As local brewers join the growing taps and coolers of craft beer brands, Madison’s Mobcraft is moving its operations to Milwaukee to help turn back the clock on the city's brewing industry.
Currently renovating about 14,000 square feet of leased space at a warehouse location at 505 S. 5th St. in Walker’s Point, Mobcraft is hoping to open its new 30-barrel capacity brew house, bottling and canning line, taproom, beer garden and kitchen with a wood fire pizza oven in by late June, hopefully just in time to attract Summerfest crowds. Like any construction project, that timetable is subject to change.
The facility will include a specialty sour beer room to ferment and oak barrel age through an increasingly popular brewing style that has roots back to 19th century Belgium. Many of today’s beer connoisseurs actually enjoy the sour, acidic and tart flavors.
Mobcraft CEO Henry Schwartz appreciates Milwaukee’s brewing heritage as part of his young company’s future. "This was actually the first location that we looked at in Milwaukee," Schwartz said, "but it is a good one and is easy to build there. We really like the hustle and bustle of the Walker’s Point neighborhood and the proximity of all the great breweries, distilleries and restaurants in our neighborhood." When excavating for the project, they even found some early 1900’s era beer bottles that may have a historic significance.
Brands like Mobcraft are blending more than just hops and barley as they combine brewing history with modern marketing like online and social media. Mobcraft turns the ideas of beer fans across the U.S. into actual beers using the online crowd sourcing to decide which beers to brew on a monthly basis.
Beers like Hop Goes the Grapefruit or Batsh*t Crazy Coffee Beer are available at about 370 on- and off-premise retailers around the state, and the monthly beers, like Malt Shoppe Suds or Mystique Barrel Aged Double IPA, are available online and at retail, but only while they last – which is part of the appeal. Mobcraft has created about 65 beers so far, according to Schwartz, but only eight to ten are on the market at any one time.
Mobcraft dove into the reality TV world recently with an appearance on ABC’s "Shark Tank." While Schwartz’s pitch to the panel of potential investors didn’t gain a commitment to help finish the Milwaukee brewery and market more nationally, it gained notoriety and media attention for the brand.
Milwaukee’s brewing industry has obvious ties to the 19th century beer barons like Miller, Pabst, Schlitz and Blatz. However, even in the early days, there were smaller breweries taking on the big boys. The only difference is just they weren’t known as "micro" or "craft" brewers as they are today.
The 21st century brewing industry provides broad choices from the giants like Miller/Coors or Anheuser-Busch, down to the smaller locals like Mobcraft. In between, there are countless brands that are part of more medium-sized or regional breweries like Sam Adams, New Belgium or Red Hook.
While three Wisconsin companies made the recent National Brewers Association top 50 list of craft brew sales, none were from Milwaukee. Local associations like the Wisconsin Brewers Guild and the Milwaukee Craft Brewery League hope to change that by promoting local brands during events like Milwaukee Beer Week with tastings and more around the city April 16-23. Mobcraft is participating in a tap takeover of Milwaukee beers with a chance to meet and greet local brewers and owners on Friday, April 22 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Brenner Brewing at 705 S. 5th St.
While Milwaukee’s gain is Madison’s loss in the Mobcraft move, keeping the state’s craft beer industry thriving is good for everyone.
Mike Morgan rides retro, whether on his 1976 Harley Aermacchi 250 or Heritage Softail. Mike has been a motorcyclist since 2001 having ridden in Sturgis, Daytona Beach, the California coast, New England and everywhere in between, including in the last three Milwaukee Harley Anniversary parades.
Mike worked in communications and marketing at Harley-Davidson for more than 12 years, writing and editing all kinds of content, including award-winning media kids in 2009 and 2012. He had ridden the Harley several times before Brewer games at Miller Park, and ran in one of the last sausage races at the old County Stadium when he was Communications Manager for the Stadium District Board.