This Arbor Day Celebration Has a Milwaukee Twist: Beer

Spruces planted along the Beerline Trail in Riverwest catalyzed by special beer from Black Husky – with an assist from a special tree.

The planting of several spruce trees along the Beerline Trail in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood highlighted Friday’s Arbor Day Celebration.

Black Husky Brewing, which operates a brewery and taproom in Riverwest, provided funding for the tree planting through the sale of a special batch of its Sproose double IPA, the winter run of which was brewed using boughs from a 35-foot Colorado blue spruce that served as the 2020 City Christmas tree.

On Friday, crews planted four Black Hills spruce trees along the Beerline Trail just north of East Concordia Avenue. Six additional spruce trees also were planted along a nearby portion of the trail.

“Arbor Day is dedicated to celebrating the planting of trees,” Commissioner of Public Works Jeffrey Polenske said. “The act of planting a tree reflects hope for the future and benefits future generations. Trees have a big job to do. They clean the air we breathe and the water we drink. Trees soak up rainwater like a sponge, and they cool and shade us from the hot sun and provide a home for wildlife.”

The tree planting complements the work being done to build equity and economic prosperity, improve the environmental sustainability, and provide overall enhancement of the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods, he said.

Polenske recognized the city’s arborists, some of whom were on hand for the tree planting, who maintain and care for more than 189,000 trees throughout the city.

Milwaukee earned Tree City USA status, recognizing sound urban forestry management, for the 42nd consecutive year, Polenske announced. “We are proud of this tradition and are committed to maintaining the city’s urban tree canopy,” he said.

“Trees provide shade, fruit, clean our air and they also provide solace, Black Husky co-owner Tim Eichinger said.
Such was the case with the tree that Edward and Kathy Gill donated to serve as the City’s Christmas tree this past holiday season.

The Gills planted a pair of spruce trees in the yard of their Milwaukee home in memory of their teenage sons, Eddie and Andy, who were killed in a car crash in March 1998. The city harvested “Eddie’s tree,” and the boughs became a key ingredient in a special version of the one of Black Husky’s most popular beers.

Darryl Johnson, executive director of Riverworks Development Corp. has been involved in the Beerline Trail development since 2006. “What we wanted to do was not only create a trail but activate the trail,” Johnson said.

The Beerline Trail currently covers a 2-mile stretch through the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods. Plans call for an extension and transformation of the trail into a linear park and the addition of Beerline Plaza, an entertainment space for residents and students.

“We are planning to raise close to $7 million to improve the infrastructure and create an environment where people will come out and use public space,” Johnson said. “This is only the beginning.”

Students at the nearby La Escuela Fratney took part in the Arbor Day celebration via a livestream. “Being part of this Arbor Day celebration is very significant because La Escuela Fratney is connected on this Beerline Trail and is guided by schoolwide themes, including the theme of making a difference on planet Earth,” said Sara Cruz, assistant principal. “We teach our students the value of spending time in nature and teach them to consider and act on ways they can make a difference in the environment.”

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Rich Rovito is a freelance writer for Milwaukee Magazine.