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CASTLE MALTING NEWS in partnership with www.e-malt.com
08 March, 2018

Brewing news USA, WI: New distillery, cidery and brewery to open in Jefferson this year

A portion of the former St. Coletta of Wisconsin campus is set to become a distillery, cidery and brewery with limited production beginning this year, The Daily Jefferson County Union reported.

On Tuesday, March 6, Shannan De Witt, founder of FLEX Consulting, Waterloo, presented the Jefferson Common Council Committee of the Whole with her multi-phased vision for The Ordinary: A Distillery, Cidery and Brewery Destination.

Some components of De Witt’s ultimate plan include the sale of cider, beer and distilling products; an on-site tasting room; event space for private, regional and corporate gatherings; storage for aging product; a restaurant; and private biking, hiking, running and dog trails.

Also, she expects to employ 25 to 50 people within the next three years.

De Witt has been distilling since age 6 and learned how to make wine and brew beer by age 10. She has worked overseas in Scotland and Germany, where she was able to visit Scottish pubs and English public houses, specifically the ordinaries. “Ordinary” is an old term for a pub, public house or tavern.

“I’d always say, ‘Boy, it would be great if I could do something like that here,’” De Witt said. “In Wisconsin, right now, there are a few places that do this, but they don’t do it on a large scale and they don’t have a campus where they can do it.

“I chose this place,” she added. “I think the campus has a lot of possibility and it’s a nice community to come into. I also think Jefferson is a good community where we can start to build this out. You’ve got some good events that are coming in and I’ve got events I want to bring in.”

To help fund the project, she is asking the city for a revolving loan fund of $140,000 to $160,000 for working capital and cost of employees.

“Our funding is primarily coming from (Venture Capital) and myself,” De Witt said. “I have been very diligent, saved up my money because I knew, eventually, I wanted to get my product out to the world.

“But we will need a little capital help and that’s why we’re here today,” she continued. “For the first year, we need a little help getting our resources in so that I can really focus on operational expenses and taking the capital in for the equipment and everything else.”

De Witt said that, for the first 18 months, she would need three to five full- and part-time employees, including two local employees.

Also, she said, she has spoken with Vicki Pratt, executive director of the Jefferson County Economic Development Consortium (JCEDC), about funding from the county. However, De Witt said she would like to hold off requesting that money until 2019 “if at all possible.”

Also in attendance at the meeting on March 6 was Mark Schiller, owner of the general contracting firm BMC Associates LLC, Waukesha, who purchased the former campus on Jan. 9 from Charity Partners Network Inc., Sarasota, Fla.

De Witt and Schiller are working to acquire Vetro Winery, located at 1414 Vino Lane in Jefferson, to be used as a turnkey for De Witt’s business.

Vetro Winery sits on 0.96 acres of property and is surrounded by approximately eight acres now is owned by Schiller.

“I have been targeting the Vetro location since October of 2017,” De Witt said after the meeting. “It has been for sale for some time and the Vetranos are looking to retire. Mark is finalizing the building sale this week. If that building sale does not occur, Mark has made the immediate surrounding eight acres available to my team, along with three other buildings I earmarked early on as potential substitutes if the Vetro location is not available.”

On March 7, Tammy Vetrano confirmed that Vetro Winery's business and building has been for sale, but said that it very much is open and in operation. When it does sell, LaVerne Vetro plans to retire.

In addition, she said that Vetro is not in negotiations with anyone right now, and the last time the owners talked with any prospective buyers was a month ago.

Her goal is to create a destination, not just a facility that does production, De Witt noted.

She is looking to complete The Ordinary in three phases.

Phase 1 will focus on the growth and branding of the products and location.

The initial facility — be it the Vetro Winery or St. Coletta buildings — is planned to offer cider, beer and distilling products; an on-site tasting room; product education; and event gathering and on-site classes.

Phases 2 and 3 will include growing into 40 to 100 acres near the initial nano-distillery/brewery/winery, with property along the Glacial Drumlin Trail hooking into private running, hiking, biking and dog walking paths located on the acreage.

A new, larger facility would offer: enlarged distilling and brewing operations; a smokehouse; a malt house; two facilities to hold barrel and cask storage; enlarged sour, shrubs and bitters production; enlarged tasting room and restaurant; and event space for private, regional and corporate events.

