The East Side’s newest establishment is as eclectic as the Hacienda Beer Co. frothing out of its taps.
The Hacienda taproom opened last weekend in a completely revamped space formerly occupied by G. Daddy’s BBC, an East Side barfly fixture that closed in 2017. In addition to the drafts, there’s a kitchen with a foodie-oriented menu, and plans for lots of live music and special beer releases.
An “experimental brewing project” spun off from Door County Brewing Co., Hacienda’s purpose is to push boundaries and make creative beers separate from the more traditional porters, witbiers and IPAs of the main Door County Brewing brand. Think black tea additives, fruit galore, spices, double dry hopping.
The new outpost is a taproom only, not a brewery; Hacienda beer is made at the company’s facility in Baileys Harbor. Hacienda becomes the first brewery from outside Milwaukee to open a taproom here, but it’s not expected to be the last. Indeed Brewing of Minneapolis announced plans last fall to open a satellite brewery in Walker’s Point by mid-August.
Inside, the Hacienda taproom, 2018 E. North Ave., matches the anything-goes vibe of the beer.
The décor, described by Jayk Burczyk, manager of operations, as “1950s, sort of Cuban-inspired color palette,” immediately jumps out at you. With exposed brick walls, funky lighting, an abundance of windows, and greenery in every free space, it didn’t feel like a college bar or sports pub.
“It turned out so splendid. It’s a beautiful room, and the fixtures are great,” Burczyk says. “Everybody’s really happy.”
Despite the lack of a unified theme , or perhaps because of it, there’s a distinctly Hacienda vibe – relaxed, unconventional and fresh. Like somewhere you could hang out for hours.
And people were doing just that during my visit. Around 4 p.m. on a Wednesday, the bar was packed to the point where I almost had to take a lap to find a seat.
After a big opening weekend – the taproom was at its capacity for 12 straight hours on Saturday – I was greeted with a somewhat depleted tap list. Five of the 11 draft lines were tapped out, including Hacienda’s bestseller, a New England-style pale ale called Everything Eventually. The beers that were available were spelled out behind the bar with wooden letters that resembled oversized Scrabble tiles.
I ordered a flight of three beers: Tropi-Choco, a milk stout with cacao and orange peel; I’m Not a Doctor, a milkshake IPA with a chai spices; and Does Anyone Work Around Here?, an unfiltered, dry-hopped lager.
Tropi-Choco was my favorite, with only a subtle orange character – smelling and tasting more like coffee than chocolate. I’m Not a Doctor was an explosion of flavor, with little bitterness and an assertive, zingy aftertaste. This one was something that a lot of people in the bar seemed to be drinking (and enjoying). Does Anyone Work Around Here? shared the yellow-orange hue of I’m Not a Doctor, but was much more straightforward, with a pleasant, citrusy aroma.
Now, let’s just be clear: This assignment is the first time I’ve been trusted to give my opinion on beer. My resume is a bit thin in this regard, considering I’m just 21. I have not been to 475 breweries.
Luckily, the guy sitting next to me at the bar had. Joel Geier introduced himself with a fun fact: This was brewery/taproom No. 476. That’s about 470 more brewery visits than I’ve made.
Geier, who lives in Milwaukee, was impressed with the restrained tea character of I’m Not a Doctor. It’s easy for such additives to overwhelm the underlying beer, and Geier thought Hacienda’s avoided that pitfall – the tea “complements more than it overpowers.”
Hacienda’s taproom will host its first beer release this weekend, with four-packs of cans of peach milkshake IPA Whatever Feels Right for sale starting Saturday. The beer also will be available on draft.
On the food side of the menu, I tried the black garlic BBQ fried chicken sandwich — exactly what it sounds like, plus cole slaw sandwiched between a potato brioche bun. I liked the thinness of the BBQ sauce paired with the crunchiness of the cole slaw…it made for an unlikely and tasty duo.
The rest of the menu is a hodgepodge of elevated bar food (beer cheese fries, candied bacon) and South American-style entrees and desserts (duck confit empanada, churro ice cream sandwich). As in the décor and beer, the seeming randomness of it all works.
For now, the new location opens daily at 11 a.m., though in the next few weeks, Hacienda plans to start a weekend brunch menu with espresso drinks and beer-mosas. In the style of its grand opening, the plan is to continue featuring live music, too.