Community and creativity come together at Gathering Place Brewing Co.
Riverwest's newest brewery, Gathering Place Brewing Company, opens to the public on Saturday, Aug. 19 at 3 p.m.
During the grand opening event, folks will get a first look at the new brewery and tap room, which is currently in its final stages of construction. They'll also meet the brains behind the operation: Joe Yeado, a Kansas City native who came to Milwaukee to attend Marquette University.
"I really fell in love with Milwaukee while I was here," he says, noting that he worked in Chicago and Washington D.C. before returning to Milwaukee in 2014 to take a position with the Public Policy Forum.
By that point, Yeado had been homebrewing for about 10 years, producing beer that regularly placed in various brewing competitions. For example, in 2013 and 2014, he placed third out of more than 100 entries in Sam Adams competitions in D.C.
"And that was the moment when I started to think that the hobby could be something more." he recalls. "So, I started making connections in the industry and volunteering on brew days at various breweries, where I'd haul grain and clean tanks."
He also continued entering competitions. In 2016, he brought home a total of 22 medals and awards, including two at Wisconsin State Fair. Around that same time, he began scouting for an appropriate place to start a brewery.
"Most places were much larger than what we needed," Yeado notes. However, when he happened up on the 4,300-square foot space in The Bricks building, he says he saw real possibility for the space.
"I've always really liked Riverwest, in part because of the strong sense of community it has," he explains. "There's also a proximity to UWM, to the lake and the highway. So, while we're not on a major street, we're in a place that's easy to get to. And we're also close to other breweries like Sprecher, Black Husky, Company Brewing and Lakefront."
It's exactly that sense of community that Yeado says he wants to foster at the brewery.
"I wanted a name that would reflect the city that I call home," says Yeado. "I also wanted it to be the sort of place that really functioned like the beer gardens in Germany, where I always felt like the beer was almost secondary. It was about people getting together."
Part of that sense of community plays out in the brewery's commitment to donating at least 1% of all quarterly sales to area non-profit organizations, likely groups that focus on youth development, education, and employment and job programs.
"As you travel through Milwaukee, you see names like Miller and Pabst and Schlitz, and those were families who donated to civic causes as their companies grew and prospered. We're so much smaller, but we really want to follow in those traditions started by the early Milwaukee beer barons."
Gathering Place also offers a community supported brewery program through which community members can support the brewery while gaining first access to new offerings, as well as discounts. For more information about the CSB program, visit gatheringplacebrewing.com.
Wood meets steel meets beer
Yeado's vision for the brewery played out with the help of Flux Design, his neighbor to the West, with whom he transformed the combination office and warehouse space into an industrial chic brewery and tap room.
"It was once a Frigidaire factory, and I loved that it was an industrial space," he says. "So, I liked the idea of maintaining that look and feel. But, we also wanted a space that was somewhat intimate and welcoming."
Inside, rustic arches made from the rafters of a former Quonset hut form an intimate entryway into the brewery.
Meanwhile, a main bar provides the focal point for the Gathering Place tap room. Richly hued wood, repurposed from an area basketball court floor, has been stained and hung to form the back bar, as well as the bar top. "You'll see a few flecks of red paint here and there and the bar top," Yeado notes, "and that's left from the paint that was on the court."
Brewery walls are painted vibrant blue. Bricks and windows frame out the northern view, while the eastern wall features a three-dimensional wooden design made from South Americanipe, a dense hardwood with beautiful grain and coloration.
From a beer standpoint, Yeado says he aims to really push the boundaries in terms of the flavor profiles of his beer.
"While the number of new craft breweries has begun to grow," Yeado notes, "we're still a bit behind some of the other brewing towns, including Grand Rapids, Michigan and Portland, Oregon, in terms of the diversity of beer we produce."
Recipes for each beer are a collaboration between Yeado and full-time head brewer Corey Blodgett, a native Wisconsinite and brewer with 15 years of experience, most recently with Widmer Brothers in Portland.
Yeado says his focus is on incorporation of various fruits, yeast strains and hops, the goal of which is to assist in expanding the palate of beer lovers across the city while having some fun experimenting and creating new variations of classic styles.
That philosophy is reflected in the brewery's inaugural offerings, which includes three American, two Belgian and three German-style beers. Five will be available for the brewery's opening this weekend, including Prière, a pale ale with unique floral aromas and fruit-forward flavors that won Yeado first place at the 2016 Wisconsin State Fair.
Other brews include Spirited Debate IPA, featuring four varieties of hops; Treffpunkt, a crisp German golden ale; and Grüss Gott Hefeweizen, a German-style wheat with subtle bitterness and a spicy yeast character.
Among the three additional beers that will be released in the next two weeks are a dark lager, a double IPA and a Belgian-style triple fermented with cherries procured from a family farm in Door County. The beer also happens to be Yeado's 2013 Sam Adams award winner.
"I knew we had to make that beer," says Yeado, "because it was the beer that changed everything."
And those beers won't show up on the bar in just any old pint glasses. Some will be served in Willibechers, the standard in German-style pint glasses, featuring a flare in the upper portion of the glass and an inward curve which helps to preserve the beer's aromas. Meanwhile, Belgian brews will be served in tulips and rare beers in snifters. Beer will also be available in 5-ounce tasting portions and 8-ounce half-pours.
During opening weekend, Yeado says the brewery will host food trucks including Sushi Go and Punjabi Accent during operating hours. Guests are also welcome to bring in their own food or order food for delivery.
Beginning Saturday, Aug. 19, Gathering Place Brewing Company will be open to the public on Thursday and Friday from 3 to 10 p.m., Saturday from noon to 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.
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