Last weekend was the first hot weekend of the year, and instinctively, hundreds made their way to the Estabrook Beer Garden to enjoy a cold one – as many more may at Hoyt Park in Wauwatosa by mid-summer.
Lessons learned last year at Estabrook could inform customer service at Hoyt if approved to open this year.
Although the Estabrook beer garden opened for business on May 15, customers won't get a full taste of what the beer garden has in store this year until the operator – Old German Beer Hall – finishes its renovations.
Milwaukee County was so happy with the success of the Estabrook Beer Garden in its first year it has approved a second beer garden at Hoyt Park in Wauwatosa – still going through the City of Tosa approval process, and to be operated by the Friends of Hoyt Park & Pool.
Yet another area beer garden is being considered at Village Park in Thiensville, subject to approval of the Thiensville Village Board.
Manager Stephen Schultz said the Estabrook Beer Garden will be even better in two to three weeks, when they will have additional seating, shorter beer lines and improved restrooms.
One of the biggest complaints Schultz received last year about Estabrook was the poor quality of the restrooms, which are currently under renovation. Customers are using portable restrooms in the meantime.
"The restrooms were built in the 1930s as public park restrooms," Schultz said. "We are updating them to be restaurant-style restrooms."
The renovations will be finished in time for a grand opening and one-year anniversary event scheduled for June 20, when customers can enjoy a pig roast, dance to polka music and drink free beer from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The Tosa beer garden – styled "The Landing" – in front of Tosa Pool would have the advantage of a major renovation of restrooms and other amenities just two years ago.
Along with a brand new pool, Hoyt Park offers a completely refurbished 1930s bath house as a base of operations.
The Friends of Hoyt Park & Pool hopes to open The Landing in July.
Shorter beer lines at Estabrook
The Hoyt group in Tosa has already learned a lot from the Estabrook experience, and can learn more before it opens.
Another common gripe at Estabrook has been the long lines, which can have customers waiting for as long as 40 minutes on a busy day. Luckily for beer lovers, Schultz said they are adding a second bar on the back end of the building that will serve wine, beer and soda.
Currently, four taps are available at the beer garden, but once the building is done, they will have eight taps: four Hofbrauhaus varieties, Miller Lite, and three other options that have yet to be determined.
Once the building is open, the beer garden will return to serving beer out of glass steins. Currently, they are serving beer in plastic cups with a $1 deposit to discourage littering. The new building will also feature a special window to return glass steins.
"We don't believe anyone should have to wait in line to return a glass," Schultz said.
While many families spent last Saturday relaxing on the grass with quilts, Schultz said they will soon provide increased seating options for those that prefer to sit on the picnic tables. With the increased seating, Schultz estimated their seating capacity would increase from 300 to 500 people.
Styled around Oktoberfest and infamous German beer gardens, the beer garden gained national press, unprecedented Yelp reviews and sky-high sales figures after their first season in business last year.
While Schultz declined to comment on the beer garden's profits last year, he did say that they contributed roughly $90,000 to Milwaukee County, which receives 20 percent of alcohol sales and 10 percent of food and beverage sales.
The Estabrook beer garden opens at 4 p.m. weekdays and at noon on the weekends. When the renovations are done, the park will open at noon and take last calls at 9 p.m.