Eagle Park Muskego Construction

These 4 Craft Beer Businesses Aren’t Letting a Shutdown Stop Their Big Plans

Timing can be everything when opening a brewery or bar. And right now, in the wake of COVID-19, it’s safe to say that timing kinda sucks. But a few locals are making big changes and are determined to make it work.

Eagle Park Brewing’s Big Second Location

ON APRIL 24, the first day of pickup service at its sprawling new Muskego taproom (S64 W15680 Commerce Center Parkway), fans of Eagle Park Brewing caused a small traffic jam as they lined up to snag a few cans. The brewery sold out of everything it had in just a few short hours.

“We were overjoyed to see the response for our first beer release,” said Jake Schinker, co-owner of Eagle Park. “With a double-lane line of cars stretching out to the main road (Moorland), it didn’t take long to sell out of every drop of beer we had. We never could have predicted such amazing support. Prior to (the opening), it had been pretty heartbreaking to walk into the new brewery every day and not be able to share our excitement with anyone.”

The first day of business was supposed to include a lively taproom and hundreds of beer drinkers, not social distancing and curbside pickup. The timetable on opening up fully has been pushed back and is dependent upon the state of the pandemic. The brewery even compiled a survey, asking customers their thoughts on opening practices and procedures. Schinker expects taproom construction to be completed sometime in June.

“Work is now much slower due to the precautions being taken and limited crew on site, but the important thing is that we are making progress again and keeping everyone safe,” he explained. “After the taproom is completed we will evaluate the safest strategy to open for both our staff and customers.”


Broken Bat Brewing’s Big Move

Broken Bat Brewing
The bar at Broken Bat, ready for beer drinkers. Photo courtesy of Broken Bat Brewing.

SPIRITED INDOOR WIFFLE BALL GAMES inside Broken Bat Brewing’s new Walker’s Point location (135 E. Pittsburgh Ave.) will have to wait. (Yes, the warehouse space has an indoor field.) The large taproom is ready to serve the beer-drinking masses, but a grand opening on April 3 was shelved and replaced by curbside and to-go sales that started on April 1. The move from the brewery’s subterranean spot in the Third Ward was put into motion in May 2019, and delaying the process wasn’t possible.

“On March 17, we completely overhauled our strategies with regards to opening the new facility,” said co-owner Tim Pauly. “We went from preparing to have our taproom and brewery grand opening…to figuring out curbside/to-go sales and continually figuring out ways to be creative with our beer offerings, releases and keeping the excitement levels high for our big move.”

New releases are still happening at Broken Bat — on May 23 the brewery plans to release a session hazy IPA collaboration with Chicago’s Pilot Project and Belgian wit—but when the excitement of a busy taproom will happen is uncertain.

“Thankfully we still have a grand opening in our future, the hardest part is just not knowing when that date will be,” added Pauly. “We are all very anxious to get some direction from the state on what reopening looks like. But our internal plan is to be ready to have small, spaced-out groups in the taproom with safety protocols in place by the first week of June. The cooler is cold, tap lines are ready, and the bar is itching for the first folks to come belly-up.”


The Magic Has to Wait at Wizard Works Brewing 

Chris Ivanovich is ready for card tricks. Photo courtesy of Wizard Works Brewing.

CHRIS IVANOVICH AND JENNIFER HIGGINS picked a tough time to get into the brewery business. The pair opened Wizard Works Brewing in the former Broken Bat space (231 E. Buffalo St.) for carryout on April 24. The previous tenants included Wizard Works on a canning run, which provided an option for income alongside growler fills.

“Our first day open was supposed to be April 1, with a grand opening on April 3,” said Ivanovich. “Due to the kindness and help (from Broken Bat) we had a small amount of beer canned. We opened for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday (April 24 and 25) for pickup of cans only. Right now, we’re open on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. for growler fills and can sales as long as we have stock.”

Wizard Works began planning in August 2019. When fully open, the taproom will feature both plenty of beer options and Ivanovich, who’s a professional magician, performing illusions from behind the bar. He’s been offering a few magic routines on the brewery’s Facebook page.

“Magic requires an audience, so that hasn’t really been possible during the shutdown,” he explained. “It was extremely disappointing to go from our original plan to the pickup model. This is not a sustainable business model and is only good to keep a little bit of exposure going.  It’s good that we are trying to get our name out there, but we need the taproom up and running to hope to remain in business. We can’t wait to open. But we also can’t open until we know we’re doing it safely.”


Camino Starts off Slow in West Allis

The future home of Camino in West Allis. Photo courtesy of Casey Rataczak.

CAMINO HAS BEEN DRAWING CROWDS with its smartly curated beer list and simple yet satisfying food menu since opening in late 2015. The targeted late summer full opening of the second Camino location (7211 W. Greenfield Ave.) hasn’t changed, but owner Casey Rataczak’s approach has.

“We’re hoping to do some carryout and delivery around Memorial Day,” he said. “We hadn’t planned on opening until July or August. This will just give us an opportunity to open slow and work out the kinks gradually. We’ll try to take full advantage of the time given.”

The slow roll out isn’t ideal, but it should give West Allis an introduction to the Camino business model. Besides, there really isn’t much of a choice for Rataczak and owners like him.

“I’m not disappointed anymore,” said Rataczak. “I think I went through the five phases of grief pretty quickly. Like most restaurants that are doing curbside and delivery now, we had to pivot quickly, so there really wasn’t much time to be disappointed. It was, and is, truly a sink or swim moment.”

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Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 15 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for close to 25.