Pending completion of the purchase of Vetro Winery and the 0.96 acres it’s on, De Witt plans to do some interior and exterior remodeling before getting the nano-distillery, brewery and cidery up and running.

She noted that she immediately can get the brewery and cidery going, but it will take three to four months to get the Vetro Winery site certified as a distillery.

“It puts my timeline back a little bit,” De Witt said. “Originally, we wanted to be open as a distillery, cidery and brewery in April of this year. It’s going to take a little bit longer for the distillery piece, but the rest of it I can still have up and running by May, once we start getting in there.”

She said she wants to have the distillery licensed and ready no later than July, but that the brewery and cidery definitely will be in operation by then.

Interior remodeling would include adding about $60,000 worth of brewing equipment and $70,000 worth of distilling equipment.

De Witt explained that her team plans to reuse the existing winery equipment to produce brandy, brew fermentation and ciders. They will begin with the ciders, which can utilize the existing equipment and will build out a small, three- to seven-barrel brewing system for pre-sales and taproom production needs.

“By focusing on a smaller initial beer production, it gives us an opportunity to test and refine recipes, but still have the potential to produce production-level batches (10 barrel) as needed,” she said. “Beer will focus on quality over quantity and produce beers that are not as common within the State of Wisconsin.”

For larger, pre-sold event sales scheduled between September 2018 and September 2020, she will use contract brewing to complement her own brewing setup until the brewery is completed in Phases 2 to 3 on the former St. Coletta campus, De Witt noted.

Exterior remodeling would involve adding a beer/spirits tasting room with space for food trucks and updating the patio and gazebo area.

“One of the reasons I like the property is because, (while) I can’t have a restaurant out there this year, what I can do is bring some food trucks in,” De Witt explained. “We know that there’s restaurants downtown here, but just to get food trucks going in there.

“BMZ Architects out of Madison said, ‘Hey, we could do a really nice beer garden out there and part of that beer garden could be where we could have some food trucks come and park.’ We can have an outdoor area where people can come and sit and eat, but we also can do an enclosed area,’” she continued. “So we would have space that not only could be used in the summertime and opened up, but in the wintertime, it would be enclosed and you’d still be able to see all those beautiful views.”

In regard to the St. Coletta campus, De Witt is looking to begin by using at least two of the barns, turning one into a barrel storage room and another into an entertainment venue.

Also, she said she is looking to use the three acres of apple and pear trees on the campus; bring in and grow hops; get some hiking and biking paths filled out; and start some ingress and egress to the Glacial Drumlin Trail and the nearby 500 acres of Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources land.

Once the project gets into Phase 2, De Witt explained, she wants to build a larger distillery building and get a 15- to 30-barrel brewing system set up.

In Phase 3, expansion would be focused on growing product volume while keeping with a quality product and engaging with the communities around.

“For the first year, the rum, dark smoked rum, the gin and the vodka, along with the white whiskey, those are going to be products we’ll be able to have ready by October,” De Witt said. “The aged Scottish whiskey I will have available, but it won’t be any of my eight, my 10 or my 15. That’s going to take a few more years to get in. Any time you do a really good scotch, it takes time.”

There also will be non-alcoholic beverages such as soda, shrubs bitters and regular ciders.

Phase 3 products are five to 10 years down the line, she noted.

“We hope to have two barrel rooms filled, a bigger cellar room, have the restaurant going and really have a full event center coming in,” De Witt said. “We hope to draw weddings; we hope to draw corporate events.

“We hope to bring people in and spend time not only out at St. Coletta, but come into town,” she continued. “I hate to see a town that just looks dead and I really think Jefferson has a great opportunity to really be vibrant and kind of rebuild. It just needs something that’s going to draw more people in.”

De Witt said that she hopes to have finished goods for July of this year available with a first round of white spirits, ciders and four different beers.

When it comes to distribution of The Ordinary’s product, De Witt said, she hopes to do direct sales as much as possible.

“We’re going to start out just out of our taproom,” she said. “Then we have to go and actually talk with the local bar owners, the different restaurants (and) we have to have an agreement with them for distribution.

“We’re going to do as much direct (sales) to start out with as we can,” De Witt added, noting that she would have to use some distributors, at least for a while. “But we would love to get a couple barrels in some of the restaurants around here.”

In unrelated business, the committee discussed a preliminary plat of a subdivision for the Golf Drive extension.

Following the Committee of the Whole meeting, the regular Jefferson Common Council meeting was held.


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