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Melms Brewing Co. will revive the history of a brewery long forgotten by many. (PHOTO: Melms Brewing)

Historic Melms Brewing Co. to reopen in Hartland this weekend

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After a series of soft openings, Melms Brewing Company will officially open its taproom doors to the public on Saturday, March 17 at 418 Merton Ave. in Hartland.

Robert Stack, co-owner of Melms, established the beginnings of the brewery with the help of an IndieGoGo campaign in 2014. While seeking out an ideal location for a brick-and-mortar spot, it contract-brewed its creations, debuting its initial brews at select outlets, including Ray's Growler Gallery, as well as beer festivals – including Milwaukee Firkin Fest and Great Taste of the Midwest, where Isthmus named the brewery a "newcomer to watch for."

This summer Stack says things came together. In June, he found a location that was suitable for a taproom, just next door to Falbo's Pizza in Hartland. By July, he'd formed alternate proprietorship agreement with Sweet Mullets Brewery, which allows Melms Brewing Co. to brew its beer at the Oconomowoc brewery.

Founded in 1853

If you pay a visit to the Melms Brewing Co. taproom, you'll find it to be shiny and new. But it's built on a history that dates back over 150 years.

The brewery is named for Stack's great-great-great-great-uncle, C.T. Melms, a Prussian-born immigrant honored by history as Milwaukee's first beer baron. Melms got into the beer-making business at the behest of his father-in-law, Franz Neukirch, with whom he opened and operated the Menomonee Brewing Company on Virginia Street in Walker's Point.

In 1853, Melms became the sole owner of the Walker's Point brewery, which was the largest operating in the city by 1860. Unfortunately, when Melms passed away in 1869 from complications after contracting tetanus, the brewery was purchased by Phillip Best of Best and Company (the brewery which would eventually become Pabst Brewing Co.), and the Melms Brewery name slowly faded from memory.

Even the Melms family eventually lost sight of the significance of Melms' contributions to the beer industry, notes Stack, who moved back to his hometown of Milwaukee from Tennessee about seven years ago, after earning his law degree.

He says it was actually a chance encounter with a volume of the "Marquette Law Review," which contained an article about a lawsuit during which the Melms family sued Pabst Brewing Co., that drove home the importance of his family's brewing history.

"I grew up hearing about the family brewery, but no one really gave it much importance," he says. "People would talk about it in passing, and there were a variety of fables and stories told. So, until I read the article, I really had no idea how significant it was to the history of beer in Milwaukee. And once I knew, I decided I had to act on it."

Stack operates Melms Brewing Co. with brewmaster Brandon Van Epps, an accomplished home brewer who has been honing his craft for over two decades. Among the brewery's initial offerings are six tap beers, including Rhapsody Bohemian Pilsner, Hootenanny Belgian Farmhouse Ale, Woodshed Imperial Amber, Lake Country IPA and Reflection Imperial Porter, the peoples' choice award winner at Charitable Hops.

In addition to the beer that's brewed at Sweet Mullets, Stack says the taproom also features its own pilot brewing system with which they will produce a variety of experimental brews to be showcased on tap.

You can get your first taste of Melms Brewing Co. at the grand opening celebration, which will take place on March 17 from 4 to 11 p.m. During the festivities, which will include live music from the Garlic Mustard Pickers, the brewery will feature a special tapping of its brand new Blarney Stone Stout.

Moving forward, the brewery's initial taproom hours will be Thursday from 4 to 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 to 11 p.m. and Sunday from 1 to 6 p.m.

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