The Tap Yard beer gardens – run by Nick Markin and his team, which includes Operations Manager Krystal Mulvaney – will return in May, but with some key changes.
While the popular Waukesha location will return, the Bayshore spot will not.
But that one will be replaced by three new beer gardens: at Ackerman’s Grove Park in West Bend, at Fox Brook Park in Brookfield and after two previously stymied attempts in Milwaukee, along the river at Schlitz Park.
While Waukesha and Brookfield will open on May 4, Milwaukee will open May 11. West Bend is slated for a May 11 opening, but it, too, could kick off on May 4 if all goes well.
The Milwaukee location is a hard-earned one for Marking, who formerly owned The Brass Tap franchise in Greenfield.
“It’s a long time coming,” he says. A location had been set up just across the river on Edison and Knapp Streets, but it was never able to open. The first attempt at a Milwaukee site was also on the river, but further south, across from the Milwaukee Public Market, too. That one also never got off the ground.
“We had everything set up on Edison,” says Marking, “ready to go. It was there and ready to open and would've been perfect timing with the Bucks – the parade went by there. Certainly we were a little sad that it didn't get to open, but the usage unfortunately didn't get passed (by the city).”
But now, at Schlitz Park, The Tap Yard has an eight-boat dock, plenty of parking, visibility from Water Street, lots of built-in partners thanks to the tenants in the office park and proximity to the Deer District and Fiserv Forum.
“We're super excited to get this rolling,” says Marking. “We'll have a container and we'll be right off the RiverWalk, so we're close to Milwaukee Kayak and a lot of different businesses in that park, so we're ectatic about it.”
Some nearby businesses, including Manpower, have expressed interest in partnering with The Tap Yard on events.
The Bayshore location will not return, Marking says, because a tenant has been secured for a nearby space and acquired the rights to sell beer during the events in The Yard.
The Ackerman’s Grove Park location in West Bend is on Little Cedar Lake and Fox Brook Park’s beer garden will be near the popular beach.
“Ackerman's Grove has a phenomenal view,” says Marking. “Fox Brook Park is really another phenomenal location. The manmade lake is very, very, great. We'll be using a container like we did in Waukesha for the West Bend location, and then we're building an outdoor bar kind of operation for the one in Fox Brook Park.
“At Fox Brook Park we're going to be under the overhang of the building that's there and we're building an outdoor bar set up for there.”
Marking says while the new sites use containers, they won’t all be the same.
“Actually they're kind of going to be unique in themselves,” he says. “The three of them will have containers, but different containers. The one in Waukesha has a rooftop deck. That's our Cadillac of locations. We have a 40-foot tractor trailer container that we retrofitted. It's a tall box and we put a rooftop deck on it.”
West Bend and Milwaukee will have 20-foot containers.
All the locations are expected to return next year, too, as Marking has signed multi-year leases at all four locations.
The beer gardens are all family- and dog-friendly with big Jenga, bag toss, beer pong, hammerschlagen and other games. And all will have resident food trucks. Plus, a series of themed food truck festivals – tacos, grilled cheese, etc. – will rotate around the different sites.
There will be live music at all but the Brookfield beer gardens, plus Thursday night trivia every week and special beer-focused events on Wednesdays.
“We have a full summer,” says Marking. “Every single garden is programed every single day of the week.
“In Waukesha, we have a huge farmer's market set up. We have 40 amazing vendors coming in.”
Of course, there will be beer. Twenty-four lines at each location.
“We focus heavily on breweries that we've always worked with, both at the bar level (at The Brass Tap) and now with the beer garden set-up,” Marking says. “Eagle Park's a big one. Lakefront, Raised Grain, Central Waters, Toppling Goliath, Maplewood, Founders, Third Space.
“There's so many good ones, but those are the prime ones that we have really great relationships with, and we have the ability to sell their core products and then to add some amazing stuff that they sell, from stouts to barleywines to whatever.”
Marking says that the beer really is the main focus at The Tap Yard locations.
“We run beer gardens a little bit different. We try to focus on exclusive beer and have some really interesting stuff that you may not expect a normal beer garden to have. And so that drives some interest in what we do, and we were notorious for that at Brass Tap, getting some really cool beers in there.”
The Wednesday beer-focused programming will be complemented a number of themed Saturday beer fests that, like the food truck events, will rotate around the different locations during the season.
“We're starting out with Sour Fest, which will roll through all the four gardens for the month of May on Saturdays,” Marking says. “And then we'll go to Fruit Beer Fest, which will roll through all the gardens in June. July is IPA Fest. August is Cider Fest. September is Belgian Fest, and October is Stout Fest.
“These will all feature exclusive beers.”
With twice as many locations as last year and three of them completely new, Marking and his team have their work cut out for them, it seems.
“It’s going to be a busy month,” he says.
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.