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How Wisconsin craft breweries are working to stay afloat

Posted at 8:26 AM, May 04, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-04 09:26:05-04

DE PERE (NBC 26) — "I definitely would have thought we'd have, we'd be open for a year by now," said Matt Walters.

He and his brother had the idea to open up their own craft brewery back in 2019, Cocoon Brewing. They had planned to be open by spring 2020, but that dream stopped dead in its tracks when March came around. First, it was the pandemic that slowed them down, but now inflation and supply issues are causing more setbacks. Thankfully, the groundbreaking is happening in the next few weeks.

Craft brewing is a hot industry that more and more people are sinking their teeth into, but it's proving to be volatile. The Brewers Association reports at least 53 craft breweries in the U.S. shut their doors at the beginning of this year. That's up from 42 closures in 2021, and more are expected.

“I think in the last four months, we've seen double-digit percentage price increases on things like grain,” said Alex Falish, the co-owner and head of brewing operations for Noble Roots Brewing Company. They've had their doors open since 2017 and were able to survive through COVID-19.

“People are used to, you know, a flat rate for a beer," said Falish. "But it's, you know, we sometimes have to just get more creative about how we brew.”

That creativity is what Falish thinks is important in surviving in this bubbling beer industry, that's becoming oversaturated. It's also a fine line between that creativity and efficiency, so they can serve as many people as possible in the few days they're open.

“I don't want to pass price increases on the consumers," said Falish. "We're gonna try and hold steady as long as we can."

So for Walters who's just now starting out, he says he's nervous, but it's been a long-awaited work in progress.

“I think the resiliency of small businesses and I think breweries in particular, you know, gave us some confidence,“ he said.