Brewing pilot project; Milwaukee’s beer scene welcomes a new player

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A new player is in Brew Town. Chicago-based Pilot Project Brewing now has the keys to the former Milwaukee Brewing Company production facility.

“Yes, we’re keeping the Pabst sign. It can change locations. This was a very important conversation on the Twitterverse,” said Dan Abel, co-founder and CEO of Pilot Project Brewing.

Back on planet Earth, a lot of work is going on at the former production facility of the Milwaukee Brewing Company. Pilot Project Brewing calls its entry into the city of Brew “Pilot Project Milwaukee”. Things are cleaned up – and brewing could start as early as next week.

“Originally, with Pilot Project Chicago, we could only incubate brands if they were able to operate within the limits of 20 barrel batches at a time,” Abel said. “Having this space, we could incubate a brand – whether new or existing – a new innovative and creative idea and scale it quickly.”

Abel, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, co-founded Pilot Project Brewing with his friend and fellow Badger Jordan Radke in 2019. Pilot Project has raised over $8 million to purchase the assets of Milwaukee Brewing. The company took over the property’s long-term lease earlier this month – and got the keys last week.

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“The prospect of having a big facility, is that scary? Yes. Absolutely. We’ve had a few sleepless nights. There’s no denying it,” Abel said.

Abel said there’s untapped potential in the facility — and that’s what Pilot Project came to Milwaukee to do.

“The brewing industry has huge barriers to entry,” Abel said.

These barriers limit diversity and innovation. But it’s more about the farm than helping someone with an idea, fermenting it, and canning it.

“For us, we’re there with marketing support, legal support, accounting support. We help you launch your brand, we help you grow your brand,” Abel said.

Abel likes to use the analogy of an independent music label, but for brewers. At present, Pilot Project has five brands, not including the eight graduates.

“So when we incubate these brands, they hit their first hurdle — it’s not capital or financial — it’s how much can we produce for them,” Abel said.

Although he did expand the suburban Chicago areas, the former Wisconsin and Milwaukee Brewing space was the best fit.

“We provide unlimited opportunities for the brands we support,” Abel said.

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From hard kombucha to beer and seltzers. Abel said Milwaukee is a hotbed for brewing.

“It’s all painted and stained, reformatted a bit,” Abel said.

The walls started falling this week as the adjacent restaurant, Bottlehouse 42, got a list of faces.

“Bring a good buddy to me,” Abel said.

This buddy is a restaurateur who manages the food program based on the brands brewed.

As for beers from the Milwaukee Brewing Company, Eagle Park Brewing announced the purchase of the brand this week, which means long-time staples from the city’s third-oldest craft brewer will be around for a long time to come.

Current Pilot Project Marks

Pilot Project graduate brands

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