What started as a brewing hobby of a college kid is now the center of a diverse and growing business enterprise. Titletown Brewery founder Brent Weycker grew up near the historic downtown train depot that he and wife, Joanne, transformed into a brewery and restaurant in 1996. His family long owned several business on Broadway, and he’s honored to continue that tradition in newer, larger ways.
Now involved with DDL Holdings, he and his partners renovated portions of the old Larsen Co. cannery into a new brewery and taproom. Adjacent warehouses will soon become mixed-use space for offices and boutique retail as part of the Larsen Green redevelopment project, with Titletown Brewing as its established anchor on the river.
What prompted the idea for Titletown Brewery?
After graduating college I noticed this new concept of a brewery and restaurant and thought it was a perfect fit for the Green Bay market. This was the early 90s and this was a new phenomenon of the local brewery making a comeback. I also had a very supportive wife and family – especially my parents – who were there from day one to help in every way they could.
Did you expect microbreweries to gain in popularity?
I never thought it would explode like it has, but America now has some of the best beer in the world and we have more styles than we’ve ever had in our history. While more competition in our industry will bring new challenges, the beer market is large and most beer consumed is still mainstream light lagers. So more craft breweries will continue to introduce more people to more beer styles and that, I feel, is good for us.
When we first opened, most bars and restaurants you went into had a few options of beer, and they mostly were similar in flavor. Now most places you go throughout Wisconsin have numerous state beers on tap and in bottles and we have choices of different flavors and profiles.
Do you see continued growth in the market?
Before we opened, Green Bay had not had a brewery since 1967. Now the Green Bay area will have seven or eight breweries, some large and some small. The Fox Valley, too, has some new ones as well. Some are what we call “brewpubs,” which include a restaurant and some are just microbreweries which usually only have a taproom. We’re sort of a hybrid which has a brewery that distributes and a place to eat.
Now we’re seeing many really small breweries opening which have small production compared to some of the other breweries. These are called nano breweries. These are interesting in that they have a great place in the market by producing some very unique styles and have low start-up costs. It will be interesting to see where these will go.
As someone who is a history buff, I see this brewery growth as something that existed before prohibition in 1919 when America, and especially Wisconsin, had many breweries. Green Bay had five before prohibition and many were producing large quantities of beer for, basically, local and state markets. Also, it seems as though breweries are built in areas that are in need of rejuvenation and seem to be part of economic development of an area.
Any plans to grow Titletown outside Titletown?
We’re continually being asked to expand to different cities. However, we feel that we’re very happy where we’re at. Our packaged product is how we’ll expand to other parts of the state. That way people can drink Titletown Beer anytime they want and enjoy a taste of Green Bay.
Is the 2014 expansion achieving its goals?
Things are going well with the new brewery. It’s given us the ability to produce more beer and package our beer into bottles. It will allow us to grow for the foreseeable future and keep us competitive in the growing craft beer market.
We were brewing close to 2,000 barrels at the depot, mostly for consumption within our four walls. We did a little over 5,500 bbl. in 2016 and our new capacity with our new beer tanks is 12,000 bbl. a year. So, we should be good for the next couple years of growth. Also, all of our brewing tanks are made in Wisconsin, not to mention that we get most of our malt from Wisconsin as well.
Do you handle your own distribution?
We sell our beer at our brewery and restaurant location downtown. However, we have a distributor network that allows our draft and bottles to be sold in all 72 counties in Wisconsin. We produce draught which is kegs that bars and restaurants serve, and bottles which are sold in liquor and grocery stores, as well as bars and restaurants, too.
It must be good business when a Packer visits.
Obviously, in a city our size we see many players and coaches around town. We do have players stop in from time to time and we don’t really make a big deal as they deserve to come in and enjoy some privacy. We are very fortunate to have such a well-known historic team in our town.
Has the new rooftop patio been an attraction?
With our expansion into the historic vegetable warehouses next to our original depot location, we had a great opportunity to make use of this rooftop with a commanding view of the heart of Green Bay and create another space where guests can enjoy one of our beers. Also, it was another way to show the Green Bay area that historic preservation is important and we can create some great experiences in our spaces.
We’re currently finishing the renovation of the two other warehouses that are attached to our new brewery. These warehouses will continue to transform our downtown, and especially our brewery campus.
What else will occur with the Larsen Green redevelopment?
We have a chance to create some great things next to us and we’re part of team with a vested interest in making this area great again by saving the historic warehouses. All of this property is next to our business, so we care about what happens there. Our new brewery is in the original Larsen Canning buildings which make up about five buildings in total all to the south along Broadway. We’re finishing the last two warehouses which will be predominantly offices with some first floor retail. The two buildings are both four stories tall. No residential is planned for anything south of Kellogg street.
We’re currently working on the property north of Kellogg Street and have an option to purchase from the city. This is where the urban WalMart was proposed. This site contains two large warehouses and lots of open land for some urban development. Hopefully we’ll have more to talk about in the near future.