One of the state's smallest breweries is undergoing a major expansion and in the process transforming a former grocery store in a small southwestern Wisconsin village.
The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation has awarded a grant of $125,000 to the village of of Soldiers Grove to assist Driftless Brewing Co. with a $1.1 million expansion.
The project, at 102 W. Sunbeam Drive, will add a 70-seat tasting room and expand the brewhouse to a 15-barrel system. The brewery, currently located in the former storeroom of a former IGA store, currently uses a one-barrel system. In 2017, the brewery, using a one-barrel brewing system, produced about 120 barrels of beer that is sold out of a makeshift tasting room and at a few local restaurants, bars and grocery stores.
The renovation and expansion includes the brewing and fermentation operation area, packaging, product storage, office space and storage for ingredients and is scheduled to be completed this fall, said Chris Balistreri, the brewery's brewmaster. The improvements, which will include four, 30-barrel fermentation tanks from Quality Tank Solutions in Oconomowoc, could increase production to 800 barrels in 2019.
"We want to stay really locally focused," said Balistreri, a Milwaukee native. "It fits who we are. The local scene has really had an impact on the growth in these smaller breweries."
In addition to improving the aesthetics of downtown Soldiers Grove, a community of 592 people about 87 miles northwest of Madison, the expansion will also create new jobs, as plans call for initially adding six jobs and up to 12 full-time and part-time positions within five years.