Ready with a new image
Milwaukee Brewing Company started with two kettles at the Milwaukee Ale House and now encompasses a Grafton location as well as a full brewhouse and bottling facility in the Fifth Ward.
This sunday, Milwaukee Brewing Company will roll out a re-branding along with a full line of beers during a kick-off at Turner Hall called #luvMKEflavor. Six different flavors and styles will be offered and paired with food from various restaurants in the city for this four-hour event.
To mark this evolutionary step for the nearly 15-year-old brand, we took one of the Friday evening tours at the brewing facility on South 2nd Street. Upon entering the cavernous space, a small gang of brewmasters hang around a small bar underneath a gigantic ceiling fan in the middle of the warehouse. They are sipping on special efforts as well as drafts from the ABV (Attitude by Volume line) collection such as the Rishi Tea-infused “Godzilla” beer. Co-founder and owner Jim McCabe hangs out with his crew, laughing as many employees are glued to their smartphones, checking in on a kind of foursquare for beer lovers called Untappd.
We join the other tour-goers preparing to follow the guide by indulging in a “Louie’s Demise” or a “Hop Happy” draft. (Warning to future tour-goers: The Hop Happy IPA malt is 7.5 percent alcohol by volume and “high gravity.” In other words, don’t go on an empty stomach). All beers in the line-up are flavorful and powerful, from the Pull Chain Pale Ale to the Polish Moon Milk Stout (a very dark beer infused with milk sugars that make it very sweet). The beer is topped off with a few turns from an old wooden pepper grinder filled with hops.
The tour itself begins with a bit of history and an entertaining video containing interviews with the colorful characters that work there. In the meantime, our tour guide Tom uses a coffee grinder to mulch up mash malt ingredients which are then placed in a crock pot to make a kind of tea. We see that in addition to the bottles, MKE Brewing has added a special kind of canning process to its lineup of containers. Later on, Tom will proudly show off the innovative 4-pack plastic tops for the cans, which are environmentally-friendly and useful in design. Milwaukee Brewing Company utilizes many 21st-century techniques in both brewing and packaging, including running the facility a few days a week on a biofuel made from the used cooking oil of local restaurants.
The equipment is a kind of mish-mosh of shiny new and tried and true. Tom exclaims at one point: “that machine we got from the Jones family, you know, the Partridge Family? Yes! They used to make beer and it came up for sale and we have it now. Shirley Jones used to make beer with that! That’s so cool!”
And so it goes, as I peer tipsily into a giant empty kettle hoping not to go in headfirst. Luckily TCD’s newest photography intern Benjamin Wick was around to steady me in-between shots. His slideshow from Friday’s tour completes our intimate portrait of Milwaukee Brewing Company.
You can also partake in the $7 Friday and Saturday brewery tours, in which you walk away with foggy memories and a souvenir glass.
On Feb. 2, Milwaukee Brewing again participates with 88.9 RadioMilwaukee for a benefit dinner at the Iron Horse Hotel, called Sound Bites. This full-course music and food pairing event features top chefs from eight restaurants (like Pastiche, Hinterland, and Umami Moto) who will create dishes to go with particular musical sounds and beverages from Milwaukee Brewing Company, Wollersheim Winery, Great Lakes Distillery, and Stone Creek Coffee (who will offer a special blend just for this night only).
Also in February, you can experience more beer variety at the Midwinter Brewfest held in the Milwaukee Ale House, benefitting the MACC Fund. To view our entire set from the brewery tour, see below or visit our Flickr gallery set.