The Lakefront Brewery is a smaller option for those viting Milwaukee who are interested in touring a brewery. It was established in 1987 and is located right on the Milwaukee River. Various neighbhorhood bars and restaurants server Lakefront beers. Brothers Russ and Jim Klisch began brewing as a hobby after Russ gave Jim a book about brewing. Their sibling rivalry drove them to compete with one another and brewing, and before long, their friends and family were suggesting the brothers turn their hobby into profit. Afterall, brewing was in their blood since their grandfather worked for Schlitz brewing, and several family members had been employed by taverns and bars. Their brewing business started in the Riverwest area of Milwaukee, but they soon outgrew their original location. Lakefront is now located on North Commerce Street in Milwaukee and they brew over 11,000 barrels of beer each year.
In 1992, this brewery relaunched one of the most popular brewing trends of today, not seen since prior to prohibition. Their Lakefront Cherry Beer was the first fruit beer in a long time and set the standard for other varieties of berry beers. They were also the first certified organic brewers in the United States when they began brewing their Lakefront Organic E.S.B. in 1996. Russ Klisch established a business relationship with Wisconsin farmers to brew the organic hops soon to be used in his organic beers. Another innovation of the brothers was to change the barley regulations for beer so they could sell gluten-free beer to people suffering from celiac disease. It is this cutting edge attitude of the Klisch brothers that has made Lakefront Brewery a success.
In 1999, the brewery began using the large banquet space in the brewery as a family restaurant. They worked around their concerns of competing with area business selling their brew, and created a dining style that would not interfere with area pubs and bars. On Friday, the Palm Garden hosts a traditional Milwaukee fish fry. They also host various private events and weddings.
Touring the brewery is a Milwaukee right of passage. Instead of allowing visitors a chance to sample beer only at the end of the tour, they provide beer at the start, and then walk tourists through the process of brewing their beer. The tour is more laid back than others in the area, and the tour guides are encouraged to relax, joke with, and education guests. An important part of the tour is the Milwaukee Brewer's baseball club's mascot's former Chalet. Those visiting Milwaukee will appreciate the display of the city's history and lore. Also part of the brewery are the lights in the Palm Garden. This detail was originally part of the Plankinton Hotel's never utilized beer garden. The brothers have renovated each of these lights and they are featured in their own beer garden.
Lakefront is home to a variety of award winning beers including the Big Easy Lager, the Cream City Pale Ale, the Pumpkin Lager, the Snake Chaser, and New Grist, the gluten free beer. If you are headed to Milwaukee and you want to experience their rich brewing culture, consider a tour at the Lakefront Brewery.