US - Midwest Wisconsin

Champs in Brookfield will have the best tap list in town. Bar food that’s good to decent.

Eagle Park is the hype hazy ipa kettle sour place if that peaks your interest. Good food, but sometimes inconsistently seasoned.

1840 has pretty good beers and cool vibe.

Hacienda just opened up. Hear that’s nice.
 
living in Chicago for almost 10 years
So sorry to hear about this.

If you have never been to MKE I suppose the Lakefront Brewery Tour should be first on your list. Make reservations now if you still can it's very popular and sells out.

Milwaukee Public Market is a really cool place to walk around and see whole bunch of local flavor under one roof. Lots of places to eat there but I like St Paul Fish Company. Then head a few blocks west to Third Space Brewing.

Old World Third Street is really cool also. You can see the new Milwaukee Buck's Arena Fiserv Forum.
Grab a brat and a beer at Old German Beer Hall. Walk across the street to Uber Tap Room & Cheese Store. Sample as much cheese as you want and the taps are almost all local and cheap.
 
Good City has two locations, one by the fiserv forum. Beer is a notch above average, but nothing crazy. Nice wakatu pils on now. Food is also a notch above average.

Third Space makes the best basic bitch ipa in town. Cool location that's in a more industrial spot. Close to sobelmans original location - a local burger joint that people who don't know shit about food talk highly about.

Black Husky is a fun little spot. They make a spruce tip ipa and Vain (citra) is really nice. Dog friendly.
 
For more food centric, but still with a consistently good tap list, Goodkind is a great spot. New American small plate place. I had some mind blowing fried mushrooms there.

Odd duck is even more of a foodie place, but the beer is not as great.

If you want to spend money, Sanford remains the best restaurant in town. You can even get some vintage Cantillon for 100+.
 

Jerm

Moderator
Staff member
Driving from Door County to Chicago tomorrow and thinking about a pit stop in Milwaukee. If you only had time for one place, where would you go? Lakefront?
 
Lunch time? I'd probably tick eagle park. Check their menu out online.

Doing a tour? Lakefront's your spot. Great tour and super fun time. Nothing too crazy for beers.
 

Jerm

Moderator
Staff member
Lunch time? I'd probably tick eagle park. Check their menu out online.

Doing a tour? Lakefront's your spot. Great tour and super fun time. Nothing too crazy for beers.

Ended up doing West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shop at the Public Market for lunch (phenomenal) and grabbed a quick beer at Lakefront. Ended up being a good choice because my wife was very happy to be able to sit on the river.

Appreciate it!
 
Announcing the 2nd 2019 R&D release August 9&10! Two exciting limited brews exclusively at the brewery. Welcome Vintage 2018 and Fruited Sour. Limit of 2 bottles (of each kind) per person per day. $15/bottle. Bring your U.S. Drivers license!

Vintage 2018 is a hazy sour blonde, it smacks of citrus sour & horsey notes.

Fruited Sour is a sour blackberry ale. Spontaneously fermented in the lambic tradition, blackberries dominate this delicious brew.

Looking forward to seeing you. Cheers!


6030
 
https://www.forbes.com/sites/kennyg...inst-rigged-beer-franchise-laws/#77aa027668af

Just outside Madison, Wisconsin, is one of the nation’s nicest beverage co-packaging facilities. For those unfamiliar with the term, it basically means that you come up with an idea for a liquid, and Octopi Brewing will brew and package it for you. From high-end fermentation vessels to canning lines, the facility has everything you need to create a beverage brand from scratch.

However, in the past few years, Octopi has become more than just a place for brewing dreams to come to life. Founder Isaac Showaki has teamed up with one of the Midwest’s most talented blenders, Levi Funk, to launch the Untitled Art Brewing beer brand, and championed small, independent beverage producers in their fight against unfair franchise laws. While Funk continues to run Funk Factory Geuzeria, the beer blender that he started in Madison, and Showaki is the sole founder of Octopi, the two are co-founders in Untitled Art, which might just represent the future of beverage production.

Kenny Gould: What is Untitled Art?

Levi Funk:
Untitled Art started because I was frustrated with the Wisconsin beer market. For Funk Factory, I was going to festivals and seeing friends in the industry who were making cool beer. I’d come back home and we didn’t have any of those styles. So Untitled Art started to make an example of a New England IPA in Wisconsin.

KG: Had that been done before?

LF:
No.

