Michael Horne
Plenty of Horne

Urban Harvest Hosts Urban Milwaukee

Urban Milwaukee's first members-only event tapped into a lot of fun.

By - Feb 5th, 2017 11:05 am
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Urban Harvest Brewing Company. Photo from Facebook.

Urban Harvest Brewing Company. Photo from Facebook.

A members-only event drew 35 attendees to the Urban Harvest Brewery and Taproom, 1024 S. 5th St. for the first in a scheduled series of bi-monthly events.

Guests were greeted at the door by Urban Milwaukee President Jeramey Jannene, who checked off their names on a list.

The more complicated task of removing adhesive pre-printed name tags from their backings he sensibly left to his wife, Alison Peterson, who performed her office admirably. The after-work event began with a round — make that several rounds — of liquid socialization, drawn from the brewery’s kegs and tappers.

Editor Bruce Murphy, who had just the day before endured the rigors of yet another birthday, celebrated yet another month of record readership for Urban Milwaukee, and had a good chat with writer Dominique Paul Noth.

The month before, Noth’s son-in-law Jim Gaffigan announced a $70,000 donation to the Riverwest Food Pantry, which is run by Noth’s son Vince Noth. For years after his career at the Milwaukee Journal, Noth ran the Milwaukee Labor Press. He had a few things to say about the state of the nation and of organized labor.

Contributor Bruce Thompson got a break from his painstaking calculations as “The Data Wonk,” to spend a little time among readers and contributors in the brewery. His daughter Laura Thompson recently hosted a recital at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church for herself and a couple of friends who specialize in period music. Alas, the chamber orchestra may have exceeded the size of the crowd, since the event was held on a Sunday afternoon, when the rest of the population of Wisconsin was watching the Green Bay Packers lose in a playoff game.

But, “they were able to get a recording of the concert,” Thompson said, and that was the entire raison d’etre for the recital, anyway. A silver lining!

Charles Banks, Bruce Murphy and Jon Ray. Photo by Michael Horne.

Charles Banks, Bruce Murphy and Jon Ray. Photo by Michael Horne.

Murphy then talked with Charles Banks and Jon Ray, who have been longterm supporters of Urban Milwaukee. All three had identical white beards and similar eyeglasses. (Editor’s note: White! There’s still a little red and gray hair mixed into my beard… Isn’t there?)

Also bearded, but sans the white, was Brandon Anderegg, a UW-Milwaukee student who is a new intern at Urban Milwaukee. He was joined by his roommate Brendan Demet. Both are musicians who are cleaning out their Riverwest basement to turn it into a practice space. Demet brought his guitar to the party — not to play, but to protect it from the cold of his car’s trunk. That’s some serious musicianship.

Dave Reid was given a pass from his onerous duties as Urban Milwaukee publisher to join the fun, which he did with Mariiana Tzotcheva, who had just returned from a trip to her native Bulgaria, which was snowier than she had seen it in the past 15 years, she said. Outside, the streets of Milwaukee were bare in the frigid air.

The guests were also joined by contributor and citizen activist Virginia Small, whose dogged shoe-leather journalism has revealed many secrets of the County Park System and other operations of government. Other Urban Milwaukee writers on hand included Carl Baehr and David Holmes while among the members in attendance were Bill Sell, the very first to become an Urban Milwaukee member, and Tom Williams and his wife and children. 

There is only a certain amount small talk with journalists and editors that even the strongest among us can handle in more than brief doses, so the party was invited to meet in the intimate theater attached to the brewery for a presentation about beer, which is a reliably more entertaining product than the bons mots of reporters.

Our presenters were Urban Harvest co-owners Steve Pribek (brewer) and Mark Kaminski (marketing, etc.). We learned that Urban Harvest, still in its first year in business, runs a two barrel system, which is modest indeed and is on spotless display in the front window of the 1897 building.

This is beer approached from an experimental angle, taking advantage of new strains of hops that have come on the market lately, along with the trendy oak barrel aging process for some brews. The results are tasty indeed.

Attendees were presented with cupcake tins which held four numbered samples of different brews, with the two leftover containers reserved for pretzels, a fine beer accompaniment and palate neutralizer. Samples of Wicket Wheat, Black Puppy Pale Ale, Old Towne Amber and Cork Screw IPA (aged in Cabernet Sauvignon-infused oak) were eagerly consumed by the Urban Milwaukee members, while the few remaining unclaimed cups were downed by reporters, strictly out of concern the beer might go to waste.

About Urban Harvest Brewery

Beer samples. Photo by Justin Gordon.

Beer samples. Photo by Justin Gordon.

The brewery is small, and has wisely avoided the temptation of selling its beer (and soul) to a distributor. In fact, the heck with distributing — South 5th St., recently redone is reason enough for a visit, so if you want their beer, come here.

Production in October, 2016, the most recent report available, amounted to 7.75 barrels. This does not sound like a lot, but at 2 barrels per run, it amounts to a good amount of work, especially for a staff of two. Miller Brewing Co., by contrast, takes the easy way out by brewing 500 barrel batches. To be fair, though, Miller brewed 618,644 barrels of beer in October.

The brewery building at what was once 404 Grove St. originally housed two side-by-side stores and six apartments, and was designed by Nicholas Dornbach. By 1912 the first repairs were made to its then hand-powered elevator, and the machine has been a headache ever since, according to the tenants.

In 1921 the stores were vacated, and the apartments as well. The walls between the stores were removed, and the door was moved. The place became a Sheet Metal factory. Most significantly, the concrete block and steel window system in the front was added at that time, although much worse things happened to other buildings in the old industrial area around then.

Old-timers will remember when the Maierle Furniture Co. was located there, or at least recall the 8′ by 5′ sign that was (illegally) hung on the south side of the building.

After its use as a factory, the place received a certificate of occupancy for possible live-work units above. And the factory floor? In 1998 was used by Exnihlo, Inc. for the “manufacture of kiln-fused glass and ceramic-type products.”

During the cleanup prior to the opening of the brewery, one of the workers discovered a lovely kiln-fused glass “vase” among the stuff in the building.

However, it was noted that glass vases rarely have a 1/2 inch diameter hole a couple inches up from the base. Archaeologists are attempting to determine the original purpose of the artifact.

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Photos from the Event

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