YOUR TOWN MERRILL: Wisconsin Microbreweries grow in popularity

Published: Dec. 14, 2016 at 8:08 AM CST
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Mega breweries led to Wisconsin getting a reputation for beer, but now smaller craft breweries are popping up around the state following a big trend across the country. Places like the Sawmill Brewing Company in Your Town Merrill.

What happens behind the scenes

Before you can get a refreshing beer, it starts with the brew. First, brew masters combine malt, or grain, and hot water. Basically, it's soaking the grain allowing it to germinate and then stopping germination with heat. Then the mash tun, separates the malt and they're left with a sweet liquid called wort. That gets transferred to the boil tanks where they'll boil the wort and add hops. It's crash cooled and heads into the basement down two pipes. Downstairs is where the fermentation process happens, where yeast will eat sugars that came from the malt and it's converted into alcohol and C02.

The Sawmill Brewing Company is a hot spot for locals

While all this work is going on behind the scenes, the real show happens outside this glass.

"I came to the realization that we needed a place to gather in Merrill," said Sawmill Brewing Company Owner Stan Janowiak.

He himself enjoy Merrill bars, but felt the area needed something different. A place that's not just a bar, but something more. The microbrewery brings people in from not only Merrill, but around north central Wisconsin. When he thought he would attract baby boomers, little did he know, it'd be so popular with millennials.

"I really thought I was building this for old people, by old people, I mean 40 and up," he said. "Young people dig this place, I mean, they just love it," he exclaimed.

Small craft breweries is a growing trend. According to the Brewers Association's latest data from 2015, last year craft brewery production went up 13 percent nationally. Here in Wisconsin, as of last year, there are 121 craft breweries. There was a big increase from 2011 to 2015 as the number of micro breweries in Wisconsin nearly doubled.

"It's young people that are driving this movement," said Janowiak.

Since The Sawmill Brewing Company is a microbrewery, not a brew pub, they don't have a kitchen, but interestingly enough, they do have a food truck outside, where they'll serve food like wings and cheese curds.