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Wizard Works Brewing Company

Milwaukee, WI

 

Crusin’ Rating: B-

Booze Rating: C

 

We are starting off 2023 with a groovy spot that I had been intrigued by since our first (unsuccessful) attempt to visit it immediately following our trip to Broken Bat Brewing Co. along with our good friend, the Artist. We learned to always check more than one source when checking out a brewery's hours because the overlords at Google are not always correct!


On our second trip, we were digging around for a spot in early January after a little celebratory date dinner at St. Paul Fish Company inside of the Milwaukee Public Market. It turned out to be a somewhat pleasant January day that featured some light drizzle and some wild 55 degree temperatures, making it a fantastic day of weather for strolling around downtown Milwaukee looking for Crusin’ and Boozin’ stops. Wizard Works Brewing Company is only a whopping single block away from the Public Market right through the heart of the Third Ward.


Quite unassuming from the outside, Hannah was not entirely sold on visiting here. She didn’t have high hopes for it being open, and had even lower hopes for the space being nice, since it was clear on our first visit it occupied a basement. With Milwaukee having the most breweries of any city in Wisconsin, there were plenty of options since we have been waiting to tackle the somewhat daunting task of reviewing all of them! The close proximity in the chilly drizzle was what finally won out, I think.



There are a handful of hand-made chalk signs dotted throughout the third ward that point you in the direction of Wizard Works which is not only cute, but very helpful to finding the place. The first time we visited, we were right in front of the building and it wasn’t immediately clear that you have to enter the building and then head downstairs, but it became pretty obvious thanks to this signage. Down some open concept stairs with windows on your left, the space is fully decked out with historic cream city brick, large wood beams, and in the bottom of a historic building. If you’re thinking to yourself “a brewery in a basement does not seem like it would be a space where I’d want to hang out for a while” then you’d be right there with us as we walked down. I, being the nerd that I am, was excited by the fact that this brewery was started by a former magician. While I am definitely not one of those people who does close-up magic, or really even enjoys any sort of magic at all, I was just excited because you know a place started by a magician is going to be at the very least, quirky. Hannah, on the other hand, was probably entertaining thoughts of sweaty creepers playing trading cards and skeevy dudes pulling quarters from behind women’s ears as a pickup line. Basement plus magicians plus new brewery could go such a myriad of ways, with many ending badly.


This, clearly, was one of those places that we both had some not-so-great expectations going in, that, thankfully, abated as we spent time there. Right off the bat, there were definitely some signs of nerdery going on, but it was done in a tasteful way. Harry Potter wands on display, a large, hand-crafted 20-sided die [Dungeons and Dragons fans will understand], marble racing on the television [yes, that is a real thing…], vintage magician posters on the columns. Quirky? Yes. But it became apparent within the first few minutes that we had not walked into some sort of carnival side-show. If anything, I think the decorations were pretty subdued and only hinted at this owner’s past in what I am sure is a pretty storied career. How does one go from being a stage magician to brewing beer? He was too busy slinging beers for me to ask, assuming it even was the owner behind the bar.


We were pleasantly surprised by reruns of MTV with all 90s music playing, a cheerful atmosphere, and a small, but cozy space. Edison bulbs were used for lighting, large TV’s were spotted behind the bar and on the far side of the space, and there were several large cocktail tables. In all, maybe seating for 30 people, including the 9 seats at the live-edge bar. Some seating overlooks the production space which is sunken just a few more steps down from the level we were at. While it was a little stuffy and definitely on the warmer side [due to production happening 5 feet from our table], it definitely beat our assumptions of a dank and damp basement space. The windows, just barely visible on almost side-walk level, were a really nice touch to make it feel like you aren’t completely trying to escape a box before being sawn in half.


I’m going to go out of my way to say that I love the logo here. An owl with the body of a hop and big, stylized “W’s”. It says just enough about this brewery and I really like that the logo is on theme. For those of you unfamiliar with the sword and sorcery genre, owls are often companions of wise wizards so it was a great little nod to the fantasy genre and hints at some neat nerdiness.


Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Wizard Works Brewery- Beer Flight

But how about the beer? Our flights were on the expensive side at $14.00, and, actually, if memory serves me right, they might be near the top for most expensive flights.


Box Jumper (4.8% ABV) - This blonde ale featured medium clarity and was very malt-forward. With an aroma of honeyed-dough that gave way to the taste of honeyed biscuits with a touch of nuttiness at the end coupled with some mild bitterness that lingered around. All around a light mouthfeel, this was a pleasant sipper.


Puck Frumpkin (3% ABV) - This beer was described as a session sour. Fitting the ABV description of what we consider a sessionable beer (below 4.5% ABV) this was the first sour sessionable we have really come across. The one possible exception being America AF that Karben4 Brewing puts out which is a Gose, not a standard fruited sour. This beer featured high clarity and was light yellow in color. Smelling this beer yielded that acidic smell we sometimes pick up in sours along with apple-flavored candy. Sour tasting to start, like a pucker candy, that transitioned into Granny Smith apple skin and the caramel flavor you specifically find in the four-pack of caramel apples you find in the grocery store prior to Halloween. Hannah said it was okay and I thought it was a little sub-par. We both agreed the flavor was a little overly-candy-like.


Wizard’s Wrath (7.2% ABV) - What they call an English Strong ale (or British Strong, not super in tune with European politics) is what we are going with here in terms of category based on the ABV and IBUs (International Bitters Unit: 75 in this instance). According to the Beer Judge Certificate Program (BJCP), this is more of an entry category rather than a style since it fits somewhere between standard IBU beers and a barleywine. Characteristics can vary widely, and really the common factor is the high IBU and high ABV. That’s a long way of saying that this beer doesn’t really fit into a category with characteristics that we can compare to other examples as the history of this beer includes varied minor styles.


History lesson aside, we can describe what we experienced! There was a strong bitter component to this beer, which almost made me think it was a British Strong Bitter Ale at the start, with plenty of maillard characteristics in the malt and a definite and noticeable alcohol presence. There was some herbal spice on the nose and a little bit of nuts and dark fruit. The mouthfeel was creamy, heavily, almost to the point of chewy, liked whipped cream texture without any sugar or vanilla flavors. A nice history lesson, but I would rather stick with a barleywine if I was looking for a beer this boozy.


Swiss Mystic (7.2% ABV) - We’re going to try a Mexican Hot Chocolate Stout when we see one. Mexican Hot Chocolates being one of our favorite twists on an old favorite. Hannah thought she smelled a little bit of sour milk and I thought I smelled some charred cacao nibs. Tasting this beer yielded some milk chocolate and a scarce hint of chile that warmed the back of your throat, along with some vanilla and a little bit of that swiss miss powdery sugar flavor. While cinnamon was described, neither of us found that and we were both hoping the chocolate and spice characteristics could have been pushed up a notch.


We tried a few other beers in our two-hour visit that all fell into the realm of okay-good, although none stood out as excellent. Wizard works is a place that I would be willing to revisit again, especially considering its close proximity to the Public Market. I’d be interested to see what they come up with in the future and while I was not really wowed by any of their beers, they were all serviceable. With one of our first official forays into Milwaukee’s maze of potential spots, we’ve found a spot that I think will serve as a good middle point for comparison. There are plenty of Milwaukee destinations for us to check out, and for now, if you’re looking for craft beer and you’re in the Third Ward, we’ve found your spot!


Until next time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Wizard Works Brewing Company please visit their website at: https://wizardworksbrewing.com/ or on Facebook: @WizardWorksBrewing or on Instagram: @Wizard_Works_Brewing

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