Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Small peek into big brewery
Leinenkugel’s 10th Street Brewery isn’t open for tours, but we have some pictures for you.
It’s right there off the highway. Big as a barn and just as red.
Leinenkugel’s 10th Street Brewery — named for its 1515 N. 10th St. location — is the largest brewery in Milwaukee that you can’t tour.
Bigger yet because of a recent twopart expansion that included $50 million for state-of-the art packaging operations and $20 million for cider production, which began in late 2018.
That Leinenkugel’s script on the front of the building is only part of the story.
The MillerCoors-owned brewery produces varieties of Leinenkugel’s
beer, but it also makes Blue Moon Iced Coffee Blonde wheat beer; the occasional craft beer in the MillerCoors portfolio, such as Terrapin; and, since earlier this year, as much as 114,000 barrels of barrels of Crispin and other hard ciders.
There are no tours of the brewhouse. No space for people to watch grains being poured or walk past velvet ropes meant to keep grubby hands off polished copper.
This is an ever-moving production brewery.
It was built in 1986 by G. Heileman Brewing Co. MillerCoors purchased it in 1996 for its Leinenkugel’s division.
The hard cider and packaging sides — the recent expansions — are the shiny and new parts.
Bringing hard cider to 10th Street was a case of addition by subtraction. MillerCoors closed the Crispin Cider works in Colfax, Calif., in December and brought production and head cidermaker John Enzenauer to Milwaukee.
If you could get inside, it would be difficult to miss the giant boxes of apple juice used to make the hard cider — mostly, because they look exactly like fat swollen oversized juice boxes in need of a straw.
Raw apple juice that has been pressed in the northwest side of the country is trucked within 48 to 72 hours to Milwaukee, where it’s put in receiving tanks the size of small redwood trees before being shifted to fermenters of equal size. Yeast is pitched and the juice stays in the fermenters for 12 to 18 days.
The new addition added to the tank inventory for both brewing (56 tanks) and cider making (eight tanks) purposes. The tanks seemingly shrink the warehouse-size rooms, making them resemble a stainless steel forest. The doorways weren’t wide enough, so they were installed through the roof, said Janelle Heinrich, the 10th Street Brewery’s senior operations director.
Beer tanks share the space. That’s 40 universal tanks that can be used for fermentation, 12 bright beer tanks (or holding tanks for finished beer) and four product-release tanks. In between is the dry-hopping cannon used to add hops into the fermenter at the end of fermentation. (Dry hopping is a method of enhancing hop flavor in beers.)
There is room for more expansion, Heinrich said. Currently, two shifts work at the brewery — first shift is 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and second shift is 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. They often end up working 10hour shifts to keep up, which is why there are plans to expand to a third shift at the end of 2019 or early 2020.
Cider production space bleeds over to what used to be the 10th Street Brewery’s keg line. Processed cider is pumped to the room where it’s finished with water, sweetener or other ingredients depending on the brand or style. The juice comes from the giant juice boxes at about 10% ABV (alcohol by volume), but it’s blended to an ABV of 4% to 6%, Enzenauer said.
Then it’s filtered, or sometimes not. The juice is blended with water sugar or sometimes hibiscus, maple syrup, pear or rose petal, Enzenauer said.
10th Street Brewery produces The Saint Artisanal Honeycrisp, an unfiltered cider made with maple syrup. Filtered products include Crispin Pearsecco, Crispin Rosé with rose petals and hibiscus. Enzenauer also produces Browns Lane, a traditional UK cider using juice imported from the United Kingdom for its bittersweet apples and blended onsite.
On the production side, a machine grabs and folds cartons for the Blue Moon Share Pack. Inside the addition is a fully automated bottle and can line, a keg line and a warehouse with eight dock doors.
The equipment fills 75 kegs in an hour. Bottles or cans are filled at 300 a minute. More than that, the equipment can switch up sizes to fill 12-ounce cans; 16-ounce cans; 12-ounce sleek cans (skinnier versions); 12-ounce bottles or 22-ounce bottles, Heinrich said.
The line is so automated that a team of four workers can handle it. One person feeds the pallet of bottles to the line, which sanitizes and fills them. Others feed the equipment with cartons.
Not every beer is made at the brewery. In the case of the Blue Moon variety pack, Blue Moon varieties Belgian White and Mango are trucked from the Milwaukee Brewery while the Iced Coffee Blonde is made at 10th Street Brewery.
The thirst is real. Heinrich said that an average of 22 truckloads of product, from apple cider to beer, leaves 10th Street Brewery each week.