Sprecher Brewing Co. has a long history as the oldest Craft Brewery in Milwaukee, and our story is one of devotion to craft, commitment to the community, and a drive to share our fire-brewed sodas and beers with customers nationwide. We grew from an idea in the mind of Randy Sprecher to a Milwaukee craft brewing institution proudly owned by a small group of local investors. This is our story.
Pictured: Randy Sprecher during his term of service with the U.S. Army in Augsburg, Germany.
Before Randy Sprecher, there were no craft breweries in Milwaukee—only Miller, Pabst, and Schlitz. Randy himself was not in Milwaukee until 1980. Randy grew up on the west coast. He was drafted into the army during the Vietnam war, but due to colorblindness he was sent to work for a general in Augsburg, Germany instead of going to Vietnam.
Randy fell in love with German beers, and he was not able to find anything that compared when he moved back to the U.S. So, he began making his own German beers at home. Homebrewing quickly turned into an obsession for Randy. He was taking classes in Oceanography at Humboldt State when he returned from the service, but he switched to courses that helped him become a better brewer.
In 1972, Randy applied to study fermentation science at UC-Davis and refined his brewing skills to the point of expertise. Then, he perplexed the State of California by applying to establish a licensed brewery—a concept that the state did not understand. Down but not out, Randy secured a post as Supervisor of Brewing Operations at Pabst’s Milwaukee brewery. He packed up everything he owned into a VW Van and moved to Milwaukee.
Milwaukee's Original Craft Brewery is Born
Pictured: Randy Sprecher during his days as a Brewing Supervisor at Pabst.
While he worked at Pabst from 1980 to 1984, Randy held onto his dream of opening his own brewery. He continued homebrewing and saving money. When he lost his job in a big round of layoffs in 1984, Randy took the opportunity to begin building Sprecher Brewing Co. In 1985 Randy opened our first location at 701 W. Oregon St. in Walker’s Point. He hand-built much of the brewery equipment with friends, including the original gas-fired brew kettle. Milwaukeeans have always appreciated a good beer, and Randy’s flagship award-winning beers—the Black Bavarian and Special Amber, quickly became popular.
However, in 1993, a canal retainer wall fell into the Menominee river, and the brewery’s parking lot went down with it. It became difficult to access the brewery after that, so Sprecher began relocating to a renovated elevator cab factory in Glendale, a process that finished in 1995.
Sprecher Brewing Today
Pictured: Sprecher Brewery’s current location in Glendale, WI.
Today Sprecher is one of the only breweries in the U.S. that still uses a unique fire-brewing process that caramelizes the flavors to give Sprecher’s craft sodas and beers big bold flavor. The popularity of Sprecher’s unique craft beverages has led to continued expansion of the Glendale, Wisconsin facilities. Sprecher has gone from serving the Milwaukee and Wisconsin area to being distributed to retailers in over twenty states. In February of 2020, Randy Sprecher retired having achieved his dreams. He wanted the company to stay in competent local hands, so he sold it to a small team of Milwaukee investors.
In these capable hands, Sprecher will continue to fire-brew delicious craft sodas and beers in the Milwaukee area. Visit today to see what we are up to! Take the tour to see our lab, brewhouse, and production area, and learn all about our history and craft brewing process. Then, relax in our beer garden and sample craft beverages while munching on local snacks. Become part of the Sprecher story—visit today. Prost!