MobCraft Beer was unorthodox from day one. Founders Henry Schwartz and Andrew Gierczak were in their mid-20s five years ago when they launched a brewery in Madison (with most of the brewing done at Madison’s now defunct House of Brews) fueled by recipes thought up and submitted online by beer fans.
The young brewery owners were, by their own admissions, a little disorganized and slightly overwhelmed when MobCraft launched in 2013. But they’ve matured.
Schwartz and Gierczak, who serves as the head brewer, have learned plenty since then. (A third co-founder, Giotto Troia, left the company a few years ago.) The MobCraft that exists today at 505 S. Fifth St. – after moving from Madison in July 2016 – is the result of growing pains and persistence. The brewery celebrates its fifth birthday this weekend, making it a relative elder statesman when it comes to Milwaukee craft breweries.
The Evolution of Sours and Wild Ales
It’s hard not to exude maturity as a brewery when you’ve got a successful sour program. Sours can be tricky to make, but when done right they highlight the skills of a brewer. Gierczak’s love of wilder styles led to the development of them at the Milwaukee location. The new space allowed them to create an area dedicated solely to sours—a room in MobCraft’s brewing area that includes a negative pressure system, which ensures that the bacteria used in the process doesn’t contaminate other beers being brewed.
MobCraft sours, nearly all of which are barrel aged, have gained notice. The Existence series, which featured highlights like Existence Raspberry and Existence Cranberry, has helped solidify the sour program.
“When we started the (Milwaukee) location we were fortunate enough to be able to hire Adam Thomas, who actually worked in a sour brewery out west at Tahoe Mountain Brewing Co.,” said Gierczak. “Now he’s our head sour guy and he’s the guy responsible for all of the buzz.”
Attention to Quality
With all of the hard work required to create good beer, it’s understandable for a brewery to bristle at criticism. MobCraft’s answer to critics was another example of the brewery’s unconventional approach. In early 2018, MobCraft reached out to beer drinkers who had posted decidedly bad reviews on the beer tracking and rating app, Untappd. The brewery invited them to the taproom for MobCraft 2.0 to explain in person just how much attention MobCraft was paying to quality concerns.
“Starting out as young folk with a passion for beer we made some mistakes when it came to beer quality,” Schwartz said. “We’ve invested significant resources in our lab and top-notch production facility, so we invited those who had a bad experience into the brewery to see the good, quality liquid we’re churning out.”
Added Gierczak: “Ninety-five percent of the feedback that we got was overwhelmingly positive. They learned a lot. A lot of them were homebrewers and they had no idea the level of attention and care you have to put in to being a commercial brewer.”
Celebrating Five Years
MobCraft had an interesting start, but five years later the brewery is doing just fine. It has played a key role in Milwaukee’s brewery boom since arriving in 2016.
“It’s freaking hard,” explained Schwartz. “We had no clue five years ago the industry would explode as it has. I always say, ‘Know where your beer comes from, support your local producers,’ because that’s what builds an awesome community. Come visit a brewery and see the passion every brewer, beertender, manager and owner has for their craft, and support it.”
MobCraft’s Fifth Birthday Party
Saturday June 9, 12 p.m.
Free Oddball Kolsch on tap starting at 1 p.m. until the keg runs out.
First 150 guests get birthday cake.
Cellar release of limited sours and wild ales in to-go bottles.