Ryan Browne

Ryan Browne puts on a homebrewing demonstration at the Goodman Community Center in 2014. Browne is aiming to open his own brewery, Working Draft Beer Co., by December. 


After 10 years of home-brewing and two years of business planning, Ryan Browne is ever closer to opening his own brewery on the Near East Side.

Browne submitted an application for a conditional use permit for his new brewery called Working Draft Beer Co., which Browne said would brew its own beer and partner with local breweries to fill tap space until Working Draft can produce its own wide array of beer styles.

The principal owners will be Browne, Wine and Hop Shop owner Ben Feifarek, Jonny Hunter and Mel Trudeau from Underground Food Collective and J Bowen, who earned an MBA from Northwestern University.

Feifarek and Browne will both be coming from the Wine and Hop Shop, which has long sold home-brewing and wine-making equipment on Monroe Street. Browne is Wine and Hop Shop’s manager and class instructor.

Feifarek and Browne would brew Working Draft’s beers, but Browne said the brewery also plans on hiring a professional brewer.

Its location would be 1133 E. Wilson St., currently home to RP’s Pasta Co. Browne’s lease, which begins in July, is for the back third of the building. Underground Food Collective will lease the street-facing two-thirds when RP’s relocates.

Browne noted the building is in the heart of the Marquette neighborhood, across from Central Park, between Williamson Street and East Washington Avenue and next to Capital City Bike Path.

“There’re so many things right with this location,” Browne said. “If we’re going to open a brewery, there couldn’t be a better place than here.”

Remodeling of the unit and applications for brewing permits push the planned opening to December.

Working Draft Beer would use about half of its 4,000 square feet for a tap room, with the rest devoted to brewing. Browne said he and Feifarek plan to make a wide array of beer styles from India pale ales to German lagers.

“I’ve been home-brewing for 10 years,” Browne said. “I think it’s every home brewer’s dream to open a brewery.”

Working Draft would start small with an estimated 400 barrels of beer brewed in its first year using a seven-barrel system, Browne said. Since the brewery wouldn’t have the time to create beers to populate all 16 of the bar’s taps, Browne said he hopes to partner with Wisconsin breweries. One gluten-free option from Madison’s Alt Brew would hold a permanent spot on tap.

Along with the range of beer selections, Working Draft would have some food options as well. Underground Food Collective plans to sell Southern-style barbecue in the tap room.

The Plan Commission will take up Browne’s conditional use application on June 19.


Shelley K. Mesch is a general assignment reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal. She earned a degree in journalism from DePaul University.