Baileys Harbor Is Becoming Door County’s Brewery Destination

Matt Sampson built his brewing career at Door County Brewing and Hacienda Beer Co. Now he’s bringing yet another brewery to the neighborhood, with a little help from his friends.

Competition in Door County’s craft beer space is apparently pretty friendly. The story behind Sway Brewing + Blending in Baileys Harbor provides strong evidence of that.

Sway (2434 County Road F, Baileys Harbor), which opened on July 15, was started by Matt Sampson, who is the director of brewing operations at Door County Brewing Co. and its offshoot Hacienda Beer Co. Note, not was but still is the director of brewing ops. That’s right, Sampson is moonlighting as the founder of his own brewery. That’s not all. The space he’s using is in the same building that housed Door County Brewing when it opened in 2013. The small bottom floor area where he ferments and pours his beers was Hacienda’s barrel room. And, oh yeah, he’s creating the wort for Sway’s beers just a couple of blocks away at, you guessed it, Hacienda.

The Wisconsin craft beer community has generally shown support for each other, but this is next-level cooperation.

“Luckily for me, ownership was incredibly supportive of me stepping out on my own,” said Sampson. “I was sure to present to them that this arrangement had benefits to both Sway and Door County Brewing. Sway is able to pay rent money for brewhouse use, and rent money for some of the equipment they have invested in. I also agreed to work together towards a long-term exit date for myself from Door County Brewing/Hacienda, which I believe they were grateful for. Of course, for Sway, I’m able to start up with a relatively low level of capital investment.”


 

 

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Sampson moved to Door County in 2016 and connected with Door County Brewing in 2017 right before it introduced Hacienda. He began as a brand manager and worked his way into the brewing side of the business. When co-founder Danny McMahon left for Minnesota’s Luce Line Brewing Co. in 2020, Sampson took over brewing operations.

“I’ve been thinking about opening my own brewery for I don’t even know how long,” explained Sampson. “When I moved to Door County, I was thinking about it, but I didn’t have any professional brewing experience at the time. So that would’ve been foolish. I got connected with the owners of Door County Brewing right before they launched Hacienda. The whole concept seemed like the type of brewery I wanted to start.”

While Hacienda has made its mark largely with well-made IPAs and saisons, expect something different from Sampson. Look for Sway to produce classically inspired beers with a twist and a few made from locally foraged ingredients. Sampson recently brewed a beer made with wild grown yarrow sourced from a farm in Sturgeon Bay.

“My palate and what I want to drink lean toward more easy drinking styles,” added Sampson. “I have a lot of interest in exploring those further. Hacienda is known for bold flavors, IPAs. I’m definitely not interested in chasing the IPA train. If someone comes in looking for IPA, I’ll send them to Hacienda.”

The first beers on Sway’s tap list are carefully crafted and low in alcohol content.

  • Cracks In The Sidewalk: A foeder-fermented table beer with mango and tangerine flavor and a hint of funk. 4% ABV.
  • A Lovely Place To Be: A foeder-fermented spelt saison that combines lemon, clove, pineapple and banana flavors. 5.1% ABV.
  • A Very Happy Start: Labeled as a hoppy pale beer with tastes of orange rind and tropical fruit. 5.5% ABV.
  • Up Past The Treetops: A witbier made with coriander and chamomile that has flavors of root beer, chamomile, black pepper and ginger. 5% ABV.

Sampson finds one day a week to brew for Sway and his beer garden is open three days a week (Friday, Saturday and Sunday). Sampson plans to keep the outdoor space open as late into fall as possible.

“It’s all outdoors right now,” he explained. “I may look into a tent at some point. It’s definitely a temporary situation, unless I find out it’s easy to be seasonal.”

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Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.