*This is the fifty-fourth post in an on-going chronicle dubbed the Great Wisconsin Brewery Tour. Follow the journey here.*
1) How many different beers?
5 Leisure Brand Beers, 4 in the works; 15,000 recipes.
2) How long operational?
Leisure Brand available for 7 years; physical location open 9 months.
3) Why? (here, this, etc)
U Brew U: “Imagine a wedding party making beer for their wedding.”
5) What sets you apart?
Great pub food, quality beer, unique brewing event space.
6) How did you get your name?
“Leisure is a way of life.”
To be an entrepreneur, you’ve got to be a little crazy, a little lucky, and a lot persistent. A great idea can only get you so far; when the world isn’t ready for that idea, you need to be willing to show them the way. Such is the case with Al’s Leisure Brand Beer, served exclusively at Hops & Leisure, and the revolutionary U Brew University next door.
Housed in a large, modern building right off the highway in quickly-growing Oconomowoc, the sister businesses Hops & Leisure and U Brew U currently act as separate but related entities. On the one end, reasonably-priced pub food is slung with a smile alongside the contract-brewed house beers. The Leisure brand of beer was originally pitched as a lifestyle brand to MillerCoors, with the hopes of everything from toys to apparel to, yes, beer, belonging under the Leisure umbrella. Though the cross-functional domination may have faltered, the beer brand and recipes remain in production currently through Delafield Brewhaus. We tried the 5 available on draft.
Crisp start with a bolder body than I would’ve expected.
A field of clover and banana that leaves a hint of spice on your tongue.
Melty caramel, smooth from start to finish.
Dr. Leisure Pale Ale
Drinkable hop head, with approachable bitter levels.
Leisureologist Dark Ale
Sickly-sweet forward, but the burnt smokiness stays in your nose longer after.
Next to Hops & Leisure is U Brew University, a full service brew-it-yourself experience, located in the center of the building. Built from the ground up, the “Brew Boss” system is custom-designed to walk novices through the brewing process from start to finish in step-by-step directions. With 15,000 recipes to choose from, and all the ingredients included in a visit, there’s no limit to what you can create.
The idea is a game changer: I already drink when I hang out with friends, why not brew those same drinks while hanging out with friends? Up to 40 people can brew at a time, and Al said he’s surprised by how popular it happens to be with Lutheran church groups.
“I love the beer education process. We invented the Brew Boss because we want to create a craft beer foundation.”
The problem for U Brew U at the moment is that they’re too revolutionary. According to Al, the government regulations simply haven’t caught up to the times yet (we’ve heard that before). “We want to follow the laws, but they’re preventing us from drinking in the same space we brew. It makes no sense.” Al’s leading the charge, but regulations take time to change.
For now, though, U Brew U is taking reservations for private brewing events; you just have to walk a few feet to Hops & Leisure to actually drink beer at the same time. Meanwhile, Al’s looking to bring the Leisure Brand Beer brewing in-house (in the third portion of the same building), with the ultimate goal of possibly 4 different brewmasters each with their own unique lines.
To be honest, the entire setup was like nothing I’d ever seen before. But after meeting Al, there’s no doubt in my mind that his perseverance and drive will lead us to better beer somehow or somewhere.