Made in Wisconsin: Beer - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Made in Wisconsin: Beer

(WAOW) -

Beer is a huge industry in the badger state. Experts say that beverage has an economic impact of more than eight billion dollars a year and many breweries are thriving in central Wisconsin.

Newsline 9's Bonnie Shelton got a behind-the-scenes tour of two popular breweries to see how their prized product is made in Wisconsin.

"There's light styles, dark styles and everything in between," said Leinenkugel's tour guide Katie Marinello.

When it comes to beer, the options in Wisconsin seem endless.

"We package about 5,000 cases a day," said Stevens Point Brewery Director of Marketing Julie Birrenkott.

At the Stevens Point Brewery, employees are busier than ever. The company is Wisconsin-owned and was founded more than 150 years ago.

Things have changed a lot since then and a new $2 million dollar expansion project will help employees make more beer than ever before.

"10 years ago we were at 70,000 barrels, and now our capacity is going to be 150,000 barrels," said Birrenkott.

Not to mention they brew and package beers from companies across the United States along with point favorites.

"Our top selling beer is Point Special Lager," said Birrenkott.

But it takes time to make their products.

"It starts out with the brewing and the blending of the raw materials and putting that together. Going up to fermenting and fermenting for about a week. Then, going down to aging and aging for about four to six weeks," she said.

In all, it takes about a month to get from hops to bottle.

"We are brewing the best quality beers that we have ever brewed here at the Stevens Point brewery," said Birrenkott.

But the Stevens Point Brewery is just one of several craft breweries in Wisconsin that's thriving. At the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Chippewa Falls, Summer Shandy has really taken off in the last few years.

"Summer Shandy is definitely going to be picking up a lot during the summer months," said Marinello.

The combination of beer and lemonade is a German tradition and demand for the Leinenkugel's brew has skyrocketed in recent years prompting a nationwide ad campaign. That's despite the fact the product is only sold about six months out of the year.

"Usually a batch takes anywhere from 20 to 30 days," added Marinello. But many other varieties of beer are also made in Chippewa Falls, where beer is crafted traditionally in small batches with more attention to detail, hence the name craft beer.

"Water, barley, hops and yeast is the main mixture and different proportions are going to give you all the different flavors," said Marinello, "brew it all together and magic happens and you've got beer."

And they're making a lot of beer in Chippewa Falls.

"It's usually about 460 beers a minute," she said.

Employees at both companies said Wisconsin tradition keeps the craft brewing industry strong.

"They love a well-made beer and they stick with it," said Marinello.

"We have several great Wisconsin breweries that just really pay attention to the quality and use great ingredients and time and tradition to make great beer in Wisconsin," added Birrenkott.

But representatives from both companies want to remind you to enjoy their products responsibly.

You can tour both of the breweries mentioned in this story.

For information about touring the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company's facilities, click here:

For information about touring the Stevens Point Brewery's facility once the expansion is complete, click here:

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