Milwaukee County Historical Society

Interview with Andrew Gierczak, September 23, 2021

MCHS Oral History Collection


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00:00:22 - Early Life

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So to start, Andrew, where and when were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak, Brewmaster for Mobcraft Beer, Inc., describes his early life growing up in Greenfield, with his fondest memories being out in nature. His favorite subject in school was AP Biology.

Keywords: Biology; Birth; Childhood; Electrician; Parents; Real Estate

Subjects: Family; Greenfield, WI; School; West Allis, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Greenfield, WI
00:02:08 - Family Beer Culture

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Partial Transcript: [John]: And, was, like beer central to your upbringing?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak remembers how beer and alcohol was present during his upbringing. His great grandfather was an accomplished home wine maker and also made moonshine during the depression. He talk about how he and his brother found his great grandfather's old moonshine still. They decided to make moonshine "in his honor", and whlch now sits above their lab.

Keywords: Beer; Fermentation; Moonshine; Still; Wine; Winemaker

Subjects: Alcohol; Beer Culture; Family; The Great Depression

00:04:43 - Early Adulthood: College/Postgrad

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Where'd you go to school?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks about his college life, majoring in microbiology (with a heavy emphasis on food science) first at UW Waukesha, then at UW Madison. After graduation, he worked for Leinenkugel's for a period of time, which he appreciated the fusion of old and new, and had nothing bad to say about his time there, other than promotion trajectory. He goes through what he specifically he brewed at Leinenkugel's, particularly the "Big Eddy" Series.

Keywords: Brewing; College; IPA; Imperial Stout; India Pale Ale; Job; Microbiology

Subjects: Big Eddy series; Career; Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company; Miller Coors; School; University of Wisconsin-Madison; University of Wisconsin-Waukesha

00:08:01 - Beginnings of Mobcraft

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, so after Leinenkugel's, um, is that when the birth of Mobcraft started for you? Or, how did-what happened between then and Mobcraft?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak describes how he met his co-founder of Mobcraft through his brother, and how they became homebrewing friends, eventually wanting to form their own brewery. They ended up starting out under an alternating proprietorship in Madison, which made their decision of where to start easy. They made their first batch, and the rest is history.

Keywords: Brewing; Homebrewing; Partnership

Subjects: Brewery; Business; Madison, WI; Mobcraft Brewing, Inc.

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Madison, WI
00:10:42 - Mobcraft's crowdsourcing

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So one of the things that's unique about Mobcraft is the crowdsourcing of beer, beer recipes or beer flavors or however you want to call it, beer styles. Um, where did that kinda come from, was like a goal from the beginning?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks about the crowdsourcing aspect of Mobcraft, talking about how it started through homebrewing parties, eventually leading to asking around for ideas, which formed that part of their business, harkening back to their Homebrewing roots.

Keywords: Crowdsourcing; Homebrewing; Party

Subjects: Ideas; Ingredients; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.

00:11:46 - Unexpected successes/Bad Batches

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Sure, um some interesting recipes have come out of that, some interesting styles, so um what do you think are like the biggest successes and what are some of the ones that didn't turn out, you know.

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks about the unexpected hits and the bad batches Mobcraft has made. One success was a Durian beer, which he claims to have alone thought would have worked. One that did not work out so well for them was a tequila barrel aged beer with ghost chilis.

Keywords: Beer; Brewing; Durian; Ghost Chilis

Subjects: Brewery; Crowdsourcing; Pasturization

00:14:18 - Mobcraft Expansion Efforts

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Um, so we'll stay on the line of crowdsourcing before we get back into other beer things and what it's like here. So, it just so happens that today news came out that Mobcraft is expanding. [Andrew]: Yep, that is very exciting news.

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks on the expansion projects that Mobcraft recently started planning, with two solid locations in Denver and Waterford, and one potentially in Illinois down the road. He talks why they decided to expand, citing the pandemic changing consumer activity, realizing that they needed a "higher margin of revenue".

Keywords: Beer; Brewing; Expansion; Fundraising; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.

Subjects: Brewery; Denver, CO; Waterford, WI

00:16:01 - COVID and Mobcraft

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Partial Transcript: [John]: What was it like for Mobcraft during the pandemic?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks about what it was like for Mobcraft during the pandemic, claiming that they nearly shut down. Luckily, the new round of PPP loans before the end of the year kept them afloat, allowing them to keep their business alive.

Keywords: COVID; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.; Pandemic Response; Paycheck Protection Program; Season

Subjects: COVID-19 Pandemic; Economics; Pandemic

00:17:44 - Strange Yeast Harvesting/Implementing

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Let's do-Let's talk some more just before we get into larger thoughts on beer, one of the things that you've done to make beer is that you've harvested wild yeast or yeast from different places. [Andrew]: Yep.

