Local brewer: craft beer market is over saturated

Published: Dec. 30, 2016 at 8:54 PM CST
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Craft beer is big business in northcentral Wisconsin. One of the first, if not the first, established was back in 1857 with the Stevens Point Brewery, according to the Point Brewery website.

However, craft breweries today are so popular, there may be too many of them, thus causing an over-saturated market.

That’s one of the reasons the owner of Bull Falls Brewery sent a letter to the City of Wausau’s mayor and finance committee.

The owner wants an extension on a current loan to offset costs because the craft brewing market is so competitive with too many breweries fighting for space on the taps.

NewsChannel 7’s Hannah Anderson spoke with local brewers to find out how they’re staying competitive.

For brewers like Kevin Eichelberger, owner of Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau, Wis., beer is big business.

“I’'ve been brewing for 20 years, Eichelberger said. “It's a life for me."

A busy brew pub is exactly what Eichelberger likes to hear.

“Consumers now are demanding more and more change,” Eichelberger said. “They want what's new and what's hot.”

Which is a lot different than when he started 20 years ago, brewing in Arizona where he got his brewing business started. Now, there’s a the new challenge: how to keep up with the market.

"The sheer number of breweries is staggering in the last two, to three years,” Eichelberger said.

"What we're seeing is that there's a limited amount of taps out there.”

Fighting for taps and handles at the bar and space on the shelves is also what Bull Falls Brewery Owner Mike Zamzow is taking on, too.

“The market has changed dramatically,” Zamzow said, “and in a very short period of time.”

“Mega-breweries that once made Wisconsin famous have largely disappeared--- and replaced by innovative craft brewers,” according to travelwisconsin.com.

One of those “innovative craft brewers is Zamzow.

"The guys who make the good beer are going to prevail," Zamzow said.

He also wrote to the City of Wausau that the craft brewing market is over saturated. In the letter, Zamzow asked for an extension on a current loan he has with the city.

The request was in response to the rapid growth of breweries.

"This is called good business,” Zamzow said when NewsChannel 7 asked him for why he asked for the extension.

Also because of the rapid growth, small breweries have to expand to more states to sell the same amount of beer they used to, according to Eichelberger.

"It becomes a double-edged sword then you have beer spread all over and you can't really, can't really control it at that point," Eichelberger said.

NewsChannel 7 reached out to the city for comment on this story. Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke said the request needs to go through the finance and economic committee before anything is agreed on.

A graphic from the brewersassociation.org shows Wisconsin ranks 14th in the state for number of breweries with 121. It also shows the state as ninth in beer producing in the nation, pushing out about 1 million barrels of craft beer produced each year.

Click to the link to the right to see how all the states compare.