KG: And when was this?

LF:
December 2016.

KG: And how’d you meet Isaac?

LF:
For Funk Factory, we don’t have a brewhouse, so we were getting wort at Octopi.

Isaac Showaki: I don’t remember exactly how we got connected. Maybe it was an email or a call. But he asked me if I could do a turbid mash for a lambic-style wort. I said, “I have no idea, but let’s figure it out.” The first time we did it, it took twenty-three hours. We got gigantic protein balls in the mash kettle that clogged everything, but the beer turned out great. During those really long brew days, we had a lot of conversations. By the fourth or fifth one, Levi said, “Let’s try a hazy IPA.” We kept talking and he said, “Do you want to create a brand together?” I said, “One hundred percent. Let’s do it.” He’s incredibly good at the marketing, the design, the ideas, and he has a pulse at the market. I’m good at running a business and making sure things get done. We had a synergy where we were both working different parts of the business.

KG: When Levi said that, did you know about hazy IPAs?

IS:
I’d heard of them, but not really.

LF: The thing was, no one knew. If you got out of the Midwest, maybe you’d tried it. Or if you were a beer nerd, and into trading, maybe you’d heard of Trillium or Treehouse. Outside of that, maybe you knew Toppling Goliath, and that was the closest thing we had.

KG: Isaac, let’s talk about Octopi. When was it founded?

IS:
I started the idea a long time ago, but I cemented it during my honeymoon in 2014. Then we opened in 2015. I think we made the first batches in late 2015. We’re only on our fourth year, but we’ve been able to grow very rapidly because I think our concept is really good.

KG: And what is the concept, exactly?

IS:
We’re a contract brewery made to serve other people. But our niche is high-end product. The beer that no other contract breweries want to touch, that’s our bread and butter. For example, we had a client from Ohio who took their recipe to a well-known contract brewer who said, “This recipe is too hard for us.” But they came to us, and I said, “That’s what we do all the time.” Though, we want to be more than a contract beer brewery. We want to be a contract beverage facility. In the next three years, my goal is to have 40 percent of our revenue come from non-beer items.

KG: That’s very cool. And Funk Factory was one of your first customers?

IS:
Top five. When we first started Octopi, we were only brewing a few days per week. We had plenty of space to do the work. So Levi came in and said, “Do you have room for a fifty barrel batch?” And I said, “Let’s do it right now.”

KG: And how many barrels are you doing now, total?

IS:
The first year, we were close to 12,000 barrels. This year, we’ll do 55,000, and next year we’ll do 85,000. So in four years we’ve grown from 0 to 85,000.

KG: And what’s the distribution footprint?

IS:
Twenty-three states in the US, and eight countries in Europe. And we’re looking to grow. We still have a few larger markets that we’re looking at but we haven’t found the right distribution partner.

KG: And what do you mean by that? This gets into the other thing you're both known for, which is why I really want to make sure I get this right.

IS:
We believe that distribution is rigged against the producer. So we’re looking for likeminded distributors that don’t want franchise rights, so we can buy our brand back for a dollar if things don’t work the way we envisioned for any of us.

LF: That stemmed out of my hatred for how the system is rigged, and also Isaac’s experience. It got to a point where a distributor who no longer exists was suing his old brand — which also no longer exists, because he cancelled it. But it’s still a lawsuit, right? Wineries don’t deal with franchise laws, liquor companies don’t deal with franchise laws. There’s no reason breweries have to, or should have to. It’s only set up for the benefit of beer distributors.

KG: Tell me about franchise laws. What are they?

IS:
Beer is regulated by state, and every state has its own rules. But for the most part, there’s three tiers: producers, distributors, and retailers. And for the most part, the three tiers are separate. A brewery can’t own a distributor, a distributor can’t own a retailer, etc. These laws were formed after Prohibition because if a distributor had a big brand, and they lost that brand, they’d die. So distributors got together and created these crazy stupid laws called franchise laws. It means that one you sign with a distributor, it’s in perpetuity. You can’t leave them. And if you want to, it’s going to cost an arm and a leg. A distributor can name a “fair market value” — and I put that in quotation marks — because they can say any number they want. If you don’t agree with it, you have to sue them. It’s going to cost $100,000 and maybe after all that, the judge says, “They showed me two examples of years where they sold at this multiple, so you have to pay them this money.”

KG: So that's what you mean when you say the system is rigged.

