Southwest Wisconsin expansion on tap at Driftless Brewing

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This is the view of the 15 BBL brewhouse from Driftless Brewing Company’s office mezzanine with its brewer Chris Balistreri working in the background. (Photo courtesy of Driftless Brewing Company)


By Ted Pennekamp


Driftless Brewing Company of Soldiers Grove recently was honored for their business development efforts during the Crawford County Leadership Awards on April 25 at Crossing Rivers Health of Prairie du Chien.

Driftless Brewing completed its $1.2 million renovation and expansion project in February and the company has more exciting news on the horizon.

“We’ve completed our renovation and we’re now focusing on production,” said Driftless Brewing Business Operations Director Cynthia Olmstead. “We’ve signed on with distributor General Beverage. It’s a big step for us.”

Olmstead said Driftless Brewing will be distributing in southwest Wisconsin from La Crosse County to the south. They will also continue self distribution in Soldiers Grove. The distribution in southwest Wisconsin will be followed by a gradual expansion east toward Madison and Milwaukee in coming months and years.

“It’s a slow progression, but we’re looking for new keg and bottle accounts,” said Olmstead, who noted that Driftless Brewing now has 30 accounts in five counties, including Stark’s Sport Shop and Quality Beverage, both of Prairie du Chien.

In fact, Olmstead said businesses interested in selling Driftless Brewing Company’s beers can talk to General Beverage representatives or call her at (608) 624-5577.

The core beers that Driftless Brewing will be distributing include Local Buzz Honey Blonde Ale, DIRT Brown Ale, Kick-Axe Pale Ale, Cow Cult Milk Stout, Rolling Ground IPA, and Saison de Jardin.

Olmstead said Driftless Brewing will not likely have all beers at all locations and it will vary week to week. “We’ll slowly be building our capacity over the next year to supply more beer to more locations,” she said.

“We’ll also be opening our taproom (tasting room) sometime in mid to late May and hope to have a Grand Opening in late July,” said Olmstead, who noted that the taproom will be approximately 45 seats and will be open on Fridays from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. and on Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m.

“We will be working with nearby restaurants and food trucks so that people can enjoy a meal, such as a pizza, along with their beer in our taproom,” she said. “Our taproom will likely have a larger selection of our beers (8-10 taps) as we also use our old small one-barrel system to brew for the taproom and try out new recipes.”

More exciting news for Driftless Brewing Company is that they received a grant through the Buy Local, Buy Wisconsin program administered by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. The grant was one of nine throughout Wisconsin totaling $200,000. The grant for Driftless Brewing Company was for their marketing and distribution effort for their newly expanded brewery and taproom.

“We’re going to become pretty busy,” said Olmstead, who noted there will be various events with Driftless Brewing, including product promotion events in stores to help familiarize people about the several types of beer they offer.

Driftless Brewing Company, 102 W. Sunbeam Boulevard, opened for business in a former grocery store in Soldiers Grove in March of 2014 with a one-barrel system.

The village of Soldiers Grove received a $125,000 Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC) Community Development Investment Grant in May of last year to help with the brewery’s $1.2 million expansion from a one-barrel brewing system to a 15-barrel system. The expansion was done within its 7,000-square-foot building and no additions were needed.

The expansion will allow Driftless Brewing to serve customers throughout southwest and southern Wisconsin and provide a destination brewery and taproom for those seeking quality, local craft beer in the Driftless Region.

In addition to the WEDC grant, Driftless Brewing Company’s expansion was supported by equipment and building renovation bank loans from Citizens First Bank of Viroqua, SBA 504 equipment and building renovation loans via Wisconsin Business Development, a Mississippi River Regional Planning Commission CMV Growth Development Fund business loan for working capital, and funding from private investor members of the Driftless Brewing Company. The Crawford County Driftless Development Corporation also lent support to the project.

The renovation and expansion included the brewing and fermentation operation area, packaging, product storage, office space and ingredient storage.

The Driftless Brewing Company has always prided itself on using the finest local and regional ingredients, environmentally-progressive production and marketing and a passion for artisan beer-making that is communicated to its customers across the state.

Driftless Brewing uses local and regional businesses, co-ops and farmers for 95 percent or more of their ingredients. Their beers, in name and taste, reflect the rich abundance of the Driftless Area and many of ingredients are sourced within a few miles of the brewery.

Driftless Brewing Company made quite a name for itself with its alive, unfiltered and unpasteurized beer, and demand rapidly outgrew capacity.

With its recent expansion and renovation, Driftless Brewing Company is poised to become one of the leading craft breweries in the region and a growing force in the Wisconsin craft brewing industry.

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