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Wisconsin Brewing Company

in Verona, WI
by Mike Huberty - July 2015

Photo Caption: Wisconsin Brewing Company

Wisconsin Brewing Company

Kirby Nelson isn’t the kind of man who minces words. “I’m 59 years old”, he says, “and when you’re starting a new company at this stage, it’s kind of scary. But beer is never boring and I’m having the time of my life.” Nelson is the brewmaster at Wisconsin Brewing Company, an upstart (albeit well-funded) brewery based in Verona started by former Capital Brewery president Carl Nolen, his Mark, and Nelson, himself, Capital’s brewmaster for over two decades.

“Capital, as far as I’m concerned”, Kirby continues, “was hijacked by its two largest shareholders and I did not think that the direction they were headed was good for the company. And I was ready for a change. Carl Nolen (former Capital Brewery president and current WBC CEO) had been part of this and was unceremoniously dismissed. It wasn’t right. I had an axe to grind and I was ready for something different. Carl and his brother did a great job of raising a ton of money and told me ‘We’re gonna build a brewery, we’re gonna build a good-sized one, we’re gonna build for success, and we want you to be part of it.’ And away we went.” And away they went indeed. After officially launching in November of 2013, Wisconsin Brewing Company has already launched sixteen beers (with the seventeenth, a Scotch Ale called Depth Charge, to be launched at a special event July 12th with live music from Jon Dee Graham.)

Nelson worked for G. Heileman Brewing in La Crosse during their heyday (when they were the home of the world’s biggest six-pack) and he started third-shift as quality assurance (he says it was chemical analysis with things like pH and alcohol and science and blah blah, but “third shift beer tester” does kind of just sound like a euphemism for a lush) and then moved to Florida brewing company for a little while before settling in at Capital Brewery, where he worked for twenty-six years.

Now that Wisconsin Brewing Company is established, it’s not only been busy making tasty beers, but hosting plenty of live bands at their taproom as well. Support of local music is something you’d expect from a company that named one of their beers, “Blister In The Sun” (for those who’ve made their homes under a rock for the past three decades, that’s the name of the most popular song to come from arguably the most famous Milwaukee band ever, Violent Femmes.)

And continuing their dedication to Wisconsin, one of their beers is called Yankee Buzzard, which is a name connected intimately with the Dairy State. “At first we just came out and were so worried about the facility, that we were just going to to name our beers what they were, American IPA, Amber, Lager, and all that…” Kirby says, “But we realized that we had to give the beers just a little more personality.” This particular name comes from Old Abe, who was the bald eagle mascot for a Wisconsin Civil War regiment and was derisively called a “Yankee buzzard” by Confederate soldiers.

Wisconsin Brewing Company Beer Garden this summer alone is featuring Mark Croft, WC Clark, Moondance, and the New Moon Gypsies. Music is every Friday, May through September, and there’s never a cover charge. Their taproom is out in Verona and there’s plenty of parking and it’s open until 9pm on weekdays (excluding Mondays, where it’s closed completely) and 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays.

While the taproom and beer garden are a great place to hang out and listen to live music, their focus remains on creating a solid great-tasting beer. “The vast majority of our business and whether we’re either gonna make it or work at a car wash, is how we sell beer out on the street…” Nelson says, “We want people to come out of there with a real good impression of our facility, a real good impression of our beers and of us. If they come out and have a good time, hearing a great band, having a few beers in a beautiful setting, hopefully when they go out to a restaurant or a liquor store and they see our stuff, they’ll pick it up and buy it.”

Wisconsin Brewing Company
1079 American Way
Verona, WI 53593 (608) 848-1079

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