When we visited the still under construction Eagle Park Brewery, Distillery and taproom, at S64 W15680 Commerce Center Pkwy. in Muskego, just days before the entire world seemed to go dark, distiller Jordan Stielow told me about the plans for the beautiful new still that had recently been installed.
And, then, right when everything seemed ready to go, the state was shut down and instead of gin, vodka and whiskey, the still was churning out sanitizer.
But that's changed.
Last weekend, Eagle Park released its first vodka:
And just days before it shared video of its first batch gin being made:
"We had a great turnout for the vodka release at the Muskego taproom," says co-owner Jake Schinker. "Turns out people are pretty excited about our spirits program as a whole."
The good news for those people is that Eagle Park's gin is being released this weekend. Members have access on Friday and then the general public can purchase the botanical-laced spirit on Saturday.
"We describe it as a classically constructed gin with an American twist," says Schinker. "It has a complex balance of botanicals that begin as floral and evolves into bold citrus and juniper. It's proven to be a very versatile gin as we develop our cocktail menu."
Schinker says that Stielow intends to begin producing and laying down its own whiskey to age beginning in August.
"After things start normalizing in the brewery/distillery," he says. "It's been a bit hectic balancing the rapid growth of our beer and getting all the new equipment running at 100 percent."
In the meantime, Eagle Park is sourcing juice for Stielow to blend so that it can move into the whiskey world while its own distillate ages.
"We have our first barrels of sourced whiskey arriving very soon," Schinker says. "We have been looking for months for the right barrels to kick off our whiskey program and I think what we found will definitely fit the profile we were looking for.
"Our plan is to source the best barrels we can find from around the country and showcase Jordan's and blending talents and avoid the torturous 4-plus-year wait we would otherwise have for our own whiskey to mature.
"Once the ball gets rolling with that we will also be sourcing some much rarer offerings for small, special releases. More on that later."
After some ultra-successful drive-thru beer pickup events, the Hamilton Street taproom on Milwaukee's lower East Side is now back up and running. The new Muskego taproom will open in early July.
Schinker says that's been a boon during a rough period.
"Having the Hamilton taproom back open has definitely been a great step in getting our company back on track," he says. "It's been slowly growing as people realize we are taking the proper precautions to keep them and our staff safe.
"We've moved all beer and alcohol releases to Muskego for now in an effort to reduce congestion at Hamilton for those looking to enjoy the taproom. This is temporary until we get back to full capacity in Milwaukee."
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 can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.