Dead Bird Brewing, which opened at 1726 N. 5th St. in Halyard Park in August 2019, with a great patio and arcade-game filled taproom, just months before coronavirus hit Milwaukee, has now installed its own on-site brew system, says co-owner Nick Kocis.
“At the end of 2020 we finished our small onsite pilot system and have been brewing one-barrel batches every Friday. We’re working on new beers as well as some old favorites and have some exciting collaborations in the works.”
Kocis and his partner Jeremy Hach were contract brewing beer at MobCraft before they even opened the taproom.
“We built everything on the brewhouse ourselves,” says Kocis. “The hot liquor tank is actually the brew kettle from the first electric one-barrel system my business partner and I built over seven years ago.”
And that’s just the start, says Kocis, who wired the designed and wired the control box himself, thanks to skills honed at a previous job.
“The mash lauter tun is the limiting factor for brews right now as it only holds 100 pounds of grain,” he says. “The kettle is a former biodiesel reactor that we polished up and stripped. Everything is mounted on an 80/20 strut system and it’s on wheels so we can move it out of the way in our small brew space.
“We can preprogram the hot liquor tank to heat over night so we can mash in early and theoretically double batch in an eight-hour shift producing three barrels of wort out of the 1.5-barrel kettle.”
At the moment, Dead Bird doesn’t have any fermentation tanks but that’s not stopping the MacGyver of brewing.
“We have a fleet of half-barrel kegs that we pull the spears on and ferment in,” Kocis says. “I’m hoping to scrounge up the cash to get some fermenters soon.”
So far, the brews Dead Bird has been making have been available on tap, but packaged brews are on the horizon. The first canned beer from the new system, along with a trio of sodas – which are being packaged next week – will be available on Friday, Jan. 21.
You can order Monday-Thursday next week at the website or the Dead Bird mobile app (via Apple and Android stores) for contactless curbside pickup that Friday from 3 to 6 p.m.
In the makeshift fermenters, Kocis says he’s got, “Pamplemousse APA, our tart cherry imperial stout, Strumpet, and a new session brown ale which I made to try out some malt combos from our new malt provider Proximity.”
And Kocis is working on a collab brew with his neighbors Pilcrow Coffee, which recently moved from King Drive to a new space at 416 W. Walnut St.
“They have a line of bottle cold brew that we live off of at the brewery,” Kocis says. “We’re partnering with them and Sugar Cube Donuts to brew up a big, thick, doughnut coffee stout.
“It should be around 9.5 percent (ABV) and will have Sugar Cube doughnuts in the mash and cold brew coffee right before canning. Release date isn’t set yet but four-pack pints will probably be around $15.”
That beer will be brewed on Jan. 29.
Kocis says that Dead Bird will continue to brew at MobCraft, because its new system is too small to keep up with demand of its brews that are available at retail in six-packs – Gotdambier Kolsch, Cripes Sake! Amber and Litteraly Just Orange Juice Hazy IPA.
“We are at 30 retail locations in the Madison area and all these beers are available at the taproom as well,” Kocis says.
“We can’t support our distribution area and the taproom – especially when we re-open – with just our small system right now. Maybe if we get lots of fermentation space, but this system is more R&D and skunk works.”
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.