For years the Lanes' kitchen table served the testing grounds for homebrewed beers, but their brewing dreams eventually grew too big for their Brookfield house.
So they packed up that table, complete with a scratch along its top from the time the ceiling fan crashed down during dinner, and moved it into a warehouse location in the Village area of Brookfield.
It was the first major piece of furniture to settle in the space that will soon serve as a tasting room for the family's attached microbrewery, Biloba Brewing Co., set to open this winter at 18720 Pleasant Street.
The team opening the brewery includes Brookfield residents Gordon and Jean Lane, their two daughters, and longtime friend Brian Dallmann, who grew up near the family and is the brewery manager. They're starting small but hope to be producing about 1,000 barrels per year within the next two years and potentially expand to about 2,500 per year in the next five.
At first, Biloba's beer will be available on tap in the tasting room and sold in growlers, with distribution possibly coming later. The microbrewery will not serve food, except some cheese pairings and pretzels, but it might have food trucks come by occasionally or partner with an area restaurant. Non-alcoholic beverages also will be available.
Building a brewery
Gordon is frank about why he wanted to start a brewery: "I enjoy really good beer."
But the group also hopes the brewery becomes a neighborhood hub, a place where home-brewers can unite and others can enjoy a taste of the action while socializing with neighbors.
"We want it to feel like a community gathering place," Jean said.
The brewery is named after a ginkgo biloba tree that has deep roots in the Lanes' backyard, just as they hope the brewery will have in the community. But first they have to transform the space, where they have torn up the floor and are painting the walls.
"You walk into the empty building and just use your imagination," Gordon said.
About 10 kegs of rotating brews will eventually sit in a back hallway, with connections running through the wall to taps in the tasting room, where antique lights, recycled furniture and a wooden wall from an old fence will create a homey feel. Peer through a window from the tasting room, and you'll get a full view of the brewery.
Where there is a garage door, the brewery can open to the outside during the warmer months for public tours, possibly connecting to a beer garden in the parking lot. The space is about 2,000 square feet, and the tasting room can hold about 45 people.
Local and unique
If the group eventually wants to produce more than 1,000 barrels annually, they say they will have to find a larger space, but they are adamant about staying in Brookfield and not growing too much.
"We don't want to get big," Gordon said. "We want to stay in the community and do really unique things."
Mayor Steve Ponto said the microbrewery will be an important contributor to the Village's recent resurgence. The Lanes were the first to take advantage of the area's new revolving loan program, meant to spur development by providing 1 percent interest loans through First Bank Financial Center, to purchase some of their equipment.
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