Wednesday, September 2, 2009

West Side of Madison Gets New Beer Bar

I got a tip the other day of some interesting developments on the far West Side of Madison. At Old Sauk and John Q. Hammonds Drive, where Houlihan's used to be, is a sign in the window of the closed restaurant reading "Coming Soon Sprecher Pub Restaurant."

I wasn't aware of Sprecher having pubs or restaurants and it appears that this is their first. But it struck me as odd. Is this a brewpub? Is it more like the Gray's Tied House where most of the beer will be trucked in? Will any brewing be done on-site? What does Sprecher have to do with this? Can they be a brewery and have a facility like this? What the heck is going on?

So, I sent an email to Sprecher and this is what I got back:
The Sprecher Pub is an independent business from the brewery. There will not be brewing at that location. They are planning an outdoor biergarten. They will be featuring Sprecher beers and sodas, although not exclusively. We will be providing them with specialty and limited edition beers in addition to our regular offerings. That’s about all I know at this time.
Basically, a beer bar that has a lot of Sprecher on tap.

It will be interesting to see if this is a proper beer bar or if it is simply a typical bar with Sprecher instead of Leinenkugel's and Blue Moon. It's not a huge risk for Sprecher since all the brewery itself is risking is its trademarks (and therefore reputation). But, it's an interesting way of getting a tied house or brewpub without actually having a tied house or brewpub. It's an interesting side-step around the rules.

I'd be curious to see what the terms of the trademark license stipulate. Is it a flat-fee (or stepped flat-fee) arrangement or is it a royalty? Either way it acts like a quasi-ownership interest without actually having an ownership interest. Think about it. Under a license arrangement Sprecher gets paid for bar operations (possibly even pre-tax, so it's better than being an owner - and they get paid even if the brewery doesn't succeed). If the bar does poorly, the trademark, and hence the brewery, suffers. So, it acts like an ownership interest, it even looks like an ownership interest (the name's on the door) but isn't actually an ownership interest. And all the state (or Feds) require is that there be no actual ownership interest. Problem solved. Neat, huh?


  1. Is there an airport at Old Sauk and John Q Hammons?

  2. I think you mean Greenway Boulevard, not Old Sauk Road - John Q. Hammons doesn't actually intersect with Old Sauk. That old Houlihan's was briefly a gay club earlier this year for a month or so.

    Regardless, I'm happy to hear it. A Sprecher-based beer bar suits my tastes a bit more than the previous incarnations. Plus a new Byrd's opened in Middleton, so things are starting to go my way!

  3. Who or what company is behind the new Sprecher-based bar/restaurant?
    when do they plan to open?

  4. Tom, those are good questions. I don't have answers for you. I posted everything that I have been told so far.

  5. There is no mention yet of a license application in the Middleton Common Council minutes:

    That's where you'd find out who's applying for the class B license.

    Note that Sprecher Rd on the east side is named for a 19th century brewing family who used to have a Sprecher Brewery in Madison. There's no certainty that Milwaukee's Sprecher Brewery has anything to do with this bar. Did the sign use the brewery's logo? I wouldn't be surprised to learn that they're featuring Sprecher beer just because they have the same last name. Just idle speculation on my part.

  6. I had thought of the old Madison-based Sprecher Brewery (existed in the mid-late 1800s). But the problem with thinking that is that A) nobody really associates the new Sprecher with that "old" Sprecher (indeed few people even know there was a Sprecher IN Madison), B) the "old" Sprecher didn't really exist for all that long (so it's not like a Fauerbach, Berghoff, or even Esser's, situation - indeed, Fauerbach got started when it bought the Sprecher brewery on Williamson St when Sprecher went out of business in the 1870s or so - I think that's how that story goes...), C) the location isn't brewing.

    The quote above is FROM the Milwaukee-based Sprecher. And, "just because they have the same last name"?! Nobody just "happens" to pick the name "Sprecher" without INTENDING to invoke the Milwaukee-based brewery these days.

  7. It's obviously a way to get around the stupid brewery/restaurant law (the same one from the Great Dane issue last year). Independent restaurant separate from the brewery. They won't be able to brew their own beer, since then it would be a fiscal relationship, especially if they're brewing *Sprecher* beer, as then they'd have to figure in royalties, etc. They probably license the name for $1/year, and get to buy specialty brews that might not be available to the public at large.

    Sounds like a great idea to me, and I'll definitely be stopping by to see how it is once it's open.

  8. Any news yet on an opening date? The last council minutes online (link referenced by Bill above) are from August, so not sure if there's been any Sept/Oct buzz.

  9. i think this is now open

  10. its open for trianing today and tomorrow- grand opening on the 25th. Beeer garden will be coming this summer. Any other questions?

  11. I had a bier there yesterday(1-31). Great IPA. Didn't sample the food though...


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