IS:
You sign with a distributor, and they can literally stop selling your beer and there’s no way to get out of it. All these small producers are beholden to these giant distributors. In Wisconsin, four families control 95% of all the beer sold in the state. That’s crazy. You sign with them and you’re stuck there forever. That’s why we feel like they’re rigged — however, the good thing is we’ve seen a few like-minded distributors popping up in different states that don’t believe in this. They want to work with small producers. They’re more like, we’re going to do our best to make it work, but if it doesn’t, it’s your business. We’re not going to keep you sequestered for no reason.

LF: Our goal is to have a network of distributors that covers the US, and that any brewery can jump in. If they want to send beer to their home market, or their neighboring market, there’s a distributor in the network who can help them.

IS: When we say any breweries, we’re talking high-quality breweries. And it’s people like us who believe that you don’t want to be contracted in perpetuity to a bad distributor.
 
KG: And this focus on distribution has allowed you to negotiate fair contracts for Untitled Art?

IS:
Actually, Levi had this vision of just doing the beer in Wisconsin. We were negotiating with a big distributor and we came to two month terms. So they’d carry the brand for two months. We said, “Okay, fine.” At that time, we didn’t have the idea of a distributor network. We made the batch, and the Wisconsin distributor knew it was done. They knew we needed to sell it — we had about $50,000 worth of product. The day we were supposed to launch it, we called the distributor and said, “Hey, what happened to the contract? We need your signatures.” About an hour later, I get an email from their lawyer. Everything we agreed was completely different. They went back on everything they agreed.

LF: You have to keep in mind, at this point we were operating in the standard agreement structure. We’re talking about little nitpicky things: we want to send beer to our taprooms without going through you. Or, there’s this thing called a “marketing budget.” Basically, it’s like a dollar or two a case. We said we want that money to go into a bank account that we controlled because our branding wasn’t going to be posters; we wanted to buy experimental ingredients or fly in a brewer. That’s our marketing. That’s what we agreed on, but when they sent the contract back, it was right back to boilerplate. It was everything a distributor would want for every little leverage. I was like, screw you guys. I’ll self distribute it.

IS: It was the week before Christmas. I was like, “Levi, what are we going to do?” We got four volunteers who rented two U-Haul trucks. I had a couple sales reps for my brand and said, “Guys, see what you can do.” In two days, they’d sold all $50,000 worth of product. Just in Madison and Milwaukee.

LF: This was makeshift. Like, we were in Facebook groups saying, “We need a couple volunteers to drive some kegs.”

IS: We’re very nimble and we can make things happen. But a lot of things weren’t planned. Creating a growing a distributor network; that wasn’t planned. Sending beer out of state; that wasn’t planned.

KG: So you backed your way into a business by scratching your own itch.

IS:
We did a few batches of self-distribution with the U-Haul trucks, but ultimately we knew it wasn’t our business. But we had really good friends we sold on the idea of starting a distributorship. We said, “We can help you on the brands, but we want you to be this New Age distributor without franchise laws.” They believed in us, and put a ton of money into the idea. They created this amazing distributor in Wisconsin and they’re exactly what we want in a partner.

LF: I got an email one day from Untitled, Art Fair. I thought, “Crap, here’s the Cease and Desist.” But I opened it up and it was this art fair during Art Basel Week in Miami. It’s right on the beach. The tent looks like a Super Walmart. They said, “Hey, we saw your beer and think it’s cool. Last year, we had Amstel as a sponsor; they paid tens of thousands of dollars and donated a couple pallets. We don’t expect you to pay the money, but can you donate the beer?” Isaac really pushed this one. I thought, what if instead of sending a pallet of beer as a donation, we sent three pallets of beer. Maybe one is a donation, but for the other two, we find a distributor to sell it. Then we’re not giving away beer in a state at the other end of the country that we don’t sell beer in. The distributor got the product, sold it, and called us a week later and said, “When’s the next shipment?”

IS: So that’s how it started. A random person saw our beer in Wisconsin and told his daughter, who ran that tent in Miami. Florida became our second market and it’s now our largest market outside Wisconsin.

LF: Also, that distributor said, “Here’s a couple of our distributor friends, you should talk to them.” So we got a couple more, and that’s when we realized we should be finding these guys.
 
Just like every other year - looking for Great Taste tickets. Two for us and one for a friend coming up from Indiana. I'm sure lots of others are looking for them also.

giphy.gif
 
Top