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak explains why and how Mobcraft used different strains of yeast, particularly from the Falk Brewery. After a few failed attempts swabbing different potential strains of yeast from Walker's Point, and trying to use old corked bottles, they finally decided to enter the old Falk Brewery cellars, with heavy caution, extracting the yeast from the dredges of the building. He then explains how they used those swabs to grow the yeast, brewing it into a new batch. They also have future plans to re-create a beer that Falk had brewed.

Keywords: Artifacts; Brewing; Collector; Falk Brewery; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.; Yeast

Subjects: Beer; Brewery; History; Spelunking

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:25:13 - Coming to Milwaukee

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Partial Transcript: [John]: Let's shift gears to- hah, no pun intended- let's shift gears to some of the beer scene and beer industry. So you've been in Milwaukee since 2014-15?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks about why Mobcraft came to Milwaukee, citing not being able to find viable spots in Madison, they were then able to find a new dump-truck servicing station turned Jordan Machining Company machine shop turned parking structure for their building. He talks about what the neighborhood scene has changed since they began here.

Keywords: Beer; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.

Subjects: Beer Culture; Beer Industry; Fundraising; Madison, WI; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:28:34 - Brewing Industry changes

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Partial Transcript: [John]: So, would you say that the brewing industry has changed since you came to Milwaukee, because you've been here about five years now? [Andrew]: The brewing industry in Milwaukee, or the brewing industry as a whole? [John]: Let's go with both.

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak explains how he believes the brewing industry in both Milwaukee and as a whole. He claims that it has become much more "customer focused". He also compares Milwaukee and Madison's cultures, as Madison is more "proud" to buy from local businesses and Milwaukee is less so, but turning up more.

Keywords: Beer; Brewing

Subjects: Beer Culture; Brewery; Craft Brewing Boom; Milwaukee, WI; Sprecher's; Time

00:31:13 - Diversity in Brewing

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Partial Transcript: [John]: One of the big topics in brewing nationally in brewing right now, is diversity in the brewing industry, where does Mobcraft see, where do you see yourself in that conversation?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak explains where he sees Mobcraft in the conversation around diversity in the brewing industry. He says he understands that the company has a long way to go, but that they're working on trying to better themselves as a company, and that he has personally been doing more self-reflection. He also stresses that he wants himself and his company to do the "real work" in order to make lasting change.

Keywords: Beer; Beer Culture; MKE Black; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.; Segregation

Subjects: Beer Industry; Diversity; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:33:29 - Challenges in the industry

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Partial Transcript: [John]: What are some of the, I guess- biggest challenges you think moving forward in just both the brewing industry in Milwaukee and nationally?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks on how the brewing industry is being challenged going forward, both in terms of Milwaukee and as a whole. He first highlights the pandemic, then talks about the competition/camaraderie that comes along with other local breweries ("rising tide lifts all boats").

Keywords: Brewing; Competition; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.

Subjects: Beer Industry; Brewery; Collaboration; Mentor; Milwaukee, WI

GPS: Link to map
Map Coordinates: Milwaukee, WI
00:35:22 - Mobcraft staying independent in Milwaukee

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Partial Transcript: [John]; So, you're looking at this big expansion plan now, why is it still important to stay in Milwaukee, and why is independent ownership important to the company?

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak explains both why it is important for him to stay in the city he was born and raised in, and why independent ownership is important. He wants to stay in order to not abandon his city, trying to make it better where he can. He says independent ownership is important because he sees the value in "true competition", unlike those who accumulate insane amounts of wealth, especially as all the rest are suffering.

Keywords: Beer; Brewing; Migration; Mobcraft Beer, Inc.

Subjects: Brewery; City; Life; Milwaukee, WI

00:37:56 - Moments and Objects in the Brewing Industry

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Partial Transcript: [John]: I think maybe just one, a couple of wrap-up questions just basically, so do you have any-like moments that come to mind when I ask you what are some of your favorite moments working in the brewing industry.

Segment Synopsis: Gierczak talks on his favorite moments working in the brewing industry, claiming that both his experiences talking to other brewers, as well as the lab work he gets to do, as is his "trade". When asked to pick an object that would sum up himself and Mobcraft in Milwaukee beer history. As for himself, he would choose his old microscope previously owned by his mother, and for Mobcraft he would choose a plastic canoe paddle they used initially to mash the hops in Madison, their very first "Mash Paddle."

Keywords: Artifacts; Beer; Brewers; Brewing; Lab Work; Mash Paddle; Microscope

Subjects: Brewery; Brewing Industry; Microbiology