Old World Wisconsin moving forward with $2.1 million historic brewing project

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Old World Wisconsin’s plan to build a $2.1 million historic brewing experience took a step forward this week, netting approval from the state of Wisconsin Building Commission.

Designed to pay homage to Wisconsin’s brewing history, the project will include a 3,657-square-foot “brewing experience” building and 700-square-foot foundation for the relocation of a historic tavern to the Old World Wisconsin site.

The project is the first of a multi-phase effort to improve the guest entry area at the 600-acre regional history attraction, located on Highway 67, just south of Eagle.

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The living exhibit is designed to showcase Wisconsin’s cultural heritage, its experience during prohibition and the temperance movement, and the water and sustainability of the brewing operation.

Through a partnership with the Milwaukee-based Museum of Beer and Brewing, OWW plans to brew small batches of historically-inspired beer using 19th-century methods. The beer will be available for purchase onsite. OWW also plans to offer brewing workshops and beer tastings and pairings in collaboration with Wisconsin breweries.

The state building commission voted Wednesday to release state funds for the project, among several others across the state. Most of the funding for the project will come from private fundraising.

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Construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed in late 2021. OWW is working with Madison-based Aro Eberle Architects on the project.

The second phase of the project will include moving Wittnebel’s Tavern, a 1907 pub located in Old Ashippun in Dodge County, to be restored to its post-Prohibition 1930s appearance at OWW. It will be the first historic structure to be added to the complex in 25 years.

“When visitors walk into the tavern, they’ll walk back into time into the 1930s and experience what a tavern was like back then,” said Dan Freas, director of Old World Wisconsin.

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OWW will also add a beer garden as part of the second phase.

When completed, the historic brewing experience building will be able to accommodate about 50 visitors. It will also be available for private event rentals.

“What’s exciting to me is the opportunity to create a brewing experience that is part of our mission of interpreting history, but will also have built in revenue-generating opportunity to support the sustainability of that facility through the beer brewing program and workshops and … rental for private events,” Freas said. “In this day and age, it’s critical to make sure that we have not only a plan for the actual construction of the new attraction but ongoing support that we would need to keep it up and running.”


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