At first glance, the former Equitable Reserve Association Building at 116 South Commercial Street in Neenah seems like an unlikely place for a brew pub.
“I was looking at some places in Appleton and I didn’t see anything that screamed ‘this is the place,” said Lion’s Tail Brewing Company owner/founder Alex Wenzel. “My friend, Chris Sanders, who owns The Fabric Salon in the building, said you’ve got to come down and see the building. It will take some imagination, but I think it would be an awesome place.”
“The space still had cubicles, dropped ceilings and temporary walls,” Wenzel said, “even though it was unfinished and musty, it was still very cool.”
Wenzel signed the lease last March and began the process of quitting his job as a chemical engineer and plunging headlong into brewing beer.
“It was a safe job with good pay. I was very successful for 15 years,” he said, “but it sucked my soul away. It used to be fun and creative. That, plus I had this growing obsession with brewing beer.”
Friends were his first taste-testers.
“People said I should sell my beer,” Wenzel said “and my wife has been very supportive of me following my passion. In fact, she pushed me quite a bit. We’re very lucky. She has a career that provides stability for our family and permits me to do something crazy. She is a silent part of the business, but her role is huge.”
While the building is uniquely attractive, it also presented unique challenges.
“We’ve been working with what we have and the first sketch is a lot different than what we have now,” Wenzel said. “Because there is no cargo entrance, we had to size all of our equipment to get through the front window of the building. Umer Sheikh, the owner of the building, was also very instrumental in the build out.”
Lion’s Tail Brewing will not be just another bar with beer.
“We will be making a lot of different beers and offering our customers new experiences,” Wenzel said. “We will have a different lineup every time you come in. My brewing style is all over the map, I like to try a little bit of everything and put my own spin on it.”
Two of his initial offerings will be a pineapple wheat.
“I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before.”
And Bavarian style Dunkel dark lager.
“If people can get past the dark color,” he noted, “they will find it to be smooth, easy drinking and enjoyable. We are also planning to do IPA’s, a Bohemian Pilsner, a chocolate cherry bock this winter and we will have some barrel-aged brews as well.”
Lion’s Tail will also be offering a Keg Club, through which a customer can buy a half-barrel (124 pints) at a 20% discount, and receive a Lion’s Tail T-shirt or hoodie and a free beer on his/her birthday.
“It makes an excellent holiday gift,’’ Wenzel said.
While Lion’s Tail will not have a kitchen, Wenzel has made arrangements with Neenah’s Broken Tree Pizza to deliver directly, and customers can order from a five-item menu from the neighboring Riverwalk Inn. Customers can also bring the own food.
Wenzel was amazed and is very grateful for the help he got from other local brewers, particularly the Appleton Brewing Factory.
“Everyone has been very helpful and the level of collaboration has been extraordinary,” Wenzel said.
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