We first mentioned this about ten days ago. First picked up on by Wisconsin's Bio Energy Forum, we posted a link to a St. Paul Pioneer Press article about a new brewery in the works up in Wilson, Wisconsin. Well, we were able to track down the guy starting up BrewFarm, and managed to get him to answer a few questions in his free time.
Madison Beer Review: Who are you? What is your brewing experience? What were you doing immediately before starting BrewFarm?
David Anderson: Who am I? Dang good question. I suppose how it relates to beer and brewing would be most relevant.
I started homebrewing in 1993-4 and people seemed to enjoy my creations. I took that encouragement and attempted to open a brewpub in Plymouth, MN from about 1995-2000 - long story short, I couldn't raise the needed investor money to get the project fully funded and operational. In 1996 I went to the Siebel Institute in Chicago, IL for commercial brewing training. My first brewing job was with Ambleside Brewing Co. in Minneapolis - was there for the 1.5 years it existed. [ed note: Ambleside sold its brewing equipment to Wisconsin's Tyranena Brewing Company] I then sold specialty beer for the Wine Company in the Twin Cities. Moved to Massachusetts to work with a beer importer, got back into brewing with Paper City Brewery in Holoyoke, MA for 2.5 years. Created a craft beer export company ("Brewer's Alchemy Exports") and then moved back to Minnesota to (eventually) open a brewery.
Prior to starting this incarnation of Dave's BrewFarm, I picked up a few consulting jobs: I spent nearly three months in Vietnam working with a start-up brewpub, 10 weeks in Aosta, Italy working with a start-up craft brewery, two week in Israel working with a start-up, one day in Tulsa, OK doing a site selection audit for a start-up. I also worked with a brewery in South Dakota on brewery layout and equipment sourcing.
I am also a Great American Beer Festival Judge and internationally, I've judged the last two years of the "Birra dell'Anno" (Craft Beer of the Year) in Milan, Italy. I judged homebrewing contests on/off for the past 12 years.
MBR: When did you get the idea to start BrewFarm and what prompted it?
DA: The BrewFarm concept was hatched in the Summer of 1995, and as to what prompted it, I've always enjoyed being out the countryside and had thought the idea of a farmhouse brewery made a lot of sense - combining passions.
MBR: Being from Minnesota, what made you choose Wilson, Wisconsin? What was it about the state laws and regulations that made you choose Wisconsin over Minnesota?
DA: I drove all over western WI for 6+ months looking at dirt - the 35 acre site in Wilson has a wonderful combination of rolling pasture and woods, with great wind and solar resources.
WI is just a lot more pro-brewer/brewer-friendly than MN. I have a lot more freedom to sell my beer as I see fit, though I do plan on shipping back to MN - the Twin Cities is a very good specialty beer market with a lot of enthusiastic beer fans.
MBR: What is the basic philosophy of BrewFarm and what are the some of the highlights that put that philosophy into practice?
DA: Dave's BrewFarm will be a sustainably-based venture. I received my permit for my wind generator - it's going to be a Jacobs 31-20 - a 20 kW generator on a 120-foot tower. Heating and cooling will be handled via geothermal. I will have solar panels for thermal water heating - breweries use a lot of hot water. A lot of engineering will go into process energy use and efficiency - how to use, save, utilize energy without sacrificing. A lot of thought is going into this. And it's not just "green" for green's sake – all the renewables and processes have to make functional and fiscal sense. I guess the philosophy is one can make great beer and be "gentle" on the environment; it just takes a bit of forward thinking and some additional funding up-front. It will pay for itself in a relatively short time.
MBR: What kinds of hops and barley will you grow? Will it be more than you need? What will you do with the excess?
DA: I only plan for hops - barley and the associated malting process is very intensive, way beyond the scope of what I want to accomplish. I have 50 fuggles rhizomes growing at the moment. I will be planting many varieties and other herbs/spices/fruits/vegetables for use in the brewing process to create unique beers. Any excess hops would be sold. Once a web site is up, I would make it known what is for sale. The land is "organic" - not yet certified but hasn't had chemicals used on it for more than 10 years. I'm not using chemicals for the hops - more of a "holistic" approach to growing. Wisconsin was the number one hop growing state during the 1860-1870s, so yes, hops can/do grow in WI. Hops are kinda "weed-like" - it's often harder to kill them than grow them. I plan on growing 1-2 acres of hops - that's about 200-300 vines. Harvesting will be by hand (I pay volunteers in beer to pick hops - A lot of beer...). [ed note: anyone who likes beer want to go pick some hops?] Hops take a few years to become established and productive, so percentage-wise, it'll be small. There are so many varieties out there, not all will come from my land.
MBR: What kind of distribution do you envision, if any?
DA: I will self-distribute. I plan on being small and staying small. This is not about knocking out thousands of barrels of beer - I want to create "curious beers of distinction" [ed note: we'll put a TM on that for ya] and spend time crafting and aging. Interesting things can happen...
MBR: Will you give tours or on-site seminars to help others?
DA: Indeed, tours and seminars are planned. I'm definitely into the passing on of knowledge and any other assistance I can lend. Goodness knows that's how I got to this point!
I hope to enlist the help of students at UW-River Falls and UW-Stout for various agriculture projects and renewable/sustainability projects. I want to promote a "living classroom" atmosphere at the BrewFarm.
MBR: What's the official name of this thing? Dave's BrewFarm? The BrewFarm? BrewFarm?
DA: The dba names are: Dave's BrewFarm Brewery on Little Wolf Farmstead. Essentially two businesses but intertwined. I'll be growing hops, therefore the name of the farmstead: The botanical name for hops, Humulus Lupulus comes from its old German name, humela, plus lupulus meaning "Little Wolf" – and there it is ...