What's Brewing? The Rise of Microbreweries in Northcentral Wisconsin

By: John DesRivieres
By: John DesRivieres

Large breweries like Budweiser and Miller make up the majority of beer sales in the United States. But there's a growing segment of breweries out there that are taking a chunk out of their sales.

The craft beer industry continues to expand, and beer drinkers in Central Wisconsin are tasting the benefits.

Just a few beers are brewed exclusively at Oso Brewery in Plover. Marc Buttera and his brewer Mike Smith are the model for modern microbreweries.

"Hopefully the consumer is looking for something exciting and different and innovative, and that's what we offer," says Buttera.

Craft beer, made in smaller batches with creative recipes, continues to grow in market share. Buttera says it took up almost 7 percent of U.S. beer sales last year. That growth is allowing breweries like Oso to flourish.

"Last year we produced 350 barrels. This year we jumped to 1,200 barrels. Beer is one of those things that's recession proof. We continue to grow leaps and bounds," says Buttera.

While Buttera and his team at Oso are just beginning to tap their potential, another local brewer is building on its reputation under a new name. The Blue Heron Brew Pub is located at Historical Parkin Place on Ninth Street in Marshfield. Head Brewer Craig Ziolkowski produces the beer that the brew pub has become known for. While the staple flavors are still there, Ziolkowski always has the creative juices flowing. "We're doing recipes that haven't been done for a long time. Pre-prohibition and some stuff on the cutting edge that we've never seen before."

Both brewers agree that innovation is what craft beer is all about. They say that here in Central Wisconsin, we're at the forefront.

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