Sophie Bolich

Jones Island Festival Returns to Kaszube’s Park

Pint-sized beer festival coming Saturday, Sept. 23. Plus, brewery has new patio space.

By - Sep 18th, 2023 04:51 pm
Kaszube’s Park, site of Jones Island Festival. Photo taken Sept. 14, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

Kaszube’s Park, site of Jones Island Festival. Photo taken Sept. 14, 2022 by Sophie Bolich.

More than 85 years ago, a little boy named Hank was removed from his home on Jones Island. He and his family members were among the last residents to leave the area — at the city’s behest — to make room for a new wastewater treatment plant and updated harbor facilities.

What was once a flourishing fishing neighborhood populated by Kashubians, an ethnic group with roots in Poland, was fated to transform into a heavily industrialized area.

Hank, now 92, returned to Jones Island last year for — of all things — a beer festival. Torzala Brewing Co. hosted the inaugural Jones Island Fest in 2022 with the purpose of keeping the area’s history alive while honoring its former stewards.

At last year’s festival, Hank was able to personally express his appreciation to the organizers. “He was like, ‘thank you guys for doing this, because this continues to tell our story,”‘ said Jeff Torzala, co-owner of Torzala Brewing Co. “So that was awesome to hear that.”

The festival will return to Kaszube’s Park, 1439 S. Carferry Dr., for a second installment on Saturday, Sept. 23 from noon until 6 p.m.

And though it takes place in Milwaukee County’s smallest park, the event will still be grand, organizers said. Attendees can expect live performances from three different bands, food from Bay View burger joint Crafty Cow and plenty of Torzala Brewing Co.’s Jones Island beer.

The pale ale, brewed exclusively with Polish hops, was the original catalyst for the festival. “We like to bring history to our beers,” said Trish Torzala, co-founder and director of operations for Torzala.

After creating the beer and further researching the island, the couple quickly realized they wanted to share their findings with a wider audience. “It’s a really neat opportunity to have a festival in honor of an undertold story in Milwaukee,” Jeff Torzala said. “That’s really important to us. If you come and look at all of our beer names, we really try to tie in some form of Milwaukee history to each one. And then it gives us stories to tell customers that come in.”

The festival will offer attendees an informational pamphlet detailing the origins of Jones Island and the history of its residents. A panoramic photo of the neighborhood, dated 1911, will also be on display. The photo, which Jeff Torzala plans to have printed onto a banner, was a gift from a customer whose family used to live on the island.

“It’s such a cool thing that this guy came and gave me a copy of his family heirloom,” he said.

In addition to the festival’s namesake beer, guests can expect to enjoy two new releases from the brewery: a Polish pilsner and an Oktoberfest brew; both will debut at the festival on Saturday.

Meanwhile, at the brewery’s home base, 2018 S. 1st St., guests have an additional spot to load up on beer. Torzala recently introduced a new patio space — dubbed The Brew Dock — near the loading docks on the first floor of the Lincoln Warehouse, overlooking S. 1st Street.

Like Torzala’s second-floor taproom, the patio is kid- and pet-friendly. It also marks a significant expansion for the one-year-old business within a building that’s also home to two other breweries — Component Brewing Company and New Barons Brewing Cooperative.

The Torzalas, who operate the brewery along with partners Jake PalubickiRenee Martinez and Brian Michalaktook a hiatus from the patio during the mid-August heatwave, but said they hope to reopen the space up to several days per week in the near future.

“It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work,” Jeff Torzala said with a laugh. The group of five works to operate the main taproom and — when open — the Brew Dock with no additional help. “It’s definitely a manpower issue,” he said.

Lincoln Warehouse, a property managed by Andrew Bandy, also houses MOR Bakery & Cafe, Melt Chocolates, Ltd., Bust-N-Stuff and several other businesses.

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

Kaszube’s Park Photos

The Brew Dock Photos

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