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Building Breweries and Designing Distilleries

Building Breweries and Designing Distilleries

Many of us enjoy a great microbrew or cocktail, preferably crafted by a favorite local microbrewery or distillery in our own city or town. Nationwide, the number of breweries in the U.S has increased almost 50 percent, according to Fortune. And you may have noticed the Madison area has no shortage of microbreweries and distilleries popping up, dreaming up your next refreshing beer or delicious drink.

Sketchworks Architecture is proud that we’ve worked on several of the region’s notable microbreweries and distilleries—including the area’s newest, Cambridge’s Dancing Goat Distillery. We talked to project manager (and our brewery and distillery expert) Kirk Biodrowski about the ins and outs of working on a microbrewery or distillery.


Q: Tell us about the brewery and distillery clients that Sketchworks has worked with.

Kirk Biodrowski: Death’s Door Distillery is a large volume distiller in Middleton that [we] renovated an existing building for the production of various distilled beverages. As our first distillery, we learned a lot about the spirits industry working on this job.

Rockhound Brewing Company is a brewpub and restaurant in Madison that [involved] renovating an existing building. Probably the coolest part of this project (as with many projects we do) was the owners. They had put their entire life savings into this project and relied on us to deliver a space that would help them succeed.

The Dancing Goat Distillery is a large-volume distiller with a tasting room [that is housed in a] new building in Cambridge. The space includes a two-story retail space with glass overhead doors to allow open air during events, a tasting bar and a window wall to let visitors see into the distillery and production area. The design made special use of reclaimed barn wood for the tasting bar and used hand-forged iron for the barstools.

State Line Distillery is a small-batch distiller with a tasting room [that was a] renovation of an existing building. This project was especially challenging given the conditions of the existing structure. The transformation to the distillery and tasting room has been astounding.


Q: Why has Sketchworks been able to work with so many breweries and distilleries?

KB: Experience is very important in this field of architecture because it is so specialized and has a whole different set of regulations and codes that most building types do not require. Strong relationships with the clients has also helped. Our work at Death’s Door led to relationships that allowed us to obtain other jobs.


Q: What are your brewery and distillery clients looking for in their designs?

KB: In the tasting rooms, most clients are looking for something industrial in nature that still gives a nod to the craftsmanship of the brewer or distiller. The stills are beautiful and so everyone wants to have a view of the stills from the tasting rooms. Also, the stills can be very tall, so adding a cupola with windows to allow in light has been … a common theme.


Q: What is the biggest challenge that comes with doing these types of projects?

KB: Understanding the special code requirements for this type of building. We now know them ahead of time, but each building and space is unique, and requires a code review for every job. Now we know where to look and what to look for when doing our code research.


Q: What was the most exciting design you’ve worked on?

KB: For me, it would have to be State Line Distillery. The existing building was in very, very bad shape when we started the process of design. Utilizing some of the existing “roughness” of the existing building and blending in just enough of new materials and design made the space turn out beautifully, into a first-class facility and tasting room. The client couldn’t be happier with the end result.


Q: So, what’s your favorite beverage of choice at your clients’ establishments?

KB:Beer would be Bituminous (a smoked porter) from Rockhound Brewing Company. Cocktail would be the Bushman (gin, lime juice, sage-buchu leaf syrup and seltzer) from State Line Distillery.