Dubuque brewery plots expansion into southwest Wisconsin

A Dubuque brewery soon will open a new location in southwest Wisconsin, kicking off a broader expansion plan that could see the business establishing roots in other communities in the coming years.

Keith Gutierrez, the owner of 7 Hills Brewing Co., said the business aims to open a facility in Platteville in August. It will occupy the former location of 2nd & Main at 92 E. Main St.

The new location will be known as 7 Hills North, according to Gutierrez. It will serve a wide variety of 7 Hills beers, offer a limited selection of food and consistently host live entertainment. Gutierrez said 7 Hills also will do some brewing on site.

“We have always wanted to get into the Wisconsin market, and this was a great fit for us,” Gutierrez said. “We share a lot of similarities (with 2nd & Main). They were a craft beer bar, which was something very original to Platteville, and they had a wider, diverse customer base — everyone from college-age kids to professionals — which is something we really strive for.”

Mike Osterholz and his wife, Stephanie Becker, opened 2nd & Main in 2017. The couple also owns the building in which the business resided.

Osterholz last month confirmed that 2nd & Main had closed. At the time, he noted that another business soon would move into the structure, but he declined to offer specifics about that entity.

“That was the hardest part of all of this,” he told the Telegraph Herald on Thursday. “It was difficult keeping a lid on things. People had questions (about what was coming next) that we couldn’t answer.”

Osterholz emphasized that it was always his intention to operate 2nd & Main for a few years before bringing another company into the property. He believes that 7 Hills will be a great fit for the property and for the Platteville community as a whole.

“The whole idea (with 2nd & Main) was to implement a concept that Platteville didn’t have and then let someone else take the torch and run with it,” he said. “7 Hills is definitely the right business to do that.”

The original 7 Hills Brewing Co. opened at 1085 Washington St., in Dubuque’s Millwork District, in the summer of 2017.

Nearly four years later, Gutierrez framed the opening of a second location as part of a broader expansion plan.

“I wouldn’t say it is a huge leap. It is just the next phase and the next step in our development,” Gutierrez said. “If this location in Dubuque is the hotel, what we’re looking to do now is build some houses around it.”

In addition to providing a gathering place in Platteville, the new location will allow 7 Hills to increase distribution throughout Wisconsin.

Gutierrez said 7 Hills has “other plans in the works,” noting that it eventually hopes to establish satellite locations in all four directions. While Platteville has been identified as the brewery’s location to the north, Gutierrez is hoping that a Galena location could one day give 7 Hills a presence to the east of Dubuque.

Specific ambitions to the south and west haven’t taken shape, but Gutierrez floated the idea of opening facilities in markets such as Davenport or Cedar Falls.

The location in Platteville will employ 10 to 15 people, adding to a workforce that already includes about 60 people at the Dubuque location.

It will serve appetizers, burgers and sandwiches. But some of the items served at the Dubuque location, including pizzas, will not be available in Platteville.

7 Hills is also continuing to branch out when it comes to its beers, Gutierrez noted.

“In the first year or two, we wanted to focus on our core beers, which sacrificed the diversity of beers,” he said. “Now that we got those dialed in, we can look into more experimentals.”

Gutierrez said kettle sours, dessert beers, fruited wheat beers and hazy IPAs have all been added to the 7 Hills lineup.

He acknowledged that 2020 presented some challenges to the brewery but said sales only dipped about 15%, which was better than expected given the mandated, two-month closure it endured.

Fortunes have turned around in 2021.

“So far, this is the best year we have ever had,” Gutierrez said.