Why Ope! Brewing Geared Up for Consumer Experience at Taproom

Midwestern shorthand for “excuse me” is a quick “Ope!” as you “scootch on by” someone. Using that fun colloquialism is the basis and introduction for a newer Wisconsin brewery that recently opened as Ope! Brewing launched in western Milwaukee last year.

Using an extensive amount of market research, owners Adam Anders, Kyle Ciske, and John Onopa looked to open with what Onopa said is a “one-of-a-kind experience” with all the activities included in the location. Ope! looked to start with darts, cornhole, sand volleyball, bocce ball, fire pits outside, a large patio, and a large taproom as well.

“There really aren’t, regionally, any breweries that I know of that have this kind of on-site parking, this number of activities, this larger of a taproom, and this large of an in-house product offering,” Onopa said.

The team decided upon purchasing a 15-barrel, two-vessel brewhouse, a grist case, a chain-drive system with the mill and hoppers; along with six 15-barrel fermenters, eight brite tanks, and a keg filler at the jump.

“Adam and Kyle worked at another brewery pretty close to here (Explorium) and … they were very familiar with a number of the breweries in the area and a couple of them do have ProBrew systems,” Onopa said. “When it came time to make a decision, we kind of went around town and looked at a couple systems and met with the different manufacturers and felt comfortable with the equipment.

What they ended up going with is a pretty manual brewhouse.

“We weren’t looking for a ton of electronic integration and controls … all the bells and whistles,” Onopa said. It’s a relatively similar system to what Ciske and Anders have worked on previously, so Onopa said they took about half a day to walk through with a water brew and make sure step-by-step everything was lining up the way it should,

“​Everything worked out pretty well with that​,” he said. ​

The 15-barrel system fits the planned business model of concentrating on a taproom experience and on-site sales for Ope!

“We want to be sure that we have enough beer on hand at any given time for a busy month of business,” Onopa said. “It’s really tied back to our market research and experience with Kyle and Adam having worked at Explorium. They were on a 10-barrel system and understood how they were going to put out a quality product and it’s going to sell as long as we came up with a brand that was accepted, which we do feel pretty confident in our brand.

“Seeing out in the market all the other breweries that started smaller and wished they had gotten bigger, that 15-barrel was kind of a sweet spot for us. It wasn’t too big where we can still do unique batches, test batches, and new products regularly, but not have too much beer that ends up sitting.

“We were confident in the level we ended up settling on.”

Although Ope! experienced some delays with multiple components due to the pandemic and supply chain issues, Onopa said everything started to come together towards the end of 2021 in getting major deliveries. They have worked closely with Jay Petter of JP Craft Brewing Installation Services to install all the brewing equipment.

“He helped us make sure we had everything necessary to build out the entire brewery,” Onopa said.

The Ope! moniker may seem like a close-to-home naming mechanism, But Onopa said that with many Midwesterners moving to other parts of the country, the word “Ope!” is taking more root.

“It’s a light-hearted exclamation, so that’s really what we want our brand to represent as being not too dramatic and overbearing,” he said. “But it’s a light-hearted, fun brand that people can embrace.

“Especially as more and more people understand that it’s Ope! and not ‘Opie’ or ‘Oak’ and it’s kind of an ‘excuse me’ kind of phrase. We feel people will embrace it and just go along with a fun brand.”

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