Milwaukee is a city built on beer both historically and recently with the resurgence in craft breweries (some 30+ in this immediate area alone) as well as a booming home brewing scene. The local brewing industry indirectly produced thousands of city jobs in supporting industries, from the iconic yeast smell emanating from the Valley downtown to the slowly-suburbaning (that’s a verb, right?) Pabst Farms out in Oconomowoc.
Milwaukee’s Rust Belt phase saw the closing of some of our iconic breweries and their supporting businesses; but the craft beer renaissance is not only bringing back great local beer, but also skilled local industry. Spike Brewing, a provider of stainless home brewing equipment, has been leading the charge from a nondescript warehouse hidden on the city’s northwest side.
For five years, local mechanical engineer-turned-entrepreneur Ben Caya has been welding brewing kettles, fermenters, and systems. Though Caya’s first product started as a decidedly-amateur beer keg found in the basement of a UW-Milwaukee frat and sold on Craigslist, Spike’s products today are professional-grade and produced for and marketed to the “advanced home brewer”.
Now they’re up to 7 employees, and have quickly outgrown their current humble home; they’ll soon be setting up shop near Marquette in 4x the space.
Each kettle is stainless steel, hand welded, and cleaned/polished in house. It’s these high-quality materials and precision to detail that have turned Spike into a top-of-the-line option for craft brewers.
As of today, all sales are processed online. Because of the custom nature of their product, Spike Brewing is on the high end of the price list for home brewing equipment. Their motto is “Not Cheaper. Just Better.” But as our guide, Irene, told us, there is a large population of “semi-pro” brewers out their that demand quality:
“You can’t just buy a pair of Nike’s off the rack and expect a great workout.”
It’s that ability to help fledgling brewmasters take their hobbies to the next step that is driving Spike’s sales: there is no marketing budget to speak of, all of it is driven by word of mouth (and articles on popular local cheesy-named blogs, natch).
Irene stressed that the continued success of their business depends on offering “high quality on a standard product, (with) no gimmicks.” It’s that blue-collar work mentality and high-caliber manufactured product that helped build Milwaukee years ago, and Spike Brewing is continuing the tradition of making sure we’re a well-polished, well-beer’d city.
Check out Spike Brewing’s website to see their wide selection of Made in Milwaukee home-brewing equipment.