In Milwaukee Record’s “Meet A Brewer” series, we aim to introduce you to some of the professionals behind the scenes who are responsible for making your favorite local beers. The recurring series—sponsored by BeerPass MKE, the only app that partners with Milwaukee bars, restaurants, and breweries to give you a free beer every single day you go out—continues with Matt Cisz, the head brewer at Gathering Place Brewing in Riverwest (and Wauwatosa).

Milwaukee Record: First off, what is your individual brewing history?

Matt Cisz: I’ve been here at Gathering Place for a year. Before that, I started professionally at Third Space. I was there for five years. Everyone over there starts as an assistant brewer and works their way up to brewer. I was the lead brewer before I left to come here. Before that, I home-brewed like most brewing people do. I did that for at least 10 years, so it’s been all over the map.

MR: What initially interested you in home brewing?

MC: I think like most of us, we all got a brewing kit from our parents for Christmas. That’s how I got started, and then I home brewed with some buddies and really found it interesting. I really like to cook, so any time you can create something and see the finished product is really fascinating. It just so happened that none of my first couple beers turned out like shit, or else I might have gone a different direction.

MR: Between your home-brew history, your years at Third Space, and your time here [at Gathering Place], what are a few of your favorite beers you’ve ever made or at least had a hand in making?

MC: That’s always a tough question for me. It’s like asking a parent which kid is their favorite. For me, I always latch onto things that have a personal connection. When I was at Third Space, I launched a collaboration beer that was called One In Four that raised funds for domestic violence organizations. We had 50 breweries across the country participate in that and we raised like $12,000 for Sojourner, which was super cool. It was an IPA. The beer was good, but the cause is what made the beer really special for me.

More recently, we did a beer in our pilot system here for some of our friends who got married. Both fathers—the father of the bride and the father of the groom—are macro beer lovers, so I made the closest thing I could to a High Life. It was cool because it was for a friend’s wedding, but the beer also turned out really nice. I would say those are the top two that come to mind.

MR: You’re on a deserted island and you have to pick one beer style to have for the rest of your life, what are you picking?

MC: Oh, that’s easy! It’s got to be a pilsner of some sort. They’re a beer style that’s so simple in theory, but it’s incredibly hard to make a really good pilsner. And a pilsner on a deserted island where it’s hot all the time…yeah, pilsner. If I go to a brewery, the first thing I’m trying is their pilsner. That can tell you the quality of the brewery you’re at because you can’t hide any flaws in a pilsner.

MR: Staying with the lager and pilsner end of things, are any macros that you reach for between craft beer purchases?

MC: Whether they’ll admit it or not, every brewer has a macro beer they drink and probably keep in their fridge at home. To me, it depends on what I’m doing, but the standby for me is Coors Banquet. It’s just such a great beer. I really like Pacifico as far as Mexican lagers go. High Life. I probably drink more macro beer than one would think.

MR: On the other end of the spectrum, are there any favorite Wisconsin breweries that come to mind—excluding places you’ve worked or currently work?

MC: New Glarus is up there, just from their quality of what they make. I’m a huge fan of Working Draft. One I don’t think gets enough attention is Bavarian Bierhaus. Then Supermoon, which is kind of new on the scene and everything they do there is super interesting and cool.

MR: What are some hobbies that aren’t brewing-related?

MC: Having an almost-two-year-old is pretty much another full-time job, but really, I like anything outdoors. I love cooking, going to concerts, firing up the grill—nothing out of the ordinary. If I’m not at work and I have time, I’m going to be outdoors.

MR: Are there any favorite musical artists or memorable concert experiences?

MC: Definitely. I worked at Summerfest for a number of years and being able to see Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, and Tom Petty up close and personal was really cool. I would say the most recent show I loved, I saw Black Joe Lewis at Vivarium. I’ve been very fortunate to see some really cool artists in interesting locations.

MR: Any favorite TV shows?

MC: Any true crime stuff. Like many of the people you’ve interviewed for this, Seinfeld is always going to be a go-to.

MR: If we opened your fridge right now, what beers would we find in there?

MC: Probably some Coors Banquet. Right now, I have some of that Dive Beer from Lakefront. From being in the industry now, I really try to only buy local beer because there’s so much beer on the shelves and a lot of it sits for a long time and gets old.

MR: What are some favorite beverages beyond beer?

MC: Old Fashioneds are always good. I go with bourbon press. I also drink coffee—I live right by Vennture, we buy from there a lot. Anodyne is another one.

MR: I know the brewery—with its Carry The G beer—is sports-minded, but do you have any favorite sports or favorite athletes?

MC: I would say baseball is probably the sport I lean into the most. I used to watch every sports, but it got to a point where there just wasn’t time to keep up on everything, so baseball is the one I still gravitate to. That being said, football is great because Sundays turn into gatherings of family and friends.

MR: What are some of your favorite Milwaukee area restaurants or bars that you frequent when you’re able to get out?

MC: The Milwaukee area is such and interesting animal because there are so many great places out there that most of us don’t even know about or you hear about from word of mouth. A place we like to go is Story Hill BKC. They put out great food and have great service. A local watering hole I probably frequent most is Walter’s on North because I can walk there. Another place that comes to mind is Tenuta’s in Bay View. That place is incredible.

MR: Do you have any tips or words of wisdom related to brewing that you’d like to impart, either to aspiring brewers or civilians like me?

MC: The biggest tip I can provide to any consumer is when you’re at the liquor store or wherever you get your beer is to check the date codes. Most will be on the bottom of the can or a sticker on the PakTech. Beer does have a shelf life. It does get old and it will not taste very good. If you keep it cold, it’s going to last longer, but always check date codes. I’ve officially ruined beer for my wife because I’ve taught her certain things to look for. Like, if you ever taste a beer and it has a buttered popcorn or butterscotch flavor, that’s an off beer. That flavor should not be there.

MR: Is there anything you’re working on here that you’d like to mention?

MC: Lager & Friends will be back on June 22. I think there’s going to be 20 Wisconsin breweries serving lagers. And be on the lookout for Carry The G again, coming in preseason. That brand just continues to grow for us and the amount of requests we get for that beer from out of state is crazy! We’ve gotten requests from coast to coast for that beer. I do think we’re going to expand out of the state of Wisconsin for that beer this year. We’ll probably stick to the Midwest, maybe down in Illinois first to see how it does. This will be year three for the beer. The goal is to have it out by the start of preseason. People can go online and request where they want to see it in the state to make sure it gets where it needs to go.

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About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.