Who are you and your current job?
I'm Matt Krajnak. My current job is Sales and Marketing Support here at Lakefront Brewery. I handle the day-to-day graphics design needs of our sales team, as well as manage the Brewery's Facebook and Twitter presence, with some occasional media representation, too.
What was the inspiration behind your brewery?
Lakefront Brewery's story starts in Milwaukee, somewhere in the mid-1980's. Brothers Jim and Russ Klisch were both longtime homebrewers who eventually thought their beers were good enough to open a brewery. At that time, the Milwaukee beer scene was next to non-existent: Schlitz had ceased production in Milwaukee, Pabst was in turmoil, and there was talk of Miller moving their production to another plant. Jim and Russ thought that without a brewery, Milwaukee couldn't be called “Brew City”. In 1987, the Klisch brothers founded Lakefront Brewery.
Russ and Jim thought “Lakefront Brewery” was a good name, because Milwaukee is located on Lake Michigan, and there's nothing more quintessentially Milwaukee than the city's lakefront.
Can you give us a tour of your beer scene?
Milwaukee's beer scene was very European lager-heavy when Lakefront started, partly because of the area's German heritage, and partly because used dairy tanks were inexpensive horizontal fermenters and vacant industrial space was cheap. People's palates have become more adventurous since then, but Milwaukee didn't really have a beer scene on par with similar-sized cities until last year. In 2016, we've had seven to eight breweries open, their tap rooms are packed (at least they are whenever I swing by!), and they're all making fantastic beer.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a brewery?
My advice for someone wanting to start a brewery: invest early on in good quality assurance and control, whether budgeting for external lab analysis, or in-house testing. There’s no room in this fiercely competitive market for off-flavored beer and the consumer is more informed about good beer than ever.