve also already closed.
“Oh here’s one that looks like it’s still open,” she says, “It’s not too far from here. It’s called ‘Brenner.’”
We park in front of a storefront that looks more like a converted warehouse and head inside to a spacious bar with high ceilings and good natural light. There are a few people enjoying drinks at the bar and I notice that next door is a small modern art gallery. I walk around looking at the art on the walls of the brewery while my parents inquire about tours.
“Let me just finish up here and I can take you in back,” says the tall man with the large belly behind the counter.
I wander into the art gallery while my parents play a game of corn hole that’s set up next to the bar. After a bit my mom comes to get me for the tour. We circle around the man, who introduces himself as Mike Brenner, the owner and founder of the brewery.
“Before we go on the tour,” Mike says, “I wanted to tell you a little about how this brewery came to be.”
Mike tells us that our visit marked the third official day that the brewery was open. Six years ago, when he was working four jobs in the arts and sleeping on a blow-up mattress, he realized he had to make a change. So he went back to school, and had recently earned his Executive MBA degree and his Master Brewer certificate. But he didn’t want his brewery to be just another beer house in the great beer drinking state of Wisconsin. He wanted to incorporate his passion for the arts into the concept.
He pointed to the walls of the brewery. “Each of these four artists showcased on the walls have designed a product label for our beers,” he tells us. “And above us are 20 artist studios. The artists-in-residence also work shifts as our bartenders.”
Brenner Brewing Co. is working on developing more partnerships with the arts community in Milwaukee, hoping to cater at performances or bring live performances to the brewery to promote the arts and beer.
After Mike showed us around the back my parents sat down to try a flight. I asked the girl behind the counter, Hayley, if she was one of the artists in residence.
“Yeah! I do performance art. It always has a scientific aspect to it.” Hayley Eichenbaum shrugged. “My parents don’t really get it.”
Maybe, I thought. But maybe more people will get it if this brewery can start to bring the beer world and the art world together.
It’s a cool concept, and I hope it does well. If you’re ever in Milwaukee you should check it out, and let me know how it’s doing. Also my parents would love another growler of their bacon brew.