By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 01, 2021 at 1:32 PM

As bars and restaurants continue to struggle to get through the pandemic, the folks at the still-young New Barons Brewing Cooperative brewery and taproom in Bay View have launched a game app that they hope will boost revenues enough to endure a rough winter.

The taproom opened in early September.

“The game is meant to be a fun and virtual experience that we can provide our customers now, safely and remotely,” says CEO John Degroote. “We’ve had customers request virtual avenues to support us, as visiting our taproom isn’t an option for many right now.

“Being in the service industry, we wanted to serve them something that was fun and cultured. As brewers, we also wanted to create something that was new and unique to our brand. The game also has the luxury to be enjoyed at any time and indefinitely.”

You can download the game, called Hold My Beer, through the app stores for $3.

The game, says Degroote, “is a third-person aventure shooter with three levels that features various characters from our member-owner inspired beer brands.”

Anyone who purchases the game will get a $1 off coupon for a beer in the taproom.

“We will honor that discount until further notice, to ensure that anyone who supports us through this tough winter, can get that discount once they can make it back to the taproom, whenever that may be,” Degroote says.

“In this way, you are telling us to ‘Hold My Beer’.”

Plus, anyone who conquers the game can enter their name and email and they’ll be entered into a drawing.

“Since the game is decently difficult, we are going to keep track of everyone who beats the game,” says Degroote. “We’ll wait until the restrictions are lifted in Milwaukee to then pick a name from the pool of people who outsmarted our game design. If your name is picked, we’ll throw you a happy hour where we will comp up to $100 off your bar tab ($50 in the event the winner is a non-member owner).”

So, New Barons is a brewery. How did it come upon the idea of creating a video game?

“I think one driver was that this virtual option was the simplest to distribute,” says Degroote. “Also, we wanted to sweeten the idea of a gofundme page, or other virtual support tip jar. I feel responsible to always serve something to our consumer, so if we asked for support, this was a cool way of still providing a service.”

Degroote says that the New Barons team has no idea how many people will download the game, but that once the idea was hatched, he embraced it.

“I had some programming skills and found a platform that was pretty user friendly to develop the game pretty quickly,” he says. “We have a few programmers in our mix of owners, so it was a fun project to develop. After messing around with it over the holidays, we had a game that was goofy and fun, so why not put it out?

“My hope is that the convenience and mobile appeal, along side a general public drive to support local business, will give this wide appeal. Plus, I’m excited to add game/app designer to my resume!”

Though it’s just launching now, Degroote says the game is already making its mark at New Barons.

“It’s possible that one of the bad guys in the game is already getting a cult following among some of our member-owners,” he says, “and could become a new character in our branding someday.”

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

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.