Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Audience Participation: The Feasibility of the BrewBar

I was talking with some people yesterday and we were trying to think of a bar (not brewpub/restaurant) that brewed its own beer.

Can you think of any brewpubs that don't serve any food and don't distribute? Need not be Wisconsin-only. Bagged snacks are OK, but no re-heated pizzas (Ale Asylum) or dining rooms (The Great Dane). So, a bar that brews its own beer.

Off of the top of my head, I can think of three here in Wisconsin. Rowland's Calumet Brewery in Chilton. Although, to be fair, Rowland's does distribute kegs in the 30 mile radius around Chilton. The other is StoneFly in Milwaukee – although apparently even they opened a kitchen back in November. It does look like Silver Creek Brewery in Cedarburg is drink only – although, I could swear they had food, some questioning reminds me that maybe it was just popcorn (OK under our standards). So, of those three, only one actually fits our requirements.

If you were starting a brewery and did not want to distribute, but did not want to deal with the headache of food, what do you need? Live music seems a must. Probably a pool table. Maybe some TVs in the corner? Or, you know, make it like a bar. And sell your own beer. Silver Creek goes with other beers on tap just to provide some diversity. It would be interesting if this theory were challenged and a bar could only serve its own beer (although, I think, technically, that you have to have at least one non-brewery beer on tap under the current brewing laws – even The Great Dane sells Miller Lite if you ask for it).

Why do you think this is? Why don't more bars just have their own 7 barrel brewing systems? I mean, yeah, it seems kind of inefficient and risky if you don't know what you are doing. But back in the late mid and late 1800s, many bars also brewed their own beers; refrigeration issues made it difficult to keg anything, so the beers would have been served out of fermenters/conditioning tanks, which would have been kept cool in a basement, or, if you were lucky, a cave.

Anti-tied-house laws prevent distributing breweries from having their own bars. Maybe because there isn't enough money it? Most brewers think bigger scale? Anyway. A strange phenomenon.


  1. Silver Creek Brewery has a Cheese Plate with bread for food. I think that still makes them a bar.

  2. Two reasons popped in my head:

    1. Most people I know would assume any place that brews its own onsite would be a brewpub and would likely have assumptions of having food. The template for the beer 'n food brewpub seems to be pretty universal in most places I've been to.

    2. It might be a bit too much to take on, spending most all of your operating hours behind the bar and trying to fit the day-to-day bar duties (restocking, payroll, etc.) in with brewing during the off-times. Plus, a good bartender does not necessarily a good brewer make.


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