Future Burlington brewery, old-time photo

This photo from the 1930s shows the former Wisconsin Gas and Electric offices and The Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Company terminal at 700 N. Pine St., where Burlington native Tim Sullivan plans to open a craft brewery and taproom in 2020.

BURLINGTON — A Burlington native now brewing beer in Portand, Ore., is laying plans to return home to build his own Downtown craft brewery and taproom.

Bob and Patricia Sullivan have bought the former Burlington Standard Press building at 700 N. Pine St., opening the door for their son Tim Sullivan to start his own brewery and taproom inside the first floor there.

According to the Burlington Historical Society, Burlington has not had commercial beer brewing in 64 years, since Wisconsin Brewing Co. moved out in 1955.

Sullivan attended the University of California-San Diego brewing program starting in 2015, while simultaneously working as a brewer at Karl Strauss Brewing Co., the 40th-largest craft brewer in the United States and winner of the 2016 Great American Beer Festival’s Mid-Size Brewery of the Year.

Sullivan, 32, is the longest-tenured of five brewers at Ecliptic Brewing in Portland, which he said has been “growing at breakneck speed” his entire time there.

“I’ve had the absolute privilege of learning from some of the best in the business, and I cannot wait to bring that experience to Burlington,” Sullivan said in a news release.

“You couldn’t ask for a better building for this type of project. It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

The 1925-26 building his parents bought once housed the former Wisconsin Gas & Electric Co. and Milwaukee Electric Railway & Light Co. terminal. Later it became home for the city’s weekly newspaper, the Standard Press. The future beer production area consists of about 1,500 square feet and what will be the taproom is more than 2,000 square feet, Sullivan said.

“Lots of potential there,” he said.

Sullivan’s goal is to return to Burlington in September to start building the brewery he hopes to open about next spring. He said the total investment for the brewery and taproom will be more than $700,000.

Six beers each month

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Sullivan said he will build a seven-barrel-capacity brewing system with three or four brewing tanks initially. That will allow him to offer about six beers per month, with the beer selection constantly changing, he said.

Small-batch beer of all styles and flavor profiles will be in constant rotation through the taproom, he said, and a sour program is planned as well. Sullivan explained that a sour program uses a foeder (pronounced food-er), or large wooden barrel, where various beers are aged along with a bacteria culture. The results are beers that are slightly acidic, tart and/or funky.

“The plan is not to have a core set of beers that are always available; I’m going to just keep churning out different styles and different beers nonstop,” Sullivan said. That’s partly because it’s more interesting to him to do it that way.

“But it also works for the consumer as well,” he said, “because the modern craft beer drinker, they are always seeking out new styles and new beers.”

Making ‘Burlington’s beer’

Renovations to the building will include redoing the floor in the production area so it has a draining system. Sullivan said his vision for the taproom is to create a lounge-like space that feels comfortable and relaxed.

At some point in time, he said, he’d love to see the building returned to its historical appearance.

Sullivan said he has no desire to get into wholesaling his beer and would like to sell everything he makes in his own taproom.

“I really do just want to make Burlington’s beer,” he said.

Having lived in San Diego and now Portland, Sullivan said, “I’ve seen what a thriving craft beer scene can do to the areas they reside in … I really want to build a space that is conducive to community building and just try to nudge that into the direction of community involvement and improvement, and really see how big of a positive impact we can have.”

“The plan is not to have a core set of beers that are always available; I’m going to just keep churning out different styles and different beers nonstop.” Tim Sullivan

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Michael "Mick" Burke covers business and the Village of Sturtevant. He is the proud father of two daughters and owner of a fantastic, although rug-chewing, German shepherd dog.

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