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Aiming to be different

Lion’s Tail Brewing Company created 100 new beers in 2022

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January 12, 2023

NEENAH – With a plethora of breweries and brewpubs in the Northeast Wisconsin area, Nick Leak, vice president of operations and marketing with Lion’s Tail Brewing Company in Neenah, said setting itself apart from the others was the key to success.
How does Lion’s Tail accomplish that?

“In 2022, we put out exactly 100 unique beers,” Leak, who has been with the brewpub for almost three years, said. “We realized (in mid-December 2022) we were on pace to hit 98 and said, ‘We can’t stop there,’ so we were able to squeeze in a couple more brews. Between collaborations with other breweries and our own beers we make, there were 100 unique beers with Lion’s Tail name on them – this sets us apart.”

Leak said coming up with that many unique beers takes “a lot of brainstorming.”

“We have a great team,” he said. “We take ideas from anywhere – some from our bar staff and customers, but a majority comes from our team of four in our weekly meetings.”

Leak said as vp of operations and marketing, he’s tasked with keeping the production schedule up to date.

“I’m looking out over the next few months to see what size batches we need, what styles are selling well and where we have gaps,” he said. “Essentially, I come to the team and say, ‘What ideas do you have?’ From there, it’s working out what we see in the market and what new trends are coming.”
Most popular beers
Leak said though Lion’s Tail puts out dozens of new brews a year, only about four are year-round sellers.

“It varies, but they all have unique stories,” he said. “The beer we make the most of is Juice Cloud – it’s a New England IPA (India pale ale) and it’s all Citra hops. It’s one of the first beers we made and great tasting.”

Leak said perhaps the “coolest” story behind a beer comes from one the brewpub made for Pierce Manufacturing, also a Neenah-based company that manufactures fire trucks.

“Pierce came to us with a request,” he said. “They wanted to know if we could partner with them to create a beer they could serve to their customers coming into town. In brainstorming with them on names, it just so happens the color code for that red you see on so many emergency vehicles is called ‘No. 90 Red.’ So, we created a beer based on that. You’ll find that beer in lots of places, but in particular, the Fox Valley. It’s in many of the major restaurants and bars where Pierce takes its customers from all around the country.”

The Lion’s Tail Brewing Company has its beer in many retail locations throughout Wisconsin. Photo courtesy of Lion’s Tail

Leak said some of the brewpub’s beers are locally inspired.

Because most people consider Neenah and the Fox Valley more blue-collar, Leak said Lion’s Tail wanted to create a beer to represent that.

“We have several people who come in and simply ask for a light beer,” he said. “Because of this, we created Pre-Game Light Lager – it’s delicious. It’s a slightly more flavorful version of those large domestic beers.”

Outside of that, Leak said Lion’s Tail is also well known for its slushy-style sours.

“Instead of putting in a small amount of fruit that is traditional, we put in more than a ton of real fruit in every (batch),” he said. “It ends up making them thicker in texture – almost like a smoothie. We probably make eight to 10 unique slushies yearly – they’re popular and sell well.”

Leak said the taproom has plenty of tap lines available for beer.

“At any given time, we’ve usually got 24 of our own beers on tap,” he said. “We’re also probably serving anywhere from five to 10 of our beers in cans. So, the reality is, you’re getting probably 30-plus options available to drink in the taproom – whether it’s on tap or from our cooler to take home. We also offer wine and spirits in Neenah.”

Because Lion’s Tail is technically a brewpub and not a brewery, Leak said it has different bylaws it follows.

“You still have to have the right type of license, but I believe a brewery cannot offer liquor or wine,” he said. “We are a brewpub, and with a brewpub license, you can do those things in conjunction with an additional liquor license.”

Leak said Lion’s Tail beer isn’t only available in its taproom, but also in restaurants and stores throughout Wisconsin.

“If you were to draw a straight line and stay along Lake Michigan, we distribute from Wausau to the north down to a little south of Milwaukee, and then over to Madison,” he said. “We’re in hundreds of different on-premises locations – bars, restaurants, places like that, as well as many liquor stores, you’ll find in those spaces. We’re not in a lot of the giant chains, but we’re in Festival Foods from Green Bay through Fond du Lac. Those are the places and the businesses that propped us up when we first started, when we were smaller and growing. We like to stick with a lot of them and help them grow as well.”
How it all began
As he highlights where the brewpub is now, Leak said he can’t help but reflect on how it all started.

Lion’s Tail opened in November 2015 with owners Alex and Kristin Wenzel.

“Alex and Kristin still own 100% of the business,” he said.

According to the company’s website,, Alex began brewing beer in the couple’s basement until they ran out of room.

“From there, they settled on a building in downtown Neenah at 116 S. Commercial St.,” Leak said. “We usually tell people we’re next to the clock tower in the downtown area.”

Leak said the building housing the brewpub is a former historical bank.

The Lion’s Tail Brewing Company is housed in a former bank building in Downtown Neenah located at 116 S. Commercial St. Photo courtesy of Lion’s Tail

“It’s a cool building,” he said. “It’s a shared space, so we’re in there with a couple of other businesses. We occupy a good portion of the first floor of that building. The building has a lot of cool character we’ve incorporated into the taproom design. It’s got the original floors we refinished and has cream city brick.”

Though “awesome,” Leak said the floors and brick aren’t the “coolest” feature.

“It’s got the old bank vault you can go inside and sit in,” he said. “Also, we might be the only brewery in Wisconsin that has crown molding within its brew space, because the building has all that cool, old dark-stained woodwork. We kept all of it in every space we went into.”

Leak said Lion’s Tail doesn’t offer food, but that simply means you can bring in your own snacks.

“We also partner with Broken Tree Pizza in downtown Neenah,” he said. “You can order their pizza directly through our bartenders and we’ll call it in for you and Broken Tree will deliver it to the taproom. We have food trucks occasionally, but we’d love to have them more often.”

Leak said Lion’s Tail opened another location in mid-October 2022 in Wauwatosa.
As do the beers, the name has a story, too
Leak said the Lion’s Tail name comes from co-owner Alex’s heritage.

“It comes from different parts,” he said. “Alex is Czech, and when he was looking back on his family crest, it had a rampant lion on it. That’s a traditional European/Czech thing to have that lion. He was trying to think through how he could use that for the brewery – he wanted to have something tied to his roots.”

Leak said Wenzel is a German name derived from King Wenceslas II – a man who was the patron saint of brewers.

“Alex had the lion, and he loves brewing, so if you look at the main logo (of Lion’s Tail), it has a rampant lion, but we’ve changed the tail to have two stalks of barley,” he said.

An online search reveals King Wenceslas’ most notable action was to ignite a brewing revolution in the 1200’s by convincing the Pope to revoke a ban that prevented his Czech people from brewing beer.

Odds and ends
Lion’s Tail is open from 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 3-11 p.m. on Friday, noon to 11 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 7 p.m. Sunday.For a yearly cost of $100, VIP members receive a variety of benefits, including a 15% discount off all Lion’s Tail merchandise, early access to all can releases, an invitation to an annual member party and receive a free pint glass and koozie.More information can be found by calling the pub at (920) 215-6443 or via email at and leashed dogs are welcomed on the smoke-free patio.

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