Dead Bird Brewing opens first taproom on 5th Street in Milwaukee

Saturday, September 14, 2019
Margaret Naczek, Milwaukee Business Journal

Dead Bird Brewing got its name over 15 years ago when co-founders and former University of Wisconsin-Platteville roommates Nick Kocis and Jeremy Hach found a dead sparrow in the bottom of an aluminum pot housed in Hach's parent's attic.

The two entrepreneurial college students figured brewing their own beer would be cheaper than purchasing it at the local liquor store. Though the two quickly discovered they were wrong, the passion for brewing stuck around.

See the attached slideshow for an inside look at Dead Bird Brewing.

In 2015, Dead Bird Brewing first began brewing beer, then at House of Brews in Madison, which was a contract brewery. Four years later, the brewery is opening its first taproom in Milwaukee at 1726 N. Fifth Street. In a few months, the brewery, known for its high alcohol-by-volume beers, will begin brewing beer in small batches at the Fifth Street location.

Co-founder and brewmaster Kocis said the two first found the site in February of 2018. The building, which was built in 1904, housed Milwaukee's first commercial grocery delivery service. It was then a book bindery. Kocis and Hach fell in love with the space, particularly because it fell into their quirky theme that Kocis described as "vintage nerdy."

Stepping into the taproom, guests are invited to a mecca of antique video games. A large projection screen, shaped like a cartoon graphic, will play Wisconsin sporting events on the weekends, but Kocis said more often, it'll play science fiction movies. He said the taproom will have "crappy cult movie nights," as he called them, and bring-your-own vinyl nights.

"It's all stuff that we like," Kocis said.

The taproom features a 16-beer tap line, which will include a gluten-free beer, some of Dead Bird's most popular brews, the brewery's in-house soda, guest beers and a hard seltzer. The taproom will serve shareable international plates, which will all be vegan and vegetarian. One of the 12 employees at the brewery is a local forager, and Kocis said he hopes to incorporate that foraging into the brewery's desire to be very local and environmentally friendly.

The brewery also has its own permeable pavement, which will prevent 185,000 gallons of water from going back into the sewer. Kocis said the brewery hopes to put in solar panels by next year, and the taproom's picnic tables are made from recycled plastic.

The brewery will be installing a three-barrel brewing system at the end of October or early November to use from research and development on new beers. It's a great system, Kocis said, because the brewery can experiment with new beers for lower costs. If a beer brewed at the taproom becomes popular, Dead Bird can then send it to MobCraft Brewery, Dead Bird's current contract brewer.

Dead Bird Brewing's taproom will open Sept. 16. The brewery will have its grand opening party with food trucks, a music DJ and special promotions on Sept. 20.