The upstart brewery returns to its founders' suburban roots and branches into ciders and spirits with a $3 million facility planned for a December opening.
The Eagle Park kids are flying back to the roost.
Just a 15 months after opening a brewery and taproom on the East Side, Eagle Park Brewing has committed to a big new $3 million-plus facility in Muskego, with plans to open by December. The new location will be in addition to its East Side brewery-taproom-restaurant, 823 E. Hamilton St.
Eagle Park has quickly emerged as the darling of Milwaukee’s craft beer scene behind a relentless release schedule of hazy IPAs, milkshake IPAs and pastry stouts. If that sounds more like the menu of a confectionery than a brewery, it’s true: These are the kinds of beers that challenge the conventions of what beer can be. People wait in lines for them when they’re well done, as they will do for Saturday’s release of Bourbon Barrel Aged Booze For Breakfast and Double Dry Hopped Demon Haze.
The core team behind this dynamo – brothers Max, Jack and Cass Borgardt and Jake Schinker – have yet to turn 30 and with the Muskego play are returning to their suburban roots. They all grew up in a New Berlin subdivision that’s about a mile and a half as the eagle flies from the new brewery. The site is a 20,000-square-foot, high-ceilinged portion of a new industrial building at S64 W15680 Commerce Center Parkway, a block from Muskego’s Walmart.
“We know that area really well and we were really confident that that was a good spot to do it, and it just so happened to be five minutes from where we grew up,” says Max Borgardt, at 29 the oldest of the group.
The facility as drawn up will take the successful East Side model – brewhouse, taproom, restaurant – and super-size it. A new brewhouse will allow head brewer Jack Borgardt kick out 20-barrel batches, nearly three times that of the current brewery to feed a forest of fermenting tanks and a new canning line. At opening it’ll be capable of producing 6,000 barrels a year, more than three times that of the nearly maxed-out East Side brewery. If all goes really well, the footprint could grow to a capacity of 20,000 barrels or more.
But there are a few new frontiers in play at the new facility as well.
For one: ciders. “Jack is really excited about the cider,” Max says. “He used to make cider at home all the time (as a homebrewer).”
They plan to do with fruit what Eagle Park has done with malt, hops and a whole bunch of other ingredients: push the envelope. That means heavy use of fruit, wild yeasts and mixed cultures and fermentation processing. “We’re just going to constantly kind of evolve every program into, something new,” Max says. “We just want to provide new things for people to try, man. That’s what’s so much fun about life, just always experimenting, trying new things.”
A third area of the new brewery will be cordoned off to operate as a distillery. The aim there is to apply the Eagle Park approach of small batches with varying ingredients within styles to liquor – at first “clear spirits” like vodkas, gins, rums and tequilas, and later barrel-aged spirits like whiskeys. The building’s soaring ceilings allow plenty of room for barrel-aging – both beer and liquors. The spirits program will be led by Jordan Stielow, former head distiller at Breckenridge Distillery in Colorado.
“We’re going to constantly let people try new things,” Max says. “Like, what does vodka taste like that’s made the same way with four different kinds of base? Four different kinds of grain?”
An event space with room for up to 200 people is part of the blueprints, and tours – not possible at the smaller Hamilton location – are planned as well.
Eagle Park has never felt particularly beholden to the usual channels of distribution, and the Muskego brewery will be designed to more efficiently handle the beer releases that currently draw hundreds of people to the brewery nearly every week to take away that week’s four-packs.
The additional production capacity should help far more area establishments get the kegs they’re asking for, and allow more “pop-up shops” outside metro Milwaukee. Eagle Park has held four such events in Madison so far to move some units and but more importantly stoke the buzz.
Eagle Park’s Muskego move follows a template that craft beer fans have become accustomed to: Brewery opens, grows quickly and builds a new, bigger brewery. But the industry’s breakneck growth has slowed since Milwaukee’s 2017 brewery boom – of which Eagle Park was a part. Craft beer production growth in Wisconsin slowed to about 3.2 percent last year, with competition intensifying and brewery closings becoming more frequent.
If the Eagle Park team is worried about that, or taste trends turning away from the hop haze and sweet stouts they’ve mastered, they’re not letting on. Max Borgardt notes that Jack has made some more traditional beers like pilsners, and they’re excited to have them on more regularly at both taprooms.
“The fun part is expanding people’s understanding of what we do, and we hope in the next two years, we can show people that we can kind of do a lot, do everything,” Max says. “We’re really committed to doing these really awesome, traditional lagers because we love them.”