After Crowdfunding Campaign, MobCraft Eyes Milwaukee For First Brewery

MobCraft Beer, the Wisconsin startup that brews a different beer each month based on online voting, moved closer this week to opening its own production facility.

Fresh off completing one of the state’s first equity crowdfunding campaigns, the Madison-based brewer has proposed leasing a 13,000-square-foot building in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood that would significantly increase its brewing capabilities, co-founder Henry Schwartz says. The news was first reported by the Milwaukee Business Journal.

The startup currently has an agreement with House of Brews to make beer in the Madison microbrewery’s facility, but that has limited how much MobCraft can produce. It made 420 barrels of beer last year, Schwartz says. MobCraft distributes its beer primarily through liquor stores in the Madison and Milwaukee areas and—for those who voted for the winning beer online—shipments directly to customers’ doorsteps. But at times, MobCraft has been hard-pressed to keep up with demand, Schwartz says.

If MobCraft secures the Milwaukee space, its brewing capacity will immediately jump to 3,600 barrels annually, a number that could eventually reach 25,000 barrels, Schwartz says.

“We want to get more beer out to our fans,” Schwartz says. “This will help us get more beer out into the market—and more consistently as well.”

First, the city of Milwaukee must approve a zoning change to allow for heavy manufacturing in the building at 505 S. Fifth St. Once home to a metal working operation, the warehouse is currently used as a storage space for cars, Schwartz says.

More importantly, MobCraft must pull together $2.06 million in financing to launch the brewery. The company was one of the first to take advantage of Wisconsin’s new law permitting equity crowdfunding—selling company shares online to state residents who normally wouldn’t have the means to invest in startups. A few months ago, MobCraft raised north of $68,000 from about 50 individuals through the campaign on Milwaukee-based CraftFund’s website.

MobCraft has also applied for a loan from the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. that would cover a “significant chunk” of the $2 million needed for the brewery, Schwartz says. The company should receive a decision from the agency this month, he adds. Other funding options include the Milwaukee Economic Development Corp., the U.S. Small Business Administration, and additional private investments.

If all goes according to plan, MobCraft will be brewing in the Milwaukee facility by the end of the year, Schwartz says.

MobCraft also scouted Madison for its first brewery, but given the timeline it set, the Milwaukee location “was just the best fit,” Schwartz says. MobCraft will continue making beer in House of Brews. “We definitely love both markets,” he says. “We’re just really excited to be able to brew beer in both cities.”

If MobCraft opens a brewery in Walker’s Point, it would join a budding craft beer and spirits scene, with Milwaukee Brewing Co., Brenner Brewing Co., Great Lakes Distillery, and Central Standard Craft Distillery already operating within a half-mile of MobCraft’s proposed location. Like those businesses, MobCraft intends to open up the brewery for tours and tastings, Schwartz says.

One of its next projects is a trial run of selling two of its most popular beers, Batshit Crazy and Hop Gose The Grapefruit, in 16-ounce cans, Schwartz says. “We ‘re looking forward to having a steady line of flagship beers be developed over the summer.”

But despite plans for churning out a steadier stream of its best-selling beers, MobCraft will continue crowdsourcing new brews each month. “That’s pretty central to our existence, and it’ll always be there,” Schwartz says.

Jeff Engel is a senior editor at Xconomy. Email: jengel@xconomy.com Follow @JeffEngelXcon

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