A new brewery is about to join Milwaukee’s beer scene.
The Component Brewing family – two brothers and their cousin – are busy preparing a space in the Lincoln Warehouse in Bay View that had been occupied by Eagle Park Brewing before its move to the East Side earlier this year.
Component is waiting for necessary state approval – putting it on an uncertain timeline – but co-founder Jonathan Kowalske hopes to open in early June.
Kowalske, a 35-year-old Realtor, says he has been “obsessed” with craft beer and the local culture around it that has mushroomed in recent years. He has been homebrewing for five years and dreamed of opening up his own brewery.
When news broke in February that Eagle Park, one of his favorite haunts, was moving to the East Side, Kowalske inquired about the brewery space and equipment and found it was available. He rapidly assembled a business plan and found partners in two cousins: DJ, who works in banking, and his brother Steve Kowalske, an electrician.
The trio had become beer appreciators together over the past few years, catalyzed by a Christmas gathering a few years ago to which Jonathan brought some of his homebrew. DJ and Steve were impressed and eventually the trio began homebrewing together.
While Component will be making beer on the small brewing system purchased from Eagle Park – a turnkey setup that greatly reduced Component’s startup time – the cousins are eager to forge a new identity, both in the beer and the space. “We don’t want it to be ‘Eagle Park II,’” Jonathan Kowalske says.
Despite Milwaukee’s rich history of lager brewing, Kowalske says he doesn’t see enough of them in the current craft beer marketplace – something he hopes to address. Component’s first brew is planned as a pilsner that has yet to be named. A sample of a homebrewed batch was on the nose: crisp, light and bubbly, with just enough of a hop kiss to refresh the palate and spirit but not enough to turn off those who scorn bitterness.
“There’s not a lot of breweries in the Milwaukee area doing lagers, so we want to dedicate a couple tap lines to that,” Kowalske says. “There’s something to be said about a well-made beer that doesn’t have a lot of adjuncts and stuff in it.”
The small batches – Component’s brewhouse is roughly two barrels – allow the brewers to experiment a lot, offering repeat customers a new beer with every visit, Kowalske says. He hopes to make a tradition of a weekly firkin – a cask of beer spiked with extra dry hops or culinary ingredients. Kowalske is excited to make some kettle-soured beers, too, including a Berliner weisse recipe he developed.
And the cousins are revamping the taproom with the goal of a brighter space, painting the walls a light gray with pops of color planned. The bar will remain, but there’ll be some new fixtures as well as new tables and seating that will aim for a communal vibe despite the relatively small space.
Food is not part of the plan for now, though Kowalske says they’ll consider partnering with local restaurants or food trucks, noting the many food-based businesses also located in the Lincoln Warehouse, 2018 S. 1st St. The building is also home to Enlightened Brewing, which began brewing in 2015, and Twisted Path Distillery.
Take-home beer will be available in 16-ounce cans filled from the brewery’s 10 draft lines and sealed on demand, similar to the twice-the-size Crowler. The smaller size allows customers to take home a mix of beers, the Kowalskes note.
It’s a whirlwind, packing a process that can take years into a few months.
“Things are happening very quickly and the list is a mile long,” Kowalske says. “My main focus is just to have a great product for when we open.”