A look at the food, beer and mural at J. Leinenkugel’s Barrel Yard at American Family Field ahead of Brewers Opening Day
Monday isn't just Opening Day for the Brewers. It's also opening day for their ballpark's new restaurant and brewery, J. Leinenkugel’s Barrel Yard.
"This has been a labor of love several years in ideation, with our partnership with Leinenkugel's and Molson Coors, and then with construction beginning as soon as the season ended last year," Rick Schlesinger, Brewers president of business operations, said at a Tuesday news conference at the Barrel Yard.
Chef Loren Rue's menu, which he spent months developing, focuses on the idea of "new Northwoods kitchen" and high-quality ingredients. The space's three-barrel brewing system was installed last week. And, a well-known local artist spent months designing and weeks creating a Northwoods-inspired mural for the space.
"We are so thrilled to have this opportunity to really bring the beers that we are so proud to be brewing every day right here to the Brewers fans and right here to Milwaukee," said Tony Bugher, president of Leinenkugel's. "We're very excited about where we are today, really looking forward to the future ... American Family Field is a world-class destination. We're proud to have a world-class brewery within that destination. This restaurant, this brewery is going to be a destination where memories are made. And, we're excited."
It's almost time to say play ball. So, here's a preview of the establishment, from its menu and brews to its hours and mural.
Menu with 'new Northwoods kitchen' flair, premium ingredients
"The menu really started with the idea of a new Northwoods kitchen, Chippewa Falls being in the north," Rue said. "Kind of taking the play on a supper club, but making it more approachable with a lunch and dinner menu that can be used all year-round."
The focus is on high-quality, premium ingredients, according to Rue. And all of the food is cooked fresh, in-house.
The "Supper Club Crispy Chicken Dinner," which features local Amish chicken that's air-cooled and butchered in-house, Rue said. The chicken is dredged in a signature spice blend and pressure fried. This house specialty is served with horseradish coleslaw, loaded potato salad and a house-made biscuit.
About those biscuits: "Ma's Buttermilk Biscuits" are made from the recipe of Rue's Grandma Loretta, whom he was named after. They're something he grew up eating and loving, he said.
"We always joked with my grandma that we should sell these biscuits 'cause they're so good," Rue said. "So, it's kind of cool to be able to shout her out here as well."
The restaurant's "Nueske's Hanging Bacon" has a maple and black pepper glaze, is torched right before going out to the customer and is served over loaded potato salad so that bacon drippings fall right into it. And that potato salad is made with mashed potatoes "to give it that creaminess that a potato salad sometimes lacks," Rue said.
The menu includes shareables such as "Tavern Chicken Wings" and "Chippewa Falls Cheese Curds"; a "Barrel Beer Cheese Soup"; salads including the "Northwoods" which features organic mixed greens, arugula, Honeycrisp apples, dried cranberries and spiced pecans; house specialties, such as "The Best of the Wurst Platter" featuring a sharable dish of knackwurst, bierwurst, weisswurst and a slab of bacon that's served with apple kraut, potatoes, pickles and mustard; handhelds, including the "Big Eddy Burger" with a signature blend of sirloin, short rib and brisket, cheddar cheese, bacon, tomato jalapeno jam and frizzled onions, and "Pa's Pastrami Sandwich" with a ½-pound of shaved pastrami, Russian dressing, slow-braised apple kraut, Jarlsberg cheese and caramelized onions on seeded rye; entrees including the 14-ounce New York strip steak and "Four Cheese Baked Wisco Mac"; and sweets such as the "Campside Churro Donuts."
After six months of late nights, weekends and traveling for research and development trips, Rue said to see it all come to fruition has been "an amazing process."
Special, rotating beers and other Leinenkugel's offerings will be available
Corrine Georges has been hired as the brewery's full-time, on-site brewer, Bugher said.
While special, rotating Barrel Yard beers will be brewed at American Family Field, the first three were crafted at Leinenkugel's Chippewa Falls location "due to the installation timeline" of the ballpark's brewing system, a news release said.
Those three are:
Red Lager (remastered): This beer, which was discontinued, was one of the first beers that got Leinenkugel's into craft beer, said brand ambassador John Leinenkugel. What differs from the original is that the brewery is dry-hopping it. It features a rusty red color and thick tight foam, a sweet malty backbone and subtle piney Cascade dry-hopping notes, a news release said. "The Leine Red drinkers who remember this from the past will have something new to experience," he said.
Cherry Gose: This brew features a pinkish hue, a subtle tart cherry flavor from Door County cherries and a fullness to the mouth-feel that finishes cleanly thanks to pink Himalayan salt.
IPA: An IPA is "something that Leinenkugel's doesn't do often," Leinenkugel said. It features fresh hop notes of resinous pine, tropical fruits and citrus.
At this time, these three brews will be exclusive to the Barrel Yard. Leinenkugel's, however, plans to release its Red Lager for fall and winter, Leinenkugel said.
