Discourse Coffee invents Unique Coffee Cocktails at Museum Pop-Up

The self-proclaimed coffee workshop at Milwaukee Art Museum Milwaukee Art Museum aims to turn the concept of a coffee cocktail around.


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Photos from Discourse Coffee

Imagine approaching the staff at the cafe at your local art museum and instead of asking for drip coffee, you request an “Moonwater.” It’s just one of numerous creative drinks available at Discourse Coffee, a new Milwaukee-based “coffee workshop” that is shaking up the city’s art museum by serving savory coffee cocktails that are inspired by the art works that are displayed inside it.

Also, please be aware that the term “workshop” isn’t a misnomer. This is an environment where experimentation is performed in a literal sense and a thorough understanding of flavor science and coffee can help create distinctive drinks for art lovers in Milwaukee.

Discourse Coffee is bringing next-level innovation to the world of coffee cocktails.

Discourse Coffee and the Milwaukee Art Museum

Robert Stein, deputy director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, reached out to Discourse to discuss cooperating on a project which could create a more interactive and supportive community space within the Milwaukee area. The result of this collaboration was the launch of the Discourse Coffee pop-up at the Milwaukee Art Museum earlier this year.

The menu is based on drinks that are inspired by artworks from the museum’s collection, with every drink designed to reflect the story and flavor, texture and scent of the piece that has inspired it. Some drinks that are coming out of the works include one that was inspired by the work of sculpture Typewriter Eraser, while another will be inspired by the self-portrait of Andien de Clermont.

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We had a chat with the Discourse Coffee team Coffee: Ryan Castelaz who is the creator and creative director; Olivia Molter, director of design and Sean Liu, director of operations to learn more about the project.

From Sister Bay to Milwaukee

Discourse started as a coffee class in Sister Bay, Wis. It was the concept of Ryan and a former coworker. After Ryan relocated to Milwaukee COVID-19 was a big hit and he was inspired by the urge to know more about the ways different flavors interact – got an unpaid job as an expert in flavor science with Kerry Flavor & Ingredients. “I mostly work in the canned cocktail and hard seltzer space, with a focus on innovation in the alcohol sector,” he explains. “Most of what I do involves challenging the taste of the general public by combining popular flavor choices like peach mango, or berry with new and exciting flavors like balsamic, candied pecan, and ghost chili.”

At the same time , he began to do Discourse pop-ups at various locations around the city. One of them was when Olivia suggested that he navigate the long line by jumping in front of the bar.

Presently, Olivia manages all things design and online presence for Discourse including social media, and the design of its website all the way to branding and packaging. “My goal was to find a balance between being genuinely approachable, friendly humorous, fun, and casual, while also being delicious and luxurious since all these elements are present in Discourse,” she says.

Olivia, Ryan, and Sean at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

Discourse Coffee A Menu Full of Surprises

With Olivia and Sean joining the group finally found a space which felt home-like, in the Crossroads Collective food hall in Milwaukee’s Lower East Side.

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The imaginative tea and coffee drinks served at Discourse Coffee workshop are intended to tell an experience or a story. The enthusiasm for innovation and change is evident in their menu that is constantly changing that is based on the seasons of their ingredients.

In order to give you an idea The “Odd Duck” is a drink that is made using sous-vide coffee (a culinary technique that involves the brewing of coffee in vacuum sealed bags at various temperatures) together with dried candy-cap mushrooms, fenugreek seeds sweet soy sauce and black garlic. It also contains maple, coconut cream Odd Duck bitters blend activated charcoal, passionfruit powder tonka bean and Oat milk.

We’ve not heard of anyone else making their coffee using sous-vide and even making use of soy sauce in a drink! It works flawlessly because the Discourse team is well-versed in how different flavors work.

Serving a high-quality beverage at a Speed-Paced Rate

How is this possible in a fast-paced world? This is where Sean is in. “My main focus is how we can create our signature drinks in a short time without sacrificing flavor or quality,” says Sean. “There were ways in which we were able consolidate the steps involved in making drinks without compromising your experience.”

The Discourse menu at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

The team has a couple of projects in the pipeline which include offering consultation services as well as publishing a recipe and methodology book that will help other baristas to add more layers of sustainability and creativity in their beverage making.

You can go to Discourse Coffee at Milwaukee’s Crossroads Collective or the Milwaukee Art Museum.

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Vasileia Fanarioti (she/her) is a freelance copywriter and editor with a an emphasis on the coffee industry. She has also served as an aide-copywriter for the I’M NOT A BRISTA NPO, which provides information to inform people about baristas and the work they do. You can follow her adventures at thewanderingbean.net.

This article was first published at Barista Magazine, an online magazine dedicated to baristas and coffee professionals.

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