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Craft brewing business is growing in Wisconsin

Published On: Feb 14 2013 09:31:01 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 15 2013 07:33:30 AM CST


Craft brewing is a booming business in Wisconsin, which ranks ninth among breweries per capita by state.

Last fall, Brian Destree took over brewmaster duties at Middleton's Capital Brewery, one of southern Wisconsin's craft brew staples since 1986.

Before Capital Brewery, the University of Wisconsin-Madison grad worked for Miller-Coors, giving him a unique perspective between craft brewers' personal touch and the bottom line of big business brewing.

"Kind of as I progressed from the corporate ladder at Miller, the farther and farther away I got from actually being in a brewery and doing hands-on brewing work," Destree said.

And while beer makers Miller-Coors and Anheuser-Busch sell the most beer, Wisconsin's craft breweries continue to find a larger piece of the market.

There are 75 breweries statewide, which translates to about 75,000 people for every Wisconsin brewery.

Regulars such as Doug Griffin, a self-proclaimed beer snob, give the Old Fashioned in Madison a reason to take craft beer very seriously.

"Before it was cool to drink a bourbon-aged coffee stout, I was there," Griffin said.

Establishments such as the Old Fashioned are so dedicated to the craft beer movement that they scour the whole state to find beers many people have never heard of.

"We specialize in all Wisconsin beer. We try to focus as much on craft beer. We have 52 different craft beers, all Wisconsin, and over 100 bottles," said Ashley Kinart, a bartender at the Old Fashioned.

"I think it goes with the local food movement, where people want to know where they're getting their food, and they want to know where they're getting their drink. They can count on these local businesses to produce a good product, use good ingredients and create good flavors," Griffin said.

Madison's Ale Asylum, which first hit the craft brew scene in 2006, has recently expanded to keep up with demand.

Otto Dilba, operating manager at Ale Asylum, said differing philosophies will always keep craft brewers relevant in the long run.

"Over time, the larger breweries have made a focused decision to make their product as close to water as humanly possible because it saves on costs. (They're) concerned about the bottom line. You don't see craft breweries doing that," Dilba said.

Highlighting the importance of craft brewing in the local economy, New Glarus Brewing Company's owner Deb Carey sat with first lady Michelle Obama at the president's State of the Union address Tuesday.

New Glarus Brewing Company recently announced an expansion plan, increasing the brewery's production capacity and providing job growth in the state.

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