For the first time in its three-year brewing history, New Barons Brewing Cooperative will have its own taproom and brewery.
New Barons – the state’s first cooperatively owned brewery, with nearly 250 member owners – will occupy the former Enlightened Brewing space in the Lincoln Warehouse, 2018 S. 1st St.
"We started out brewing here," says CEO John Degroote. "We’ve been here all along, just not in a consumer-facing capacity."
So, you might call this a return to its roots for New Barons, which will continue brewing on a system it knows well.
"We are currently working with New Barons to have them take the equipment and have yet to finalize that deal, (but) we are confident we can get it done since we have such a good relationship with them," says Enlightened co-owner James Larson.
Enlightened, which started in 2015 a small second-floor space at Lincoln Warehouse that is now occupied by Component Brewing, moved into a larger space in Bay View, 2020 S. Allis St., last year. It kept the Lincoln Warehouse brewery after the move.
"We were operating both locations for a short period of time, both production and retail," says Larson. "The intended use of the space was to help us develop a pilot program to drive some really fun cool side project beers out on draft to see how they did.
"We quickly realized that having two breweries meant needing to have two or three of everything and that the small production team we operate with was overworked, a lot of the fun was being lost on the project."
The 1,700-square-foot space is a high-profile one with street frontage on the busy corner of Becher and South 1st Street.
New Barons’ Degroote and Heidi Dalibor – who were the driving forces behind the four Beer Drive-Thru events that took place between late March and mid-May – will run the new facility, with Degroote serving as head brewer and Dalibor, who is board president, managing the taproom.
Degroote – who was a home brewer for about a decade before launching New Barons – says he hopes to hire an assistant brewer, too.
"This is a great system to learn on because you have to do it all yourself," he says. "There’s no computer screen. Hopefully we’ll eventually get (the assistant) some (brewing) education, too. It would be great to have an education component here."
New Barons will install a bar and table seating on the main level of the space, which originally served as a loading dock. Dalibor says she expects to have eight taps running beers brewed on-site.
The brewing system on the upper dock level will be pushed back in the space to create some more seating up there.
"We can add hopefully about 20 seats up top," says Dalibor, who adds that "there’s room on the side of building (for a patio), we just have to get the budget and make sure it looks nice."
They have no plans to offer food service but are considering collaborating with local food trucks like Tacos El Charrito, which often operates across the street.
Up in the small brewhouse, Degroote plans to expand fermenter capacity and add some cold-side tanks, too, to create an annual capacity of about 350 barrels.
This is the same system on which he’s brewed most all of New Barons’ roughly 14 different beers, including three of its four flagship brews: Sunny Crank cream ale, You Down With OTP ESB, and All Work and No Play IPA. Hopped by Ziggy juicy IPA was contract brewed and canned by MobCraft, and that relationship is expected to continue, says Dalibor.
New Barons hopes to have the taproom ready to welcome customers by late summer, but Degroote says "there are a lot of variables in play." However, expect to hear from New Barons – whose canned beers can be found in some retail outlets, like Ray’s – sooner than that.
"We hope to have an announcement for curbside service soon," Degroote says. "We have a growler machine that's on its way. Then whenever the walk-in reopens, we'll also go back to selling kegs to bars."
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.