Sophie Bolich

Inside Pilot Project’s New Brewery

Previewing the soon-to-open location on N. 9th St. and its adventurous food menu.

By - Nov 12th, 2022 01:56 pm
Site of Pilot Project Brewing, 1128 N. 9th St. Photo taken Nov. 11, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Site of Pilot Project Brewing, 1128 N. 9th St. Photo taken Nov. 11, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Pilot Project, a Chicago-based brewery incubator, is beginning to take shape at its new location, 1128 N. 9th St., the former site of Milwaukee Brewing Company.

The brewery is set to open its tasting room to the public next Friday, Nov. 18, where it will also debut a brand new menu from food service partner Gemma Foods. The Chicago-based company is led by award-winning chef Tony Quartaro, whose career has spanned both coasts (as well as the unofficial third coast, Lake Michigan). Quartaro has held positions at The Bristol, Balena, and Formento’s, where he won Chicago’s Jean Banchet Award for Best Chef in 2016.

Quartaro founded Gemma Foods in 2020 and opened its flagship location in February 2022, followed by a second kitchen in TimeOut Market Chicago in July 2022.

“Having witnessed Pilot Project’s mission come to life over the last few years has been nothing short of inspiring,” Quartaro said in a statement. “They champion up-and-coming brands and create opportunities for them to flourish — something they’ve now given to us. Gemma Foods x Pilot Project plans to extend beyond our existing offerings with a menu that is memorable, thoughtful, bold, and remains true to our style where the focus is always on flavor.”

While Gemma Foods is principally a hand-made pasta company, the brand would expand its offerings at Pilot Project, incorporating elevated, yet beer-friendly dishes.

Starters include deviled eggs with smoked trout and crispy fried sunchokes, aromatic, fall-off-the-bone ribs and Little Fish, Quartaro’s take on the classic fish fry.

In his first foray into the Milwaukee market, Quartaro said it was his understanding that the cheese curd was of utmost importance — and he didn’t take that lightly. His take on the Wisconsin favorite is encased in a crisp, hush puppy batter with a dash of polenta for an Italian-inspired twist. The hot, melty curds are accompanied by a bright, chive-forward dipping sauce for a well-balanced bite.

Heartier menu options include ricotta dumplings with mushrooms, herbs and crispy chicken skin, harissa-scented mussels and flatbread piled with silky porchetta and smoked mozzarella.

Though the food could just as easily stand on its own, Pilot Project is first and foremost a brewery, so guests can expect a wide range of beer options to complement Quartaro’s creations.

Pilot Project offers an extensive selection of beers from several of the brewery incubator’s brands, including a light and refreshing Mexican lager, Tolo Tolo, from Brewer’s Kitchen and Manali, a hazy IPA from Azadi Brewing Company.

At the helm of Pilot Project are co-founders Dan Abel and Jordan Radke and head brewer Glenn Allen, who will lead the “first-of-its-kind” brewery incubator in assisting start-up breweries with fine-tuning recipes, production scaling, business development, marketing and distribution.

Since its 2019 inception, Pilot Project has helped launch more than 13 breweries including nationally-recognized brands like women-founded Luna Bay Hard Kombucha and ROVM Hard Kombucha, Black-owned Funkytown Brewery, Brewer’s Kitchen and Azadi Brewing Company.

Back in September, Pilot Project announced that the brand purchased the facility assets and took over the long-term lease of Milwaukee Brewing Company’s production facility, as well as the attached Bottle House 42 restaurant.

The brewery used funds from an $8 million seed round to purchase the approximately 60,000-square-foot commercial brewing facility. Chicago-based investment group InvestBev led the round of fundraising, following a 2019 friends-and-family fundraise of $500,000, according to a September news release.

Pilot Project is still settling into its new space — and dealing with the same supply chain delays that plague other establishments. The look and feel of the brewery will continue to develop over the coming weeks, according to Abel, who plans to add lots of art to the walls, making the vast space feel more intimate. A dedicated wall on the upper level of the building will feature photos of the brands that Pilot Project has incubated in the past.

The rest of the space incorporates greens, neutral earth tones and wood accents. The intention, said Abel, is to create a muted and relaxing space in order to let the look of the start-up brands shine through. The finished brewery will also include a designated area for pop-ups, a barrel “cathedral” room for rare and barrel-aged products and a “wild room,” a fully encased space for growing bacteria to be used for kombucha, wild beers and sours.

“The facility is beautiful and only a few years old,” Abel said. “So there wasn’t much to do other than make it feel like Pilot Project.”

Alongside its new Milwaukee location, Pilot Project will continue operations at its Chicago site, 2140 N. Milwaukee Ave., in the Logan Square neighborhood.



If you think stories like this are important, become a member of Urban Milwaukee and help support real, independent journalism. Plus you get some cool added benefits.

2 thoughts on “Inside Pilot Project’s New Brewery”

  1. Keith Prochnow says:

    Well, I’m glad Chicago showed up to show us backwoodsers how to prepare cheese curds and how to launch a micro-brewery.

    No thanks, I’ll avoid that place.

  2. blurondo says:

    One of Milwaukee Brewery’s most popular and highly successful programs was the Crate Club. Are you listening Pilot Project?

Leave a Reply

You must be an Urban Milwaukee member to leave a comment. Membership, which includes a host of perks, including an ad-free website, tickets to marquee events like Summerfest, the Wisconsin State Fair and the Florentine Opera, a better photo browser and access to members-only, behind-the-scenes tours, starts at $9/month. Learn more.

Join now and cancel anytime.

If you are an existing member, sign-in to leave a comment.

Have questions? Need to report an error? Contact Us