When the Brookfield Ale House quietly opened its doors Nov. 16, owner Steve Landrey admitted being a bit nervous. He had just finished a 10-month renovation of the space at 8900 Fairview Ave. in downtown Brookfield that went far beyond what he’d imagined going in.
Seeing the possibilities of the space, Landrey jumped at a chance that others who looked at the space knew would be risky and walked away. When he first pitched the plan to the village back in late January, he felt he’d be open by April.
He quickly learned that wasn’t going to happen, but it also let him create a completely new concept. While nominally an, “ale house” the business is first and foremost a restaurant that can seat about 115 with a menu that covers everything from appetizers and burgers to steaks, chicken, pasta and seafood.
In addition to more than 100 beers available (including 20 on tap) the bar also features a selection of craft spirits and a selection of about 20 wines, several by the glass.
“If I knew the time it would take and the work it would take and the money it would take, I would never have done this,” Landrey said. “But it’s a blessing in disguise, because I’m really glad we did it.”
Right now Brookfield Ale House isn’t serving the full menu; that will come in a couple of weeks, Landrey said. And, for now, the business is open from 4 to 11 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday; 4 p.m. to midnight on Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m. to 1:30 a.m. on Saturday; and 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday.
“We’re still working out the menu,” Landrey said. “It’s limited right now.”
Among the renovation work Landrey and his partner, ZeZe Aiyash, did was to install a full commercial kitchen – the kitchen of the business it replaced, Salt Creek Wine Bar, was equipped simply with an electric oven – and an enormous, custom-built walk in cooler in the basement of the building that holds beer kegs for the tap beer.
Those are parts of the building that customers won’t see, but Landrey spent plenty of time creating an inviting space for the bar and restaurant areas, with walls that feature a lot of exposed brick as well as distressed, reclaimed wood.
Parallel to the bar is a long, irregularly shaped plank of Osage orange wood that Landrey calls a “signature piece” for high-top seating that essentially marks the end of the bar area and the beginning of the restaurant.
And if you didn’t know what town the business was in, you couldn’t miss the image that covers the entire north wall. It’s a 1920s-era photo of the Brookfield Fire Department that was one of about 20 found in the basement of the wine bar shortly after Landrey signed the lease.
Framed reproductions of other historic Brookfield photos can be seen elsewhere in the bar area.
Landrey expanded the restaurant area by demolishing a wall near the north end of the space. That area, which once served as a private seating area for the old wine bar, now doubles as a performance space.
The ale house will feature pianist Stan Karcz on Wednesdays and Fridays, and Landrey said he hopes to expand the live music offerings in the future, including bringing back the open mike night that was popular at Salt Creek Wine Bar.
“I wanted to continue the intimacy of Salt Creek Wine Bar,” said Landrey. “The challenge was how to cater to all groups without chasing anyone away.”