WEST ALLIS — Just like a robust stallion full of the joy of life, the Westallion Brewing Co. has opened in a big way at 1825 S. 72nd St. in West Allis.
"It was pretty incredible," said Kim Dorfner, who owns West Allis' first craft brewery along with her husband, Erik. Patrons laughed and talked and imbibed and many thanked Kim and Erik for opening their craft brewery in their town.
"People who live in West Allis," Kim marveled. "I've never met people so proud to come and live in a city.
"They were proud that we founded this in their neighborhood."
Erik grew up in West Allis and the couple's craft brewery grew out of the city's hard-working past. The building was once a tool and die shop, a print shop and even an emporium where you could buy forklifts.
The brewery first opened its doors on April 2, when patrons gathered in the tap room for the first time. Over the whole scene, a brash and devil-may-care silhouette of a nearly life-size stallion rears up on his hind legs.
The name Westallion is a whimsical combination of West Allis and stallion.
"I grew up in West Allis and heard a lot of people refer to themselves as stallions," Erik said. So, Westallion seemed a natural.
Natural too is the art of brewing to Erik. His Vienna lager won first place in the Schooner Homebrew Championship held in Racine.
Flowing generously from the tap that first day was a pale ale that the couple dubbed Mustang ale. The name pays tribute to the Mustang mascot of old West Milwaukee High School. Patrons sipped their Mustang brews in a tap room that Kim said has been described as industrial yet cozy and with a pub feeling.
They could have a bite to eat, too, although Westallion doesn't serve food. Patrons could choose from the menu of a local restaurant, put in their orders and the restaurant delivered.
"It's like ordering takeout," Kim said, only the vittles end up at the Westallion instead of at your home. As the weeks go on, the restaurants will rotate, but all will be part of the group of local restaurants gathered together in the Eat West Allis organization.
Customers flocking to the Westallion on its second weekend could put their Mustang down and then order a Generale Scottish ale. It's named after General Billy Mitchell, a West Allis favorite son.
In fact, all the beers and ales pay tribute in some way to the heritage of the city where they are being born.
Last weekend, Harvey's Wall-Banging wee heavy will be added to the tap room selections. With its higher than Socttish ale alcohol content, Harvey's Wall-Banging is brewed to slam a home run for those who remember Harvey Kuenn, manager of the Milwaukee Brewers World Series team.
This coming weekend, the Lost Turn Roggenbier or rye beer will make its debut. It's named for when Erik left work at the Lakefront Brewery before it was his turn to have a craft brew named after him.
Two more beers will be introduced in successive weeks.
One will be the Lillehammer Gold, recalling West Allis Olympic speed skater Dan Jansen's victories at Lillehammer. His is a Kolsch-style ale, light like a Pilsner and swift to go down.
Finally, there will be the Six Points porter, a German-style licorice porter with a hint of a black licorice flavor, minus the sweetness. You see it a lot in Germany, Kim said.
"But you don't see it much here," she said.
These are the six beers and ales that will always be on tap. Others will come and go in their season. More regulars will be added after the Westallion grand opening sometime this summer, Kim said. That also is when Westallion will expand its hours to be open from Wednesday through Sunday.
Until then, the hours are 3 to 9 p.m. Fridays; noon to 9 p.m. Saturdays; and noon to 6 p.m. Sundays.
West Allis Mayor Dan Devine was there on opening day and has some nice observations about the place.
"It is really sharp inside. I think it will be a trendy spot to meet neighbors and hang out," he said.
Devine also sampled some of the Mustang ale and declared it a really tasty American pale ale. Westallion is a nice addition to the city, he said.
"The craft brewery scene tends to be very different from your average bar," he said. "They don’t stay open very late and a vast majority of the clientele is there to socialize and sample new beer."
Westallion also is partnering with local, West Allis restaurants for food, so they will also benefit, he said.
The brewing operation is behind a wall at the back of the bar. Patrons can't see it, but the brews are already starting to be sold in other West Allis establishments including Braun's Power House, 7100 W. National Ave.; the Brass Monkey Pub, 11904 W. Greenfield Ave.; and the Drunk Uncle, 1902 S. 68th St.
The hard-working couple is glad the brewery is finally open. It took months to punch up the old tired building into a warm, welcoming and even trendy place to be. They had hoped to open last fall.
But they found that it takes as much patience to make a building into a craft brewery as it does to make the beer itself, Erik said. A great deal of prep work had to be done from concrete floor to roof. For example, roof work that was to take two weeks ended up taking two months.
Also, masons carved out bigger windows and added some to one side of the building.
"It'll be pretty," said Erik months ago, undaunted by weeks of cement dust flying around.
The Marine Corps veteran is a can-do and whatever-it-takes kind of man.
But when one of two fermenters arrived, Erik was elated.
"It was almost like seeing one of your children for the first time," he said. Not only that, caring for the fermenter is a lot like caring for a child, he said, jokingly: "It will have to be cleaned and bathed."
Bit by bit the brewery took shape. Erik said he knew he was really getting there when the big tanks that people usually associate with craft breweries arrived on a flatbed truck.
"At first we'll have three," he said.
The brew system that involves boiling kettles where the grain meets water to create wort arrived first. The wort then goes into the big tanks where yeast is added that eats sugar from the wort to create alcohol and make those carbon dioxide bubbles.
"It's a lot of science for something that's so much fun," said Erik.