Sometimes you just have to “spread the love” according to Steve Parkhill, the head brewer at Wauwatosa’s Big Head Brewing Company. When it takes the same amount of time to brew five gallons of beer at home for friends that it does to brew 100 gallons for an entire neighborhood, you choose the entire neighborhood.
The brewery, which opened in Sept. 2013, is located on a State St. corner and the welcoming picnic benches give you a comfortable view of the local crossfitters who are running by while you sip your beer. The location is prime, to say the least. If you’re not interested in watching people work out as you drink, you can turn your attention to the adorable man at the piano or any one of the large-screen TVs for a sports game.
What does a day in the life of a brew master look like? Sometimes your average 8-5 job just doesn’t seem to take enough energy, so Parkhill, who is an engineer at Rockwell Automation, spends two nights a week brewing beer from 6 p.m. to midnight. “I would be doing it anyway if I were at home,” Parkhill said. “So I might as well make more and get it in the hands of more people.”
How did you get started brewing beer? Parkhill moved to Milwaukee about five years ago for work, where he met a co-worker who was big into home brewing. Since that fateful first night spent brewing beer, Parkhill has been hooked...it’s become a passion.
How does being an engineer translate into being a brewer? It should come as no surprise that brewing beer is hugely technical and scientific in nature (much like engineering). “You have to go into every batch with an intention for what you’d like the beer to be,” Parkhill said. While not at the brewery, Parkhill’s friends and family can find him testing pilot batches in his own kitchen, just like the old days.
What beers do you currently have on tap? “Our new Oktoberfest is like our version of liquid bread,” said Parkhill. The beers change seasonally, but Parkhill tries to make each patron’s time at the brewery a new and unique experience. Local beer enthusiasts can even come in and watch Parkhill brew while enjoying a new pumpkin beer and provide much encouraged feedback.
What’s with the name? “Our owner legitimately had a big head—and in grade school he was made fun of for it,” Parkhill explained. This is apparently an opportunity to get back at the bullies, and, luckily, it applies to beer as well. Nice pun!