Last updated on May 13th, 2019 at 02:22 pm
Milwaukee real estate developer Jim Wiechmann is buying the 145-year-old Stevens Point Beverage Co., returning ownership of the brewery to Wisconsin.
Chicago-based Barton, Inc., has agreed to sell the brewery to a corporation created by Wiechmann, SPB LLC, for an undisclosed amount.
The brewery produces a variety of beers, including its flagship, Point Special.
Wiechmann, 63, is a real estate developer with more than 1,000 units owned throughout Wisconsin and Florida.
"I’ve always had a fascination for beer," Wiechmann said. "I love beer … and so I thought this might be a fun thing to do. Real estate is fun, too, but once in a while you want to do something that’s particularly fun."
Wiechmann said he’s tried home brewing, but admits "I’m better at drinking it than brewing it."
Wiechmann — who calls local microbrewers Randy Sprecher and Russ Klisch, of the Lakefront Brewery, very good friends — said he had been looking to get into the brewing industry for over a year. He also looked into buying a distributorship or putting together a chain of liquor stores, but when that didn’t work out, someone suggested he inquire about the Stevens Point Brewery, the sixth-oldest continually operating brewery in the nation.
The brewery’s owner, Barton Beers, bought it 10 years ago with intentions of making it a strong regional or perhaps national brand, according to Wiechmann. As time passed, it became clear that Barton was not allocating resources for the advertising and marketing of the Stevens Point brands.
The brewery’s main market is in the state of Wisconsin, although Wiechmann notes that the company also distributes in parts of Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa and Michigan. It has a capacity of 70,000 barrels a year, currently producing about 60,000 barrels, and employs 22 people. More staff with advertising and marketing expertise may be added.
The current staff will handle the day-to-day operations, although Wiechmann promises to be an active president.
"We’ve got some really good people up there who have been there for quite some time," Wiechmann said. "I’ll be able to bring in some additional marketing muscle, some advertising skills."
In addition to its own brands, the brewery also does contract brewing for other breweries, including some local brewpubs, which Wiechmann would not name.
"I think it’s a good regional brand and, hopefully, we’ll try to strengthen it in Wisconsin, and then think about the future after that," Wiechmann said of his plans for the brewery.
But, he added, "If another opportunity would come along that looks like the right opportunity, I certainly would not hesitate to look at it."
March 15, 2002 Small Business Times, Milwaukee