SAUK CITY — The views from a vacant lot along the Wisconsin River here won’t change.
In the fall, the trees will burst with colors, colder months will bring more eagles and in the spring huge chunks of ice will flow past.
But instead of taking in the views from what is now a vacant lot, or what years ago had been home to a car wash and laundromat, the site will undergo a dramatic $6 million transformation designed to grow the business of a Madison brewing company, bring more people to Sauk City’s downtown and create more than 80 jobs.
The owners of Vintage Brewing Co. broke ground last week on a 10,000-square-foot brewery, restaurant and banquet facility for 250 people scheduled to open next fall. The project, which is getting $1.35 million in taxpayer assistance through a tax increment financing district, is located next to Wilderness Fish & Game on the northeast side of the village’s downtown and will be highly visible for those crossing the Highway 12 bridge from Dane County.
The village purchased the land in the 1990s and most recently it was home to the Fair Valley Schoolhouse and the former Boots and Shoes repair shop, both historic buildings that have been moved to other locations.
“This property had been underutilized,” said Jim Anderson, village president for the past 13 years. “I was thinking we would have had (something) going here a long time ago, but now that it’s here, it was certainly worth all of the work. It’s going to create a domino effect in bringing people and other business that would complement it. It will make (Sauk City) more of a destination.”
The villages of Sauk City and neighboring Prairie du Sac have a combined population of over 7,500 and are just 20 minutes from Madison’s Far West Side. The communities have become a popular and less expensive alternative to the suburbs adjacent to Madison for many homeowners, while the beauty of the area brings bird watchers, paddlers, anglers and other tourists. Wollersheim Winery, the state’s largest winery, is across the river in the town of Roxbury in Dane County and the Baraboo Hills, Devil’s Lake and the 7,100-acre former Badger Army Ammunition Plant that is being transformed into a natural area are just minutes away.
The location for the 27,000- square-foot facility that will include an outdoor beer garden, was seen as a natural for the owners of Vintage, many of whom grew up, or spent considerable time, on the family farm near Plain, west of Sauk City.
Trent Kraemer grew up in Spring Green and his wife Brittany is from Harmony Grove near Lodi. In 2002, the couple opened Vintage Spirits & Grill, 529 University Ave., just a few blocks from the Kohl Center but in 2009 were among the investors in Vintage Brewing Co., that opened in what had been J.T. Whitney’s, 674 Whitney Way, in the Whitney Way Shopping Center. In 2013, the group, that also includes cousins Scott and Bryan Manning, uncle Mark Kraemer, and family friend Mike Bridges, opened a “satellite pub” called the Woodshed Ale House in Sauk City.
It’s unclear if that business will remain after the new facility is opened, but Trent Kraemer said his group is excited about expanding the Vintage brand to Sauk County.
“We’ve had a lot of people who have asked why not (expand into) Waukesha or Milwaukee, which for a lot of companies, having a large population would make more sense, but for us we really think the community has been underserved for craft beer for a long time,” Kraemer said.
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The new facility, at 600 Water St., however, is a big-time project and continues the trend of more brewpubs and breweries entering smaller communities. In the last 14 months, Waunakee saw the opening of a $5 million Octopi Brewing Co. in the village’s industrial park and the opening earlier this year of Lone Girl Brewing Co. in the village’s downtown. Stoughton has Viking Brewpub in its downtown, Sun Prairie is negotiating with two potential brewpub operators while Verona is home to Gray’s Tied House, Hop Haus Brewing Co. and Wisconsin Brewing Co. And let’s not forget that two of the state’s largest craft beer companies, New Glarus Brewing Co. and Minhas Craft Brewing in Monroe, are both in Green County.
The new Vintage brewery will allow the company to produce up to 10,000 barrels of beer per year, the maximum allowed for a brew pub under state law. About 2,000 barrels will be brewed in the 10-barrel brewhouse at the Vintage location on Whitney Way in Madison with the remainder produced in Sauk City in a 30-barrel brewhouse.
Holiday bazaar planned
The Aldo Leopold Nature Center, 330 Femrite Dr., in Monona, will hold its sixth annual holiday bazaar on Sunday, Dec. 4.
The event, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., will include over 30 local artists and vendors, a silent auction and homemade lefse, is a fundraiser for environmental education programs. The event is free with vendors selling items like alpaca wool and sheep wool products; apple butter, herbal teas and salves; cheese products and egg art ornaments.
State’s largest cookie sale
What is billed as the state’s largest cookie sale returns next weekend in the Dodge County community of Lebanon.
The farming community known for its band and baseball team is also home to St. Peter’s Lutheran Church that is hosting its 19th annual Christmas Cookie and Craft Sale at the church, located at W4661 Highway MM, seven miles northeast of Watertown.
The event boasts over 150 varieties of Christmas cookies and candies, cinnamon rolls, and Kranz Kuchen, a German sweet bread. Lunch is also served both days with abaked potatoes and toppings, homemade soups and sandwiches. Crafters are also on hand with handmade items. For more information call 920-925-3547 or go to stpetersoflebanonwi.org.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to correct the size of the brewhouse in the Sauk City location of Vintage Brewing.