The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, resident city of beer giants Schlitz, Pabst, and Miller is better known for its large brewers, not micros. Brothers Russ and Jim Klisch are changing that. Like many microbrewery founders, these fellas formerly earned a living far removed from the beer world. Russ Klisch was a chemical engineer; Jim was a Milwaukee police officer. By the mid 1980s, Russ’s homebrewing efforts were becoming quite popular with friends and family. With the contributions of his brother and a third brewing pal, the three made some of their best beers and headed to the 1985 Great American Beer Festival. A return the following year helped them establish some industry contacts, and got them some valuable expert feedback on their homebrews. In 1987 a few of their beers won prizes in several categories at the Wisconsin State Fair. This recognition propelled them to immediately go into business.
Rustling together $15,000 for a down payment on a former neighborhood bakery, the three opened the Lakefront Brewery, so named because it sits along the Milwaukee River near downtown Milwaukee. They started with just two types of lagers: a pilsner and an amber lager, which they quickly got featured in local bars and taverns. Their 3rd partner left the business, as the brothers, who held on to their day jobs, continued to run the operation in their spare time. Two years later, Russ hired a head brewmaster, and by 1992, the brewery took in gross sales of $122,000. Quite an astonishing jump, but eclipsed by the following year when they rose to gross sales of $206,000. Not bad for a couple of bros from Milwaukee. In 1995, Russ left his day job to focus fulltime on the brewery—and in 1996 Jim followed suit to handle marketing for the brewery.
Today, the Lakefront Brewery is still a small, locally owned microbrewery specializing in handmade beers in the tradition of early, predominantly Bavarian Milwaukee brewers. We've been enjoying their beers for the past several years—and are happy to wish them a happy 2007—their 20th year in business!
For more information about the brewery and scheduled tours, call (414) 372-8800 or check out their web site at www.lakefrontbrewery.com.