Past Meets Present In My First Visit To Third Space Brewing

September 25, 2016. Menomonee Valley, Milwaukee, WI

You have to see pictures of this place before construction began. That Kevin Wright and Andy Gehl basically saved this space, totally remaking it into something so new, so clean, so shiny, so spacious, is in itself an incredible undertaking. What impresses me even more is how they keyed into Milwaukee’s brewing history by locating the brewery in the old industrial heart of the city, the Menomonee Valley, where so many breweries once operated.

Third Space Brewing strives to create a kind of home-away-from-home, a place to be yourself, to relax. That kind of reminds me of how 19th Century Milwaukeeans might have seen their beer gardens, especially in a time when public spaces played a huge role in people’s lives. While their beer was absolutely impeccable (which I’ll get to in a second) what initially struck my about Third Space was how they imbued the physical space with an awareness of Milwaukee’s brewing past, from their beer garden that flows almost seamlessly from inside the taproom into an outdoor space, to the location of the building, to the marrying of industrial space with social space. I respect the hell out the fact that Kevin and Andy sort of keep the door open to Milwaukee’s brewing past even as they help define Milwaukee’s brewing present.

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As I came around the corner from the parking lot, I was greeted by the brewery. For me, there is nothing like the sight of pristine conical fermentors and boil kettles to inspire an appetite for beer. The only way I curbed by desire to walk directly into the open brewery and run my hands all over their equipment was to channel it into a quick sampler of Third Space’s beers.

While the physical space of the brewery conjured up thoughts of Milwaukee’s brewing past, the beers themselves were anything but old fashioned. Though Happy Place (a Midwest Pale Ale) and That’s Gold (a Golden Kolsch) seemed to nod to the city’s past, I felt a distinct West Coast vibe from the beers. Bright, fruity, tropical hop flavors were very much front and center in their beers. Likewise everything they brewed was clean and crystal-clear. For a relatively new brewery, nothing they made felt like Kevin and Andy compromised their beer in order to get the brewery open.

Likewise, I admired the implicit confidence in their choice to opened with four beers in four solid styles (an IPA, an Oatmeal Stout, a Kolsch — which is a German style made by fermenting lager yeast at warmer temperatures — and an IPA. There was no sense of having to embrace every current trend in beer. No sense of needing a barrel program (though they certainly have the space for it and I’m sure it will follow). No sense of needing to open with sours or beers fermented with Brettanomyces. That confidence is what most excites me for my next visit to Third Space Brewing.

I’ll be back soon for another sampler, to see what’s next of tap, and — hopefully — to meet the brewers in person.


— Nathan