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State's latest craft brewery to open in Verona

11:54 AM, Oct. 28, 2013  |  Comments
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VERONA, Wis. (AP) - A new brewery in Verona plans to open its tap room Friday, another addition to the nation's booming craft beer industry.

Wisconsin Brewing Co. initially plans to sell four beers at Verona restaurants and bars. Next month, they'll distribute to liquor and grocery stores, as well as in bars and restaurants in a 22-county area, the Wisconsin State Journal reported (http://bit.ly/1dhC6pN ).

The country's craft beer industry is ever expanding, growing 15 percent last year to 13.2 million barrels, according to the Colorado-based Brewers Association. Meanwhile, the overall sales of all U.S. beers rose less than 1 percent.

Currently, craft beer accounts for about 6.5 percent of the 200 million barrels sold each year. If every beer drinker in the country drank one more craft beer per month, that would translate to an increase in market share of nearly 3 percentage points, said Bart Watson, a staff economist with the Brewers Association.

"Even small changes in consumer behavior can dramatically reshape the landscape of the American beer market in a short time period," Watson said.

Wisconsin craft brewers have traditionally started small, with limited investment capital. For example, the owners of New Glarus Brewing Co. got their startup cash by selling their home, and the founder of Lake Louie Brewing near Arena financed his business by cashing in his retirement funds.

But Wisconsin Brewing Co. is starting big and planning to get bigger. The company raised $8 million from investors, and by 2015 plans to spend more than $12 million to install bottling and packaging machines. That work is currently outsourced.

The brewery's long-term goal is to produce 250,000 barrels per year. That would be about twice what New Glarus, the state's current largest craft brewer, will make this year.

"Those are pretty amazing numbers to me, only in that no craft brewery in the state has done that yet. And there are people that have been in business for a lot of years," said Jeff Hamilton, president of Milwaukee-based Sprecher Brewing Co. and a past president of the Wisconsin Brewers Guild. "It's probably possible, but it's pretty tough to do."

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Information from: Wisconsin State Journal, http://www.madison.com/wsj

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