Before 1985, before Randy Sprecher, you could not find a microbrewery in Milwaukee.
A lot has happened since then.
Three beer giants dominated the scene: Miller, Pabst and Schlitz. Meanwhile, one determined, passionate (some might say obsessed) homebrewer who worked as a 3rd shift Supervisor of Brewing Operations at Pabst spent his remaining waking hours perfecting and sampling beer recipes in accordance with his game-changing master plan. The game changer? Randy Sprecher. The master plan? Establish Milwaukee’s first craft brewery since Prohibition.
Although drafted undergoing “jungle school” training, due to a physical problem – color blindness – instead of going to Vietnam PFC Randal Sprecher was sent to work for a general in Augsburg, Germany. During those 18 months Sprecher gained an appreciation for German beer. When he arrived back in the US, he found his budget didn’t stretch far enough to cover European beers, only lower priced US beers. Being extremely resourceful, Randy decided to start homebrewing beers like the ones he discovered during his military service. Additionally, he pursued a college degree at Humboldt State, switching his major from Oceanography to whatever courses he needed to start his own brewery. During this time Randy a wide range of jobs including construction, mail delivery for the USPS, tutoring, and Social Security client intake.
Special Studies at UC Davis
Around 1972, Randy applied to do special studies coursework in fermentation science at UC-Davis. There he became an expert in yeast, which further refined his brewing skills. A recruiter from Pabst hired Randy to be Supervisor of Brewing Operations at the Milwaukee brewery. Sprecher packed up his VW van with a few possessions, his brewing equipment and headed to Milwaukee in 1980. Ahead of his time, in the mid-1970s he perplexed the State of California by applying to establish a licensed brewery. You will find California’s response to his inquiry along with other historical items right in the brewery gift shop.
A Brewery Is Born
Randy worked at Pabst just at the end of its heyday, 1980-84. During this time he continued homebrewing, sampling friends, and saving his money. When he and many other employees were let go in 1984, Randy went to work building the brewery of his dreams with the $40,000 he’d saved and a lot of sweat equity. Much of the brewery was either hand-built by Randy and friends – including the original gas-fired brew kettle – or used equipment purchased at auction. The original Sprecher brewery was located in a three story leased building located at 701 W. Oregon St., in Walker’s Point. Randy discovered that many Milwaukeeans appreciated the beers he made: German lagers and well balanced beers with good flavor. After a canal retainer wall fell into the river, the parking lot followed, making it difficult to access the brewery. In 1993, Sprecher Brewery moved to its current location in Glendale, WI.
Sprecher Brewery Today
The Sprecher Brewery you visit today is a renovated elevator cab factory. When you tour the brewery, you will see our quaint yet efficient lab. And then you’ll step into the centerpiece of our operation, the brewhouse. In the brewhouse you will find the reason we put “Fire-Brewed” on all our packaging, because we still brew all our beers and sodas in a hand-built gas-fired brew kettle. Your journey continues past our aging tanks purchased from Wisconsin dairies, and our bottling line with murals of the Bavarian Alps. At the end of the tour, because we like to save the best for last, you enter our indoor beer garden for samples from our wide array of craft beers and sodas.