Inventors Brew Pub

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Building History

Our Historic Building

In 1847 the Lakeside Brewery opened in Port Washington, WI, one year before Wisconsin became a state. It then became the Port Washington Brewing Company in 1905 and after prohibition, it officially was called Old Port Brewing Company. (It’s Premo beer’s slogan was ‘The Beer that made Milwaukee Furious!’) After closing in 1947, several of the old buildings were torn down but the newest addition still remains. Sometime thereafter the American Legion Post 82 took possession of this building located at 435 N. Lake St, Port Washington, WI. In 2017, Inventors Brewpub has been the current resident tenant since July 1, 2017.
This last photo is a hand-colorized black and white photo that was made into what appears to be a postcard! You can see St. Mary’s Church on the top of the hill but the light station is just out of view. When you are in Veteran’s Memorial Park right across the street from us, you can see the light station clearly just above the Legion Hall building.

Inside and Brewing Processes

The John Wittman Brewery was actually on the opposite side of St. Mary’s Hill (former Sundance tavern-restaurant was the residence of John Wittman). This is almost exactly what the Lakeside lagering caves would have looked like and since it’s in the same hill built about the same time, the construction would have been similar as well.
We don’t have any photos of the grain storage or milling. In Germany it is common for breweries to have these multi-story factories to take advantage of gravity in all the processes so that pumps are minimized. Only water and grain would need to be elevated. This photo is labeled “Mash Tub” although it is clearly a lauter tun based on the grant located below. (looks like a double-door barrel grill). German breweries typically had a mash tun located above this lauter tun that the grains were soaked to convert from starch to sugar water (aka wort). This lauter tun was where the wort was separated from the spent grain and sent to the kettle. The grant allowed the brewer to sample the quality of separation as well as test the sugar content. Like modern American breweries, it is possible that this was a combination mash-lauter tun, but unlikely due to the German history of this brewery and available technology.
The kettle where the wort was boiled for 60-90 minutes and hops were added for bitterness, flavor and their anti-microbial properties. Notice the stairwell landing in this photo. That is where the previous lauter tun photo was taken, and likewise you can see the staircase which this one was taken.
After boiling the beer would have been sent to large and shallow copper-lined vats for cooling. This would have been called a “coolship” and needed to occur fast and sanitarily else the beer could become infected. As of 2010 there was at least one brewery in Salzburg Austria that was still making clean lager using this method.
After cooling, the wort would have been sent to the fermentation cellar where yeast was added and the wort was converted into beer. The vessels are made out of wood but were probably lined with a pitch that minimized contact with the wood which would harbor bacteria and sour the beer. We cannot tell if these are open top fermentors or they had some sort of lid to also limit bugs and stuff from falling into the beer.
This is one of my favorite photos showing the horizontal wooden lagering vessels. The paint labels this as 78 bbls which means these would hold 2400 gallons of lager beer. Probably lined with pitch like the fermentors. the metal doors were there to so a person could crawl in and clean out. No CO2 alarms so the person had to be careful to purge beforehand so they did not asphyxiate.
The five vessels didn’t mean they had five flavors, but since a beer would take about 10-14 weeks to lager the beers were made and staggered in timeline. These were also horizontal for two reasons: one, they are shorter if horizontal but two, the yeast and particulates that are settling out needed a shorter distance to fall in order to clarify the beer.
This photo is the keg washing room. It was taken later as the half the kegs are made from aluminum. (on the left) the barrels on the right were smaller and held maybe 10 gallons but were still extremely heavy when EMPTY! The aluminum ones held about 15 gallons and would weigh about the same or less as the wood ones when full.
Bottle washing room before they moved into the new building. These machines were fairly small compared to the modern bottle washing machines which were the size of a room. This older one looks homemade as the frame is wooden and would have needed lots of repairs as the wood softened and rotted over lots of use.
Not sure what the barrels are in this photo. They might be filling as they were working the bottle washing machine.
After labeling and bottling the beer would bottle condition to make sure the carbonation was good. Sometimes another two weeks. Then it would be shipped on trucks for delivery. Of course, this is a modern photo, before trucks the use of horse and wagon was the only way to deliver beer longer distances.
Based on their checkered pants and fake facial hair, this “water wagon” was probably used in parades and promotions. Premo beer, “the beer that made Milwaukee furious!”
Label of Old Port Lager made by the Old Port Brewing Corp. It shows a little history of Port Washington on the label with some Native Americans and a lighthouse with sailing ships as well as the old downtown that looks like a trading settlement.

Misc and Destruction Photos

Boiler room with a coal-fire or maybe coke-fired furnace. (coke was used to dry malt later when they learned burned more cleanly and didn’t flavor the malt as badly as wood or coal)
We think this was a photo of the owners in a promotion shot. They are surrounded by Old Port swag and beers with a meal on the table. Dressed in their finest drinking the finest!
Is that London Bridge in the tapestry in the upper left?
Brewing operations went from 1847-1947 but then the brewery sat empty for a decade and the city had acquired ownership at some point. They torn it down March 26, 1958. You can see American Legion hall to the right in both photos. (aka the new bottle washing room).
After the cleanup the old location became a gravel parking lot and eventually the Lighthouse condos. Look at how few trees there were on the hill. The pine tree would have made a nice Christmas tree.
Port Washington would have to wait until 2017 until beer was again brewed on this historical site!