Sophie Bolich

It’s the ‘World’s Smallest Beer Festival’

Torzala Brewing Co. presents Jones Island festival, inspired by area's 'fascinating history.'

By - Sep 15th, 2022 01:45 pm
Kaszube's Park, 1439 S. Carferry Dr. Photo taken Sept. 14, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Kaszube’s Park, 1439 S. Carferry Dr. Photo taken Sept. 14, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

A pint-sized beer festival is coming to Milwaukee’s smallest park.

Torzala Brewing Co. will host Jones Island Fest, which bills itself as the “world’s smallest beer festival,” Sept. 24 from noon to 6 p.m. at Kaszube’s Park, 1439 S. Carferry Dr.

The park occupies just 0.15 acres of public land in the area just north of the Port of Milwaukee, known as Jones Island. Today the park is a tiny oasis amid a maze of railroad tracks, salt piles and water treatment facilities. It’s hard to imagine the thriving fishing neighborhood that occupied the Jones Island of yesteryear.

“I think a lot of people don’t understand the history of Jones Island,” said Jeff Torzala, co-owner of Torzala Brewing Co., adding that he felt the festival would be an opportunity to highlight that history for Milwaukee residents.

Long before European settlers arrived, the island (technically a peninsula) was a Potawatomi summer village with easy access to wild rice and fish. Milwaukee saw its population grow exponentially after the Civil War as migrants and immigrants flocked to the “Good Land,” as indigenous tribes had dubbed it — including Polish settlers, experienced in fishing, who chose Jones Island as their home.

“There was just such a huge community there,” Torzala said.

The Port of Milwaukee flourished as the city grew, but larger boats found it difficult to maneuver through the long, winding inlet. In 1857, the Army Corps of Engineers created a channel through the northern part of the peninsula, called the “straight cut,” giving Jones Island its title, which has weathered the years even as the channel washed away. The once-vibrant fisherman’s village waned in the early 1900s when the island was depopulated for the construction of a new wastewater treatment plant and updated harbor facilities.

Today, Kaszube’s Park contains about the only living things on the peninsula — including a handful of trees and a patch of grass. There is also an old ship’s anchor, a plaque commemorating the island’s history and, for now, a postcard-sized advertisement for Jones Island Fest — stuck into the ground with a toothpick.

Attendees of the festival can expect to sample Torzala’s Jones Island Fest, a special-release Polish Pale Ale crafted with imported Polish hops. There will also be hot dogs, Polish sausages and plenty of opportunity to mingle with the Torzala Brewing Co. team, including Torzala and his wife, Trish, Jake Palubicki, Renee Martinez and Brian Michalak.

Guests can also pick up an informational pamphlet detailing the history of the island.

When he’s not hosting tiny beer festivals in industrial areas, Torzala can be found running his brewery, which opened in June with a focus on traditional beers.

Torzala got the brewing bug from his dad, who worked as a carpenter at Miller for over 30 years. Being “around that atmosphere and in that culture of beer brewing” sparked his interest from a young age, Torzala said.

Experiencing the craft beer scene in Portland, living abroad in Belgium and dabbling in homebrewing led Torzala to the prestigious Siebel Institute, where he took his brewing knowledge to the next level.

Trish Torzala, his wife, is equally passionate. A former media buyer and current psychotherapist, she had considered attending Siebel in the midst of her career change, but decided against it. At Torzala, she stays on top of social media, marketing and other business operations.

“She keeps me focused,” Jeff Torzala said.

Torzala Brewing Co. occupies a 1,400-square-foot, second-floor space at Lincoln Warehouse, 2018 S. 1st St., in Bay View.

Formerly home to Enlightened Brewing Company and Eagle Park Brewing Company, the space has become something of an incubator for growing breweries. Most recently, Component Brewing Company moved from the second-floor space to a larger, 3,000-square-foot location on the first floor of the warehouse.

For Jeff Torzala, physical growth isn’t necessarily a priority. “It’s really more of the concept of making sure we’re connecting with everybody and that they understand our beer and who we are,” he said.

In upcoming months, the team at Torzala is looking to start small-scale beer distribution, via cans or kegs, to local retailers. The brewery would also add a heat and eat food concept.

Torzala Brewing Co. is open Thursday from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m.


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One thought on “It’s the ‘World’s Smallest Beer Festival’”

  1. msmrecek says:

    I didn’t even know that park existed

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