When Amorphic Beer opened at 3700 N. Fratney St. in Riverwest in early December, it was still a little too cold to think about a patio, but that’s all changed now and the science-inspired craft brewery and taproom now has picnic tables, Adirondack chairs and flowers out front.
But for a completely different outdoor experience, walk through the taproom and out back to the beer alley, a long narrow space adorned with objects from the apparently vast and varied collection of the building’s owner, and offering a mix of sun and shade.
While the brewery is deep into the science theme, even serving beer in actual lab beakers, the beer alley – as well as the sort of indoor patio, another space curated by the building owner, that exists between it and the brewhouse – has a sort of hip “pickers” vibe.
There are vintage signs, a ladder collection, reclaimed furniture, roof vents, the door off an old car and so, so much more.
“I believe that's from a '60s International Scout,” says Amorphic co-owner Alan Willhite of the door.
“It's all the owner’s stuff. The owner is basically a collector. He takes his trailer and drives up north, and he just brings a trailer full of stuff back. There's more stuff across the street. This is just what he’s put over here.”
Because of the narrowness of the space, the beer alley feels intimate and on hot days offers a respite from the sun, thanks to shade created by the buildings on either side.
But it feels cool and cozy and the variety of objects provides endless conversation starters.
Still, says Willhite, the tables out front, with their views of the street, have proved more popular so far.
“I thought this would be more popular,” he says. “Everyone has a beer garden but we’re the only ones with a beer alley.
“But people are starting to bike now and so they put their bikes out there. So yeah, the front has been more popular so far, but we'll see. This is a little harder to discover for now.”
Amorphic will likely add some umbrellas on the patio out front, which is something that will surely evolve over time.
So at Amorphic you get to choose from two distinctly different outdoor beer drinking experiences: A sort of traditional one out front and a quirkier one out back that’s slowly starting to get some attention from customers.
“Some people have said it reminds them of Paddy's (Pub) on Murray,” says co-owner and brewer Ron Hockersmith and that’s pretty spot on, though more like Paddy’s with a bit more industrial vibe.
“We have a little sign that says, ‘Go back there,’ or that it's open,” adds Hockersmith. “The people that have come back here have said, ’Oh, that's really unique in a cool space’."
Brazilian beer collabs
Now is an especially great time to stop in at Amorphic and check out these spaces, because on May 31, the brewery will release cans of its first-ever collaboration brew.
The unique beer was created in partnership with a Brazilian brewery, says Hockersmith.
“It's done with a brewery called Cervejaria Fermi,” he says. “We got paired up with them when they visited because their brewery has a theme around space and aliens and things like that.
“They make a lot of IPAs and fruited sours, so this is kind of both of those things at once. It's got a fruit that I haven't found in a beer made within the United States, I found some in New Zealand, in Australia ... it's called feijoa.”
The fruit is sort of a wild mountain guava, Hockersmith says, and it’s also used in a collaboration brew that Sahale Ale Works has done with another Brazilian brewery, Cervejaria Escafandrista from São Paulo. (Cervejaria Salvador was the third visitng brewery.)
That one is a Catharina sour, a newer beer style developed in Brazil that’s similar to a fruited Berliner Weisse. The Sahale version was fruited with acai berries, feijoa, pink guava and passionfruit.
"We brought in three different brewers from three different breweries from Brazil to do collabs with Wisconsin breweries," says Brew City Distribution's Tom Dorairaj. "The goal for us to export Wisconsin beers and do collabs in Brazil and so the same thing here.
"This year we did collabs with Amorphic, Sahale, Public, Vennture, Fermentorium, 3 Sheeps, 1840, Component and 18th Street from Hammond, Indiana."
Hockersmith says the brewers were in the states to attend Side Project Invitational Beer Festival, "a big beer nerd thing in St. Louis.
“Then they visited a bunch of other breweries and learned about American craft beer. They were in the Midwest and Colorado for two weeks. Here (in Milwaukee) for three days.”
And, so, the brewers concocted a recipe for the beer, called Brazilian Simbolos Fruited Double Dry Hopped Hazy IPA, which has Strata and Enigma hops (one variety each from north and south of the equator) and clocks in at about 7.5 percent ABV.
“It's a pretty heavily dry hopped and it has more white to light yellow color as opposed to that pink color (of many guava-fruited beers),” says Hockersmith, who is doing a double batch in order to create enough for distribution.
The beer will be the first of Amorphic’s to get distribution by a distributor. At the moment, Amorphic self-distributes to local retail.
“It'll be the only one for now,” says Hockersmith who explains that the distribution is due its brewing partner. “Fermi Brewery is planning on coming into the U.S. with their products sometime in the next couple of years – I don't know the exact schedule – and this is going to be a chance for this beer to display some of their work and so forth,” he says.
“So it'll be in more stores than our stuff usually is because it'll be actually distributed.”
The beer will be available in cans – with labels designed by a Brazilian artist – at retail on Wednesday, June 1 and on tap in the Amorphic taproom and, says Hockersmith, “selected establishments” in Wisconsin will also get kegs.
This will be a unique pour to try out in the equally unique beer alley.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.