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Monday, January 26, 2015  |   Madison, WI: 15.0° F  
Wisconsin beer and breweries: News and reviews
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'Beer Prof' Keith Symonds preparing Next Door Brewing for Madison's east side
Atwood Avenue brewpub expected to open in late 2013
Symonds says the neighborhood and its taste for craft beer was a major reason why he selected the east side location.
Credit:Robin Shepard

Madison is about to get another new brewery. The Next Door Brewing Company has secured a building at 2439 Atwood Ave.

Keith Symonds of Madison has been looking to open a local brewpub for several years. Over the last couple of years, his attention has focused on Madison's east side.

"We will be a restaurant with a small brewery, focusing on collaborative brewing for the community," says Symonds, who recently secured financing for a three-barrel brewery.

This month, Symonds has been attending neighborhood meetings with residents and other businesses in the immediate area, answering questions and describing his ideas. Once his plans are approved by the Alcohol License Review Committee (ALRC) and Common Council, he'll start renovating the 4,700-square foot building, formerly occupied by the Appliance Service Center. The ALRC will take up the matter on April 24, and the council's review of those recommendations could be discussed as early as May.

Symonds and his business partner Pepper Stebbins don't have a firm opening date in mind, just their intent to start making beer in late 2013 at the Atwood location.

Symonds is well known among Madison homebrewers as a master beer judge -- he calls himself the "Beer Prof" -- and for hosting beer tastings and dinners. He's also a brewery consultant and host of the Beerpocalypse Now beer talk show on WYOU. A New York native, Symonds has recently been a stay-at-home dad raising two young children. But his professional brewing experience includes stints at five other breweries ranging from the eastern U.S. to Tahiti, since the mid-1990s.

Stebbins, who grew up in Madison, is a former bartender at the Great Dane-Hilldale, where he worked for over four years. Symonds and Stebbins also have two other partners, Wisconsin residents who remain in the background as major investors but will not be involved in day-to-day operations. The start-up costs of Next Door Brewing is expected to run around $500,000.

Next Door Brewing will join a thriving beer neighborhood centered on Atwood Avenue that includes Alchemy, One Barrel Brewing, and the Harmony Bar. Next Door Brewing will be located on the south side of Atwood, between Ohio and Hudson avenues.

Symonds says the neighborhood and its taste for craft beer was a major reason why he selected the east side location."We wanted to find a community we could be part of, and an asset to," he explains, "and we quickly focused almost exclusively on the Atwood area."

Symonds plans to serve up to a dozen beers on draught in his taproom. The recipes that he's planning for "always available" brews will include a light-bodied beer, a pale ale, a strong beer, and something dark. Beyond that, Symonds hopes to offer a constantly rotating line of seasonals and special releases. Depending upon patrons' desires, he'll serve up a new brew every 7 to 10 days.

Next Door Brewing isn't planing to bottle, so its beers will be found almost exclusively on location. Symonds is also looking for ways to team up with other local brewers for collaborative creations. The food menu is far from set, but he intends to offer modern tavern fare of appetizers and sandwiches, with many selections prepared with ingredients from local suppliers.

Capacity is projected to be 100 inside. There likely won't be many televisions or private tables, with seating centered around communal tables instead. With this, Symonds is hoping to create a community feel to the brewery, where the atmosphere encourages conversations and community among local beer fans.

It all should help Next Door Brewing live up to its name.

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