Verona’s Wisconsin Brewing Company will soon transition its indoor event space into a canning line.
Those cans will be filled with WBC’s own brews, of course, but also the soon-to-be-acquired Lake Louie beers and health and nutrition beverages.
An expansion to add a packaging line for all of the products could be next.
“I really see us journeying down the path of Wisconsin Beverage Company,” WBC president and CEO Carl Nolen told the Press Monday, a day after the Lake Louie acquisition became public. “It’s a great time to be in the beer business – or I now have to say beverage business.”
Nolen said WBC has been working with Arena-based Lake Louie for almost two years on the acquisition, which is set to close July 1, though he, WBC brewmaster Kirby Nelson and Lake Louie owner Tom Porter have been friends for much longer and began “kicking around the idea” more than two years ago.
“There’s deals, and then there are great deals,” Nolen said. “Great opportunities are worth pursuing and figuring out how to make it happen.”
Lake Louie’s brews include its “flagship brand Warp Speed Scotch Ale,” which Nolen noted was not a type of brew WBC currently has. He said will continue to be marketed and sold under the Lake Louie brand.
“It’s a perfect fit,” he said.
For at least the next year, the company will brew beer at both its WBC location and the Lake Louie facility in Arena through a lease agreement with Porter. Nolen said the WBC facility is much more efficient, with an 80-barrel system. Lake Louie has 15-barrel brewing equipment.
“We can do in five hours what he’s doing in a few days,” Nolen said.
WBC will bring on all of Lake Louie’s employees, and Nolen said by next year, when WBC plans another expansion, he hopes to be at 25 employees – nearly double the current 13. That expansion will add a packaging line to increase its production capacity, Nolen said.
By this September, the company expects to have added its canning space that will also facilitate three new partnerships – one with an out-of-state craft brewery and two with health and nutrition drink companies.
“We took a step back last fall, and it became pretty clear to us that there was a tremendous opportunity with production to look outside of the beer category into other categories,” Nolen said. “There’s a real tight capacity on demand right now.”
That physical expansion also means there’s no weather backup for WBC’s many outdoor concerts or events – instead, Nolen said, they would have to be canceled.
But it’s a step in a direction he had long anticipated, with the fast growth in the brewery industry – from around 2,000 craft breweries when WBC opened in 2013 to almost 7,500 today.
“It’s a first big step,” Nolen said. “We always had in our mind that there’d be some type of maturing and consolidation effort at the brewery level.”