"That is what we're hoping to do with the pilot system here at American Family Field and the Barrel Yard," Leinenkugel said. "Brew new beers, new innovation and bring them to our beer drinkers statewide, and hopefully, nationwide."
The Barrel Yard will carry an array of Leinenkugel's offerings on draft, including Leinenkugel's Original, Summer Shandy, Honey Weiss, Dark Lager and Northwoods Amber, among others.
Cans and Bottles of other Molson Coors products will be available, including Miller Lite and Coors Light.
Cocktails, wine, hard seltzers and non-alcoholic drink options
The cocktails, or "Club Sippers" as the restaurant calls 'em, include:
"Loaded Bloody Mary": Ketal One Vodka and bloody Mary mix
"Dragon Fruit Margarita": Casamigos Blanco Tequila, Grand Marnier, lime juice and agave nectar
"Brandy Slush": Korbel Brandy, grapefruit soda, orange juice and black tea
"Brandy Old Fashioned": Korbel Brandy, bitters, simple syrup and customer's choice of sweet or sour
"Blood Orange Spritz": Skyy Citrus Vodka, Triple Sec, prosecco and San Pellegrino Aranciata Rossa
There will also be a variety of Vizzy and Topo Chico hard seltzers, as well as red, white and sparkling wine.
Non-alcoholic beverages include "Blue Dream Lemonade" with cotton candy syrup, lemonade, lemon lime soda and cotton candy, "Rainbow Lemonade" with passion fruit syrup, lemonade, lemon lime soda, flower extract and a unicorn lollipop, as well as Coors Edge NA beer.
Mural features a lake scene with a lure character, hidden gems
Milwaukee artist David Zimmerman, aka Bigshot Robot, pulled inspiration from the Northwoods when creating the wall-sized mural located within the restaurant. It features a lake scene, both under and above water.
Some of Zimmerman's earliest memories are going to Brewers games at County Stadium with his neighbors, from getting players' autographs to getting hit in the head by Fernando Vina's foul ball that got lost in the sun. His crew has continued on to Miller Park, and now, American Family Field.
Making a mural inside the ballpark is "a full-circle" moment for him, he said.
"To be able to see grounds crew working on the field while I'm working on this is pretty cool," he said.
When Zimmerman started meeting with Three Sixty, who did the restaurant's interior design work, they showed him imagery that could serve as inspiration. That included a picture of a Northwoods pub's ceiling. He recognized it immediately. He would go there on visits to his grandma's nearby cabin.
"It was just cool to be immediately tied into the inspiration," he said.
The focus of Zimmerman's mural is a colorful lure character that's "approachable but still strong." Your eye is also drawn to the silhouettes of a fisherman and his dog in a boat. There are also more-hidden gems, including a cooler, birds and a baseball that he thinks kids will have fun searching for.
The mural extends to other areas of the space as well.
The mural's design has been in the works since fall of 2022, Zimmerman said. He started by sketching it on paper. Then he took it to his tablet to ink it, do line work and work on color compositions, which he collaborated with Three Sixty on.
When Zimmerman got into the restaurant's space, he projected his creation onto the wall, sketched it, filled it in with color and then did its linework on top, he said. The project took him about three weeks total to complete.
"This is more complicated or more detailed than I have worked in the past, so it was cool to push myself a little further on this piece," he said.
What are the Barrel Yard's hours on non-game days and game days?
On non-game days, the Barrel Yard will be open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.
When the Brewers are playing an evening game at the ballpark, the restaurant will be open to the public for lunch from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. On days with afternoon games, only ticketed guests will be permitted in the restaurant.
Hours may change during events and game days, according to the Brewers.
Here's who also helped bring the restaurant's concept to life
Hunzinger Construction was the general contractor for the project.
Ramlow/Stein was the architect.
Rev Pop designed the establishment's logo.
Delaware North and Rue are operating the restaurant.
Barrel Yard hosting public sneak peek 'Brewers Eve Bash' on March 29
The Barrel Yard will be hosting a "Brewers Eve Bash" from 4:30 to 8 p.m. March 29. Fans will be able to sample select food items and Leinenkugel's beers, according to a news release. Red Lager, Cherry Gose and IPA won't be available until Monday's home opener.
Admission to the sneak peek is free and open to all ages, but capacity is limited. It'll be first come, first served.
According to the news release, Brewers Hall of Famer Rollie Fingers will be signing free autographs — limited to one per guest — at the Brewers Team Store from 5 to 6 p.m. (Full-sized bats are not allowed.) Then, he'll be working the taps at the brewery and serving up drinks.
Brewers Wall of Honor member Jim Gantner and two-time All-Star Larry Hisle will also be at the bash, interacting and celebrating with fans, the release said.
There will also be live music from local band Regenerated, raffles, giveaways and visits from Bernie Brewer and the Famous Racing Sausages, per the release.
For more info, to check out the full menu or to reserve a table
For more information on the Barrel Yard, to check out its full menu or to reserve a table, visit barrelyardmke.com.
This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: A sneak peek at American Family Field J. Leinenkugel’s Barrel Yard