Small Business of the Year: Good City Brewing

2018 BizTimes Best in Business

A rendering of Good City’s new downtown brewery, which it plans to open in January.

Good City Brewing LLC was launched in 2016 as a small brewery and taproom on Milwaukee’s East Side. Its popularity meant an expansion was in order by 2017, when it added a rooftop patio and an event space.

But visionary co-founders Dan Katt, David Dupee and Andrew Jones didn’t see Good City as just another craft brewery. The company made big moves in 2018 by seizing opportunities when they presented themselves, Katt said.

In the midst of an overall volume decline for the beer industry and slowing growth among craft breweries, Good City has managed to carve out a larger piece of the pie. For its major growth-oriented, civic-minded initiatives this year, Good City Brewing is the BizTimes Best in Business 2018 Small Business of the Year.

In May, Good City announced it would open a second production facility and taproom at the Entertainment Block adjoining the Fiserv Forum. The leased 11,000-square-foot space will have 24 taps, a wood-fired oven kitchen concept, outdoor patio seating and an event space, with total capacity of 550.

Katt said the Milwaukee Bucks’ development felt like a “generational opportunity” both for the burgeoning business and for the city.

“The Bucks thing goes back a long time because they had made this announcement it’s got to be two, three years ago about having a brewery at the entertainment block,” he said. “I think we were probably only a few months old when that announcement was made. That wasn’t part of our original plan, but our mentality has been, ‘Why not us?’”

Good City threw its hat into the ring, worked its contacts and kept the dialogue open throughout the arena-planning process. Now the businesses second brewery is nearly complete, with plans for a January opening.

But that wasn’t enough for 2018. Good City in July announced it would buy a 53,000-square-foot industrial building in the Century City business park on Milwaukee’s northwest side, move its office and warehouse operations there from the East Side, and plan to begin brewery operations at the new site by 2020.

“Initially, (co-developer General Capital Group LLP) reached out to us last winter and at the time going into 2018, we knew we were going to need warehouse space,” Katt said.

But they didn’t realize that effort would go beyond beer and tie in to a larger mission.

“The opportunity to invest in that neighborhood was also something super high on our priority list,” Katt said.

Good City doesn’t need anywhere near 53,000 square feet, so it plans to fill the remainder of the building with entrepreneurs and small business tenants it is currently recruiting. The company plans to call it the “Good City Innovation Center.”

An affiliate of Good City will assume almost $3.3 million in debt and pay $35,000 to acquire its ownership interest in the Century City One building. The building, at the former A.O. Smith/Tower Automotive site, was co-developed by General Capital Group and the City of Milwaukee, and has been vacant since its 2016 completion.

Good City’s choice to move some operations to Century City has been lauded by city leaders as a bold commitment to Milwaukee and efforts to revitalize the central city.

The brewing company, which has about 24 full-time and 24 part-time employees, was also able to add health benefits this year, which has aided in the retention and attraction of talented employees, Katt said.

Looking ahead to 2019, Good City plans to complete its new projects, fill the Good City Innovation Center with tenants, and expand its distribution.

“We’ve got some pretty aggressive plans with our wholesale business that will include new products,” Katt said. “The beer is the foundation of everything we do. It has to be and the quality has to be there and it has to be drinkable and people have to drink it, but from there you can get more creative with everything else that’s possible.”

And while the business has its hands full right now, Katt never says ‘never’ to additional opportunities.

“We are certainly growth-oriented and we certainly are open-minded and have open ears to things but we’re pretty focused right now on getting downtown open and our endeavor at Century City,” he said.

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Molly Dill
Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.