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Who dares break into Milwaukee’s famous beer scene? A Lenexa native

Lenexa native opened The Gathering Place brewery in Milwaukee. He learned a lot about beer from his time in the Kansas City area.
Lenexa native opened The Gathering Place brewery in Milwaukee. He learned a lot about beer from his time in the Kansas City area. Visit Milwaukee.

It takes a lot of chutzpah to go to a town like Milwaukee, recognized as one of the great brewing cities of the world, and open a craft brewery.

But that’s exactly what Lenexa native Joe Yeado has done. And he’s taken a little bit of Kansas City with him.

“Boulevard is certainly an inspiration to the style of beer we make,” said Yeado, a 2003 graduate of St. Thomas Aquinas High School, who remembers his first Boulevard brewery tour in 1993 when he was in the third grade.

The son of Bill and Sharon Yeado of Leawood, Yeado, now 32, bought his first root beer brewing kit from a Johnson County store while he was still in high school.

Then, while in college at Marquette University, he quickly transitioned to a beverage more popular with college students. A year abroad at a university in Marburg, Germany, solidified his understanding of and appreciation for good beer.

In tiny apartments across the Midwest and during a short stint in Washington, D.C., Yeado continued his little home brew operation, testing it out on family and friends.

He won two home brew competitions sponsored by Samuel Adams in the D.C. area in 2013 and 2014, and he and his wife, Kirstin, started thinking about taking his passion to the next level.

Over the next few years, as they developed a business plan for the brewery, Joe continued working in policy development for a non-profit and Kirstin in grant management for a philanthropic organization. And they won nearly three dozen awards in home brew competitions around the Midwest.

Among those competitions was the Greater Topeka Hall of Foamers Homebrew Competition 2014, but alas, no awards or ribbons from that event.

Finally, on Aug. 19, 2017, the Yeados cut the proverbial ribbon on Gathering Place Brewing Company in Milwaukee. In its first year, the Gathering Place produced 200 barrels of beer. Only available in Wisconsin and only by the keg, Gathering Place beer is delivered to 75 Milwaukee area restaurants or bars in the back of Yeado’s Subaru Outback.

As the historic home to beer empires named Miller, Schlitz, Blatz and Pabst, a city where their baseball team is named for those brewers, Milwaukee has a culture of serious beer consumption. In the past 20 years or so, that has begun to include craft beer. However, until recently few small batch breweries operated in Milwaukee.

Yeado believes that the Gathering Place, one of about 30 craft breweries in the city, is on the leading edge of a wave moving through the city, similar to what Kansas City has experienced in the past decade.

That’s just a few of the similarities he sees between the two cities.

“I think the rise in craft breweries followed trends in the food scene,” he said. “People experienced more unique flavors on their plates and in their coffee cups and they wanted similar experiences in their pint glasses, which created a market where local craft brewers could grow.”

In addition, Yeado points out, Kansas City and Milwaukee are both surrounded by rich farmland, which provides an abundance of fresh ingredients to create craft beers unique to each region. One of Yeado’s best sellers is a Belgian Tripel made with Montmorency cherries from Door County, Wisc.

Although the Kansas City metro is home to roughly 200,000 more people than Milwaukee, Yeado points out both cities’ affordability, family friendly amenities and good sports teams.

“My wife rubs it in that the Packers won Super Bowl I, but I get to remind her that the Royals have two World Series titles,” Yeado said. He notes that while he owns two Brewers shirts and four Royals shirts, his wife has three Salvador Perez jerseys and follows the Royals’ catcher on Instagram.

The only serious difference between Milwaukee and Kansas City is the barbecue.

“I can’t get any good barbecue up here,” he said. “Just brats.”

Gathering Place receives its name from the Potawatomie translation for the word “Milwaukee.” It means “the place where people gather by the waters.”

Gathering Place tap room is located at 811 E. Vienna Ave., Milwaukee; 414-364-6328; Brewery tours are offered on Saturday and Sunday afternoons.