E-Malt. E-Malt.com News article: USA, IL & WI: Like Minds Brewing Co. to open its second brewery in Milwaukee after all

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E-Malt.com News article: USA, IL & WI: Like Minds Brewing Co. to open its second brewery in Milwaukee after all
Brewery news

Like Minds Brewing Co., the brewery that a state official urged move to Illinois last fall because the owners didn't qualify for a brewing permit here, will open in Milwaukee after all, TAP Milwaukee reported on April 7.

Owners Justin Aprahamian, James Beard (award-winning chef of Sanford Restaurant in Milwaukee), and John Lavelle, creator of the Beer Fridge app, plan to open a seven-barrel brewery and restaurant in late May at 823 E. Hamilton St., on Milwaukee's lower east side.

Aprahamian and Lavelle tried to open their brewery in Milwaukee but were rejected last fall because Wisconsin beer laws prohibit anyone who owns a tavern, restaurant or retail liquor business from obtaining a permit for a brewery.

Instead, a Department of Revenue representative encouraged them to take their brewery to Chicago, Lavelle said.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel included Like Minds in a Sept. 8 story about the hard choices craft brewers face with state laws on brewery ownership.

The day after that story was published, Rep. Dale Kooyenga (R-Brookfield) invited Aprahamian and Lavelle to sit down with lawmakers, the Tavern League of Wisconsin and the state Department of Revenue.

"There's no reason to have businesses leaving Wisconsin, especially breweries," Kooyenga said. "This is what we do."

Kooyenga said last week that he had planned to introduce legislation that would amend the restrictions, but a series of meetings with other groups and the Department of Revenue helped the department "change the determination of how they're going to do things."

The Department of Revenue concluded that "Sanford would be solely owned by Justin, and Like Minds is owned by a partnership," said department communications director Stephanie Marquis.

She said the change of heart was not a new interpretation of the law.

It might have been a closer reading of the statute.

"The statutes allow a brewery to have an indirect interest in a restaurant with a Class B license," she said. Marquis said that Aprahamian and Lavelle would meet this provision, which means Sanford can't sell Like Minds beer but the brewery can.

The brewery on Hamilton St., the former home of the cocktail lounge The Hamilton, will have seating for 70 in the dining room and more seating at the bar. It also will have a patio and a parking lot, Aprahamian said.

The new brewery's seven-barrel system will make non-sour beers and barrel-aged brews, and the taproom restaurant will serve charcuterie, cheeses and sandwiches to start.

The plan is to serve foods "that really speak to beer," he said.

Kooyenga said it was obvious that home was the first choice for Aprahamian and Lavelle.

"Those guys definitely want to be in Wisconsin," he said.

So, in less than a year, Like Minds will go from having no brewery to having two.

When they couldn't open in Milwaukee, Like Minds found space in Chicago's West Town neighborhood, where they planned for a taproom and production brewery. Brewing began there in November, but the taproom is temporarily on hold in favor of getting the Milwaukee site in place, Lavelle said.

The new ruling pushed the timetable on expansion and "moves us in a different direction more quickly," Aprahamian said.

Like Minds brews take cues from ingredients and methods that come from Aprahamian's chef background, and include rhubarb saison, cucumber kolsch, black currant pale ale, grapefruit saison and a double India pale ale.

For example, on a recent Thursday, Aprahamian stayed up all night charring 110 pounds of citrus at Sanford. Lavelle picked up the sweet-smelling fruit the next morning to take to the Chicago brewery, with a plan to use it for two bourbon barrels full of Berliner Weiss.

The Like Minds facility, a stone's throw from the United Center, has a 30-barrel system that can pump out 1,200 barrels a year and a state-of-the-art bottling system that fills 50 bottles a minute. That location will concentrate on sour beers, which will be stored in the brewery's 350 wine barrels, Lavelle said.

"This is the patient brewery," Lavelle said of the Chicago operation, because sour beers require more conditioning time than other brews.

Sour beers draw their tart or acidic taste from wild yeast or yeast that has been infected with bacteria. Breweries separate sour beers from non-sour brews so yeast from the sours won't infect other beers. Ninety miles should do the trick, he said.

A shipping container has been fortified with stainless steel inside for use as the brewery lab. It stands out thanks to a colorful mural by Milwaukee artist Jake Rathkamp. Another shipping container stands ready to become the Chicago brewery's customer restrooms.

The brewery embraced its Chicago location by naming the stainless steel fermenters after Chicago sports stars Jordan, Sweetness, Maddux and Hull.

Lavelle and Zach Houlahan, vice president of sales, said the area is an incubator for small companies and light-industrial users. Outside, every building looks like a warehouse or factory. A cabdriver isn't sure where to drop his customer.

Just around the corner is a Goose Island taproom and barrel-aging facility. On a trip for coffee at the Big Delicious Planet's Canteen, a catering company, canteen and urban farm, Lavelle points out the coffee company whose product Like Minds plans to use in its coffee stout.

Another brewery is under construction across the street.

There's a certain symmetry between the two Like Minds breweries. The Milwaukee brewery, tucked in a neighborhood of condominiums and apartments and bordered by a former tannery, is made of Cream City brick highlighted by skylights. The Chicago brewery is constructed of pink brick with daylight streaming through industrial skylights atop 25-foot ceilings.

"There was no conscious decision to make them like each other," said Aprahamian, who noted that the new brewery is in walking distance of both his home and Sanford.

The partners didn't expect to reinvest capital set aside for future growth quite so quickly but jumped at the chance to come to Milwaukee.

"It's not something we budgeted for, but we thought it was worth it," Lavelle said.

Still, Aprahamian and Lavelle say there are no hard feelings after the bureaucratic switch. Like Minds becomes one of at least 10 new breweries expected to open in the Milwaukee area this year.

"Whatever happened at the Department of Revenue, they're more open to talking now," Lavelle said.

13 April, 2016

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