Even with rapid growth, Good City is just getting started

Made in Milwaukee

Good City’s van outside the Century City building.

Last updated on July 3rd, 2019 at 07:22 pm

Good City Brewing

2108 N. Farwell Ave., Milwaukee

Industry: Craft beer

Employees: 48


When Good City Brewing LLC co-founder Dan Katt first walked through the Century City I building on Milwaukee’s northwest side, he was impressed. He also knew Good City did not have an immediate need for a 53,000-square-foot industrial building.

But space is an issue for Good City. Walk through the production area at the brewer’s taproom on North Farwell Avenue on the East Side and it is easy to see things are getting a bit cramped. There might be room to add a couple more fermentation tanks, but it would be tight. Adding any more would require removing the cold storage area.

Good City’s van outside the Century City building.

In the adjacent storage space Good City expanded into last year, there are stacks of cans and other materials. The space limitations have reached a point where materials have to be moved outside daily to make room for production.

In short, Good City is out of space. For a growing brewer with another taproom and event space coming online next year and plenty of opportunity to expand distribution in Wisconsin, running out of space is a problem.

“As we got further along and looked at other spaces, there’s just not much out there …for our immediate need, this was the best possible space; not even close,” Katt said of the Century City building at the corner of West Capitol Drive and North 31st Street.

To address its current and future space needs, Good City will acquire the Century City I ownership interests of the City of Milwaukee and developer General Capital Group for $35,000 in cash and nearly $3.3 million in debt. The city and General Capital will be out about $382,500 of their investment, but the building, which was completed before Good City even began production in 2016, could be a catalyst for other development in the area.

“Just as Palermo’s recognized the potential of the Menomonee Valley, Good City Brewing recognizes the potential of Century City,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said at event announcing the purchase.

Initially, Good City will move office and warehouse work to the building while leasing the remainder of the space to other civic-minded businesses. The brewery’s founders also hope to establish a production brewery at the Century City building in two years.

If the past two years are any indication, those hopes will likely come true. Good City started in the summer of 2016 with a taproom and brewery on North Farwell Avenue. By the spring of 2017, the company had announced plans to expand into the neighboring space, adding more production capacity, an event space called Good City Hall and a rooftop patio area. A month later, Good City announced the signing of a distribution deal with New Berlin-based Beechwood Sales and Service.

This year, Good City took things to another level by announcing plans to open a taproom in the Entertainment Block across the street from the Fiserv Forum, the new Milwaukee Bucks arena. The facility will support the introduction of sour beers and also be home to Good City Commons, a 350-person event space.

“It’s crazy,” said David Dupee, who co-founded Good City with Katt and Andrew Jones. “All the things that are happening … sometimes people assume that we’ve arrived or we’re really big and we’re not.”

Good City’s production volumes have steadily increased. But even with a nearly 130 percent increase in the first half of this year, the brewery is on pace for around 2,800 barrels this year. Other craft brewers top that amount in a single month, and craft giant New Glarus Brewing reached nearly 220,000 barrels last year, according to Wisconsin Department of Revenue data.

“I don’t know that you’ll see another New Glarus or that size of a brewery pop. I think those days are probably gone,” Dupee said. “Is 20,000 barrels feasible? You know, probably.”

Dupee said Good City relies a lot on Beechwood, its distributor, for input.

“Right now we can’t brew beer fast enough and right now we feel like there’s still opportunity in Milwaukee,” Dupee said, adding the company has just barely entered Madison and has not explored the rest of the state. “We’re pretty bullish on being able to add additional capacity.”

Good City’s growth comes at a time when the beer industry overall is seeing volumes decline and craft breweries have gone from double-digit growth to the low single digits.

“For us, a big part of our growth is the taproom experience,” he said. “When you have over 100,000 people coming through your doors, it’s just a great way to introduce folks to your brand and your beer. Hopefully they have a positive experience and that translates to sales out in the market.”

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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