An idea scribbled on the back of a bar napkin led
friends Evan Hughes, publisher of Draft Magazine, and Pat McQuillan,
a former banker, to found Milwaukee’s second craft distillery. The
idea came in 2012, the distillery opened its doors in 2014, and now,
just three years later, the partners are moving production from
Walker’s Point to 2330 W. Clybourn St., but they’re keeping the
original distillery open for tastings and test batches. The two sat
down with M Magazine to talk about being entrepreneurs, giving back
to the community, and, of course, spirits and cocktails.
Tell us about
your new production facility.
Hughes: The building was constructed in 1933, and
it’s got a lot of character. We can see the Eagles Club down the
McQuillan: This building (the current location) is
only 2,000 square feet, but our new facility is 12,000 square feet.
Hughes: Our tasting room here (in Walker’s Point) is
only open Thursdays through Sundays. Mondays through (opening on
Thursday evening), we do production in here.
McQuillan: It’s cozy.
Hughes: This place is so small; this forklift sits in
our neighbor’s garage. Our new space will have two stills, and we
will have a smaller still here for test batches.
Will you have a
tasting room at the new place?
Hughes: A public component is definitely down the
road. Hopefully not too far down the road.
How did you decide to get into craft distilling?
Hughes: Pat and I would get together to talk craft
spirits (over drinks), and we also complained (about the lack of)
job creation in Milwaukee, and we said, “We should start a
distillery.” Typically, we even hashed it out on the back of a
napkin. The next morning, I called Pat and said, “Did we decide to
create a distillery?”
McQuillan: So we met with Guy Rehorst at Great Lakes
Hughes: And he told us it would take us two years
from the idea to get it up and running. We left the meeting,
thinking, “We’ll be up and running long before two years.” But he
was absolutely right, and we opened almost two years later to the
McQuillan: Now it’s been five years from the idea,
and we feel like it’s just flown by. We now employ close to 20
Hughes: And we haven’t taken a salary yet from the
Do you still have
your day jobs?
Hughes: I still publish Draft Magazine.
McQuillan: I just retired from banking earlier this
year. It hasn’t quite hit me yet. Just the fact that I’m wearing
jeans right now is amazing. It’s great to be here. The community has
been so supportive that it’s allowed us to grow.
you like to give back to the community. Could you tell us more
Hughes: It’s important to us to give back to the
community. Every month we have a different Give Back cocktail, and
$3 of every cocktail goes to a charity. On average, the cocktail
raises at least $500 for the charity. We like to have a personal
connection to the charity.
Someone in our family or a friend comes to us with a
cause to promote.
Recently, we had puppies everywhere. (The charity of
choice was a humane society.)
McQuillan: We also have a veterans batch of rye
whiskey, and a percentage of every bottle sale goes to the Wisconsin
Veterans Chamber of Commerce.
What do you like
to drink after a long day at work?
Hughes: Since we’re coming into (warmer weather), I
drink a lot of our gin in gin and tonics, using Top Note Tonics and
different bitters from Bittercube.