Southwest Wisconsin brewery plans sizable expansion

POTOSI, Wis. — A southwest Wisconsin brewery next week will implement the first phase of a multi-million dollar expansion project that could create as many as a dozen new jobs.

Rick Kruser, general manager of Potosi Brewing Co., said the business will begin utilizing a new canning line on Monday capable of producing 100 cans per minute. This marks the first step in a multi-faceted growth plan that will be carried out over the next couple of years.

The second phase of the project will kick off in September, when the company will install new fermentation tanks and brite tanks, as well as new automated packaging equipment.

In the third and final phase of the project, the brewery will conduct a building expansion that will create additional warehouse space. While a specific timeline has not been established for the building expansion, Kruser said he expects it will be completed by the end of 2022.

Kruser estimated that the overall investment for the multi-phased expansion will be anywhere from $2 million to $2.5 million. This will be accompanied by growth to the company’s workforce.

“This fall or early next year, we will be adding a whole second shift,” he said. “We’ll be adding anywhere from 8 to 12 full-time jobs within the next couple years.”

Kruser said that some of the company’s growth is tied to contract work. He noted that Potosi Brewing Co. is working with other companies that need help packaging beer and hard seltzers. The latter category, in particular, has seen major growth in recent years.

“Seltzers are here to stay,” he said. “That is going to be a whole new category.”

The past year has not always been easy for craft breweries. Kruser acknowledged that smaller operations, including Potosi Brewing Co., struggled to keep pace amid the pandemic.

“Obviously, our numbers were a bit down,” he said. “More people were buying 24 packs of beer (from larger brewers) instead of buying six packs from smaller breweries.”

Still, there are plenty of reasons for optimism.

Kruser said the community is eagerly awaiting the return of Potosi Brewfest in a couple months. The event will be held in late August, marking the return of the annual occasion after COVID-19 forced its cancellation last year.

“Our ticket sales are way ahead of where they were at this time in 2019,” he said. “People are dying to get out, to do something and to have some fun.”

News of Potosi Brewing Co.’s expansion has sparked excitement among local economic development officials.

Grant County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Ron Brisbois praised Potosi Brewing Co. for adapting quickly to changing industry conditions.

“It shows that, like any good business, they keep evolving,” Brisbois said. “They are staying competitive and reading their market and expanding accordingly.”