Two years ago, Rookery Brewing was one of two local brewers to ink alternating proprietorship deals with MobCraft to share the Walker’s Point brewhouse space.
Founded by Kiel McGuinness – who started brewing about 10 years ago, interning at 1840 Brewing and completing the Barley to Barrel program – and his wife Ashley, Rookery has been hosting popups to share its brews, many of which are made with ingredients grown by McGuinness in his Wauwatosa backyard.
Rookery will host a popup Sept. 17 at Starkweather Brewing in Madison, from 1 to 4 p.m., with Wood Duck Farmhouse Ale aged in 18-year-old Elijah Craig bourbon barrels and Strawberry Dart Frog Farmhouse Ale with strawberries and melons.
An Oct. 1 popup at MobCraft (noon-6 p.m.) will see Rookery releasing its first four-pack cans and singles, with Birdog Amber Rye Farmhouse Ale and Urban Farmer Wheat Farmhouse Ale dry-hopped with Belma hops.
Another is slated for Oct. 15, from noon until 6, at New Barons Brewing in Bay View but the release has yet to be determined for that event.
“Our overall goal (is) of one day having a ‘real’ farmhouse brewery outside the city limits where we can produce a lot of our own ingredients we can add to our beers. Everything from hops to fruit to herbs,” McGuinness says.
“Right now we use our backyard as our Micro-Orchard where we have 10 fruit trees, many fruit bushes, and five types of hops growing. We are hoping within three-to-five years we can have the farm up and running with a taproom.”
We checked in with McGuinness about how things are going over at Rookery...
OnMilwaukee: How has your arrangement with MobCraft been working out?
Kiel McGuinness: MobCraft has been great so far! They have all been so helpful and we really consider them our mentors. We ran into a few problems with the pandemic, but we now have our own 3.5-barrel system in MobCraft and will be brewing even more volume of our great beers.
Is it something you see continuing for a while or are you working on setting up your own brewery elsewhere?
Our goal is to eventually open a taproom on a working farm where we grow even more of the products that go into our beers.
What types of ingredients do you grow for your beer?
So we like to consider ourselves a farmhouse brewery. We have a working micro-orchard where we grow a lot of the fruit and products that make it into our beers. We grow peaches, cherries, grapes, currants, every color of raspberries you can imagine, apples, four different types of hops, and some harder to find berries like salmonberries, Saskatoon berries, aronia berries, jostaberries and thimbleberries.
We love using different hops and fruits in our beer that help give off the terrior of our surrounding land.
Have you ever malted your own grain?
We have never tried malting but I have looked into it and done some research and while we're not there yet would definitely consider it in the future.
Let's talk about the kinds of beers you're brewing.
While we like to brew other popular styles of beer, like IPAs and stouts, saisons and farmouse beers are where are passion lies.
Wisconsin is a little bit behind on the farmhouse trend and we want to be the brewery that bring the old Belgian brewing tradition to Wisconsin. We want to be the brewery that has four-packs of cans on the shelves of farmhouse ale that becomes an everyday part of people's drinking in Wisconsin.
With that said we are huge fans of trendier styles like IPAs and stouts and will definitely be brewing some up in the near future. Farmhouse ales are a starting point for us, but we don't want to handcuff ourselves to just that style.
Has there been a beer or that has proven the most popular that you see as your flagship or that could become that?
The only beer we have brewed more than once is Micro-Orchard and even that beer is different every year dependant on the crops we get. It is a farmhouse saison that we referment on all the types of fruit we produced from our micro-orchard.
The weather, climate and terrior decides what's going into the beer. Mother Nature at her finest. Some years will get bumper crops of certain fruits other years not so much. So this beer is really special to us as it shows through taste all the hard work we put into our orchard.
We also will be canning our first two beers in the next few weeks and am really excited to get some canned products into the market. We’ll see how they do and they may become staples for us.
Where can folks find Rookery beer?
We currently have our beers at Ray’s, Discount Liquor and MobCraft and will be looking to expand to other stores and markets. We are officially going to be sold in Madison area market at Longtable in Middelton on Sept. 17!
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.