Location: 735 E. Center St.
Founded: May 2014
Brewers: George Bregar, Roscoe Bigelow, Samantha Willis
Come for the: Space Whistle IPA
Stay for the: Laid-back Riverwest vibe and live music
Critic’s pick: Thousandfold Imperial Stout
Where to get the beer: The brewery, a few bars and restaurants on the East Side, in Riverwest and in Bay View; and in cans at a smattering of stores including both Discount Liquor locations (919 N. Barstow St. and 5031 W. Oklahoma Ave.), Ray’s Wine & Spirits (8930 W. North Ave.) and Downer Avenue Wine and Spirits (2638 N. Downer Ave.).
The large brick building on the corner of Center and Fratney has a relatively long history as a brewery. After months of renovation, Onopa Brewing Company opened its doors in 2001 and eventually gave way to Stonefly Brewing Company in 2006. Brewer George Bregar took over the keys and opened Company Brewing in 2014.
A Background in Coffee
Before opening the brewery, Bregar served as the director of coffee for Colectivo Coffee Roasters (then Alterra). That’s where he met both of his brewing partners, Roscoe Bigelow and Samantha Willis. Bregar and Bigelow brewed together while they worked at Colectivo, creating beers served at Colectivo’s cafes.
“Beer has a lot of similarities with coffee,” said Bregar. “You have your cafés and wholesale component. You’re making something similar in that regard, swapping coffee for beer.”
A Fit for Riverwest
Part of the success of Company lies in the fact that it fits seamlessly into the neighborhood it occupies. The extensive menu has ample vegan and vegetarian options, and a busy music calendar offers nearly any music genre you can imagine. Company is large and open, but maintains a friendly, laid-back vibe. It feels more like a neighborhood pub than a large brewery, and that’s ideal for its location in the midst of bohemia.
“We’ve become an active live music venue,” explained Bregar. “That’s what I was interested in at the beginning.”
Recently, Company teamed with Gathering Place Brewing (811 E. Vienna St.), Black Husky Brewing (909 E. Locust St.) and Lakefront Brewery (1872 N. Commerce St.) to create the Riverwest Brewery Syndicate. The group’s goal is to draw beer fans to the neighborhood and create a destination in an increasingly crowded brewery scene.
“We’re kind of in our own little world,” added Bregar. “We want people to see Riverwest as a place to go for beer. I believe that you’re your own competition and you’re not going to fail because of other breweries. Milwaukee can still have more.”