Pilot Project Brewing opts for suburban expansion and heads to Milwaukee

Pilot Project Brewing considered heading to the Chicago suburbs to expand its unique model for launching new beer brandsBut he found an opportunity north of the border, so he heads to Milwaukee.

Logan Square Brewery will continue to brew small and experimental batches for a variety of new brands in Chicago, but most of its production will be in a 43,000-square-foot former Pabst warehouse that Milwaukee Brewing Co. converted into a spacious, modern facility. in 2018. Milwaukee Brewing announced in August that it would vacate the building.

In a deal that closes Thursday, the Pilot Project will acquire the Milwaukee Brewing equipment and lease the building for an undisclosed price. the OnMilwaukee website first reported the news in late August, but Pilot Project did not confirm the acquisition until Thursday.

The $8 million project is funded with an investment from Chicago-based spirits venture capital firm InvestBev, which Pilot Project co-founder Dan Abel says is taking a minority stake in the Chicago operations. and Milwaukee, as well as future expansion.

Abel said he envisions continued growth for the Pilot Project, including additional small breweries and taverns, similar to the Logan Square model, in Los Angeles, Miami, London and other cities he described as “culturally rich premium markets.”

Pilot Project quickly ran out of capacity after it launched in 2019, Abel said, and has outsourced production to several other Chicago breweries. That production will move to the Milwaukee location, which also features a beer garden, tavern and restaurant.

“We want to support growth as long as (a client is) willing to work with us, but we also don’t want to be stopped from launching fresh new ideas,” Abel said. “Now we can do both at the same time.”

Pilot Project has launched more than 13 breweries and beverage companies since its founding, including FunkyTown and Azadi breweries, and Luna Bay and ROVM hard kombucha brands. The Pilot Project model is meant to kick-start new brands until they can expand on their own; an example includes Duneyrr, who brewed beer on the Pilot Project before take over space previously occupied by Motor Row Brewing in 2021.

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Pilot Project can produce about 3,500 barrels of beer per year at its Logan Square brewery. At the Milwaukee facility, it will be able to produce up to 75,000 barrels a year, with the opportunity to expand to about 200,000, Abel said.

With production expanded, Pilot Project plans to release five to 10 brands a year, most of which will originate in Chicago, Abel said.

Abel said the Pilot Project began exploring an expansion during the summer of 2021, looking for a location in the northern suburbs of Niles. However, the deal was slow to develop, and the lure of growing in what he described as a “beer-focused market” other than Chicago, in addition to acquiring a turnkey operation, became enticing.

After initially raising $500,000 to launch the business, Pilot Project needed larger funds to finance the expansion, said Abel, who found InvestBev, a company with a broad portfolio ranging from Kentucky bourbon barrels to canned cocktails and software. virtual cloud.

“Partnering with Dan and the Pilot Project team will be a game changer for the contract distilling and community brewing category,” InvestBev managing general partner Brian Rosen said in a statement. “We look for disruptors in all of our investments and the Pilot Project is certainly redefining the business model. We are excited to participate in the Milwaukee and Chicago facilities and look forward to national expansion.”

Pilot Project head brewer Glenn Allen, a veteran of Goose Island, Lagunitas and Revolution Brewing, will oversee production at the Milwaukee facility. Damian Padilla will become head brewer in Chicago, Abel said.


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