Vennture Brew Co.'s local success leads to expanded staff and more equipment

Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Margaret Naczek, Business Journal


Lean and efficient production is the core to Milwaukee brewery and coffee roaster Vennture Brew Co. When Simon McConico, Rob Gustafson and Jake Rohde opened the brewery and coffee shop in July 2018, it was just the three of them staffing the operation, which was open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.

In their first year, the three founders exceeded their own expectations by 25-30%, Gustafson said. On the brewery's 5-barrel system, Vennture, 5519 W. North Ave., produced about 275 barrels in 2018 and about 400 barrels in 2019.

"The challenge that we have is roasting and brewing in the same area. Brewing at the same time as roasting doesn’t work because of the humidity. We have to play back and forth with that," Gustafson said.

With success in the first 18 months, the brewery and coffee roaster has been able to expand its staff size and add more brewing and roasting equipment to increase efficiency and production.

The brewery recently purchased a new coffee roaster. It currently operates a 2.2 kilo, which roasts about three pounds at a time. Vennture's new roaster is 10 kilo, so 22 pounds at a time.

"It’ll take some of the strain off Jake [Rohde] and the constant need to roast and then should free up some time for more beer production. That’s kind of the balance," Gustafson said.

For the first year, the three worked 90-100 hour work weeks. It allowed the founders to save a considerable amount of capital, McConico said. The brewery and coffee shop recently added two more staff members to ease some of the work load, but McConico said it's still long days and long weeks.

"We’re in the process of figuring out what are some other strategic places that we can put people in order to up our production," McConico said.

The brewery also bought a canning line to reduce some of the production time. Currently it takes two people about 90 minutes to can about a keg's worth of beer. With the new canning line, Gustafson said it would take one person about 15 minutes.

"It is just significant time reduction and over the course of a year-and-a-half, we’ve been able to get it to where stuff has been getting smoother, in less time," Gustafson said.

Currently the brewery has three core beers — a Berliner Weisse, New England-style IPA and saison. It also plans to add a coffee stout within the upcoming months. The addition of the canning line means these core beers will be more easily accessible, Gustafson said.

Community excitement has made the build-out so attainable. The combination of coffee and beer was always something the three founders wanted to pursue. McConico said that often times, he found it was difficult to have conversations about coffee in coffee shops whereas breweries thrived on the dialogue. McConico and his two business partners wanted to change that stigma.

With both a strong coffee and beer scene in Milwaukee as well as a dead zone of nearby coffee and brewery spaces on North Avenue, it was the perfect location and time to establish Vennture, McConico said.

In 2020, McConico said it will be more of the same for the Milwaukee brewery and coffee shop.

"Trying to figure out what is it, who can we partner with, how can we make a bigger impact in the community that we’re in," McConico said.

In 2019 partnerships allowed Vennture to build its brand and give back in the community. The brewery and coffee shop donated about $4,500 to Washington Park for its Washington Park Wednesday series in the summer. The brewery also did a collaboration with Brew City Bruisers and made a collaboration donut-flavored beer with Cranky Al's in Wauwatosa.

"We’re talking with a handful of other places we’re hoping to collaborate with and do different things with. I think to us it is very important being able to have connections with our community, and beer is something that can help," McConico said. "The nice thing about having both beer and coffee is it reaches a wide variety of people."