VILLAGE OF HARTLAND – A local connection to Milwaukee’s first beer baron, Charles T. Melms, stretches back more than 150 years — and is being brought back into the limelight with the recent opening of a new taproom in Hartland.
In the 1860s, before the village was incorporated, Watertown Plank Road ran through the area and was used as a highway for farmers to get grains and hops to Milwaukee breweries. Likely some of that went to the biggest brewery in the city: Melms Brewing Co.
Today, Melms’ great-great-great-great-nephew Bob Stack of Hartland has resurrected the brewery, nearly 150 years after it closed. The reborn brewery’s first taproom is at 418 Merton Ave.
“My mother’s side always talked about a brewery that was in our name, but I didn’t realize how big of a deal the brewery was until I came across an article a few years ago,” Melms said.
He has since made it his goal to restore the Melms name to the Milwaukee-area brewery scene.
Stack enlisted the help of brewmaster Brandon Van Epps of Stone Bank, who has won various home brewery awards, both on a regional and national level.
In 2014 Stack and Van Epps connected and began to rebuild the Melms’ name by bringing the beer to brew festivals statewide.
Melms is the first brewery that Van Epps has worked with.
“It’s been a lot of hard work, but Bob has done a great job getting the permitting and paper work done,” Van Epps said. “The brewing piece translates to bigger scale brewing, but it hasn’t been all too difficult.”
Although the historic brewery was in the Walker’s Point neighborhood in Milwaukee, Stack and Van Epps wanted to bring something to their neighborhood and close to Brewfinity Brewing Co. of Oconomowoc, where the two have a shared partnership, so they can brew beer there. Brewfinity was formerly known as Sweet Mullets Brewing Co.
Melms Brewing Co. celebrated the grand opening of its Hartland tap room on St. Patrick’s Day with the first tapping of its Blarney Stone Stout — and an Irish band to provide appropriate ambience.
“The grand opening went great,” Van Epps said. “More people showed up than expected. It was standing room only for a few hours.”
The tap room has six other beers on tap:
- Rhapsody Bohemian Pilsner
- Hootenanny Farmhouse Ale
- Woodshed Imperial Amber
- Lake Country IPA
- Switchback Pale Ale
- Reflection Imperial Porter.
“We’re excited to be in Hartland,” Stack said. “It makes sense to have something close to home. We’re optimistic that Hartland and the Lake Country area will support us and get our name out there.”