Beer & Cheese 2015

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Volume One's special section on all things cheesy and beery.

Transcript of Beer & Cheese 2015

  • Wisconsin is a wonderful place for a lot of reasons, but there are two things that make this place truly greater than all the rest: BEER AND CHEESE. Neither is a particularly healthy choice to consume in great abundance, but if you were born here, your Wisconsin blood makes you

    immune to such things. Did you know that? Its true. Were not doctors, but were pretty sure thats a thing. Here in the Valley, we do beer and cheese right. The following pages celebrate and highlight delicious beer and cheese and what local people are doing to make them even better.





    DICK LEINENKUGEL MAY BE PRESIDENT OF THE LEGENDARY BREWERY THAT BEARS HIS GREAT-GREAT GRANDFA-THERS NAME a brewery that now sells its products in all 50 states, a brewery thats part of MillerCoors, second-largest beer maker in the nation but hes not isolated in a corporate office far from Chippewa Falls. In fact, hed only be closer to the action at the Leinie Lodge if his desk was behind the bar that serves up samples to crowds of visitors eager to drink in his familys famous products and the northwoods aura they embody. When its time to take a photo he strolls out of his office, grabs a glass, pulls himself a pint of Summer Shandy the brewerys breakout, nationally marketed product and eagerly mingles with visitors.

    Already well-known from advertising campaigns that focus on his family and its history, Dick Leinenkugel became the public face of the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. when he officially took over as president of the brewery from his older brother, Thomas Jake Leinenkugel, in January. Dick made time in his busy schedule recently to chat with Volume One about his new role, his favorite beers, and whats next for a brewery thats approaching 150 years in business.

    VOLUME ONE: Having your office right here in the Leinie Lodge is an enviable location for the president of a company. I assume thats by design?

    DICK LEINENKUGEL: I think my brother Jake purposefully put his office here. He wanted to be close to the bar, close to the action, close to people com-ing in through the door, and you know its great marketing. You can go out and sample some beer with people and hear their comments. We try to bring out new and different styles of beers, like our Grapefruit Shandy, which is in a draft test right now. (Its available) in package and on draft in just a few locations. So were testing it this month to see what drinkers think of it on draft, because it was only released in six-pack bottles. Its been a tremendous success, but we want to gauge how the drinker interacts with it when theres also Summer Shandy on draft. Here youve got a ready-make test market, if you will, not more than 50 yards from my door.

    You got a really differentiated portfolio of beers that appeals to lots of different drinkers. Some of the Big Eddy beers are rated as highly as any beers out their among aficionados, whereas you have the Berry Weiss and the shandys that appeal to people who may not drink a lot of

    beer or want something that tastes very different. How do you manage in still a relatively small operation to balance this whole spectrum?

    Most brewers would love to make just one style of beer and a lot of it. Our drinkers out there want variety and are asking for it in many different consumer

    products, whether its bread or gum or cheeses or yogurt. Todays drinker and especially todays Millennial drinker wants something just for them, and so we have to manage that complexity. Thats part of our job. Were not going to just make all different styles of beer I think theres got to be a strategy to it,

    and that strategy that we planned on relates to who we are as a brand and a brewer, which is kind of this dichotomy of German tradition, German heritage, six generations that our family repre-sents, and using our American ingenuity. So when we make a German Klsch style beer like Canoe Paddler, what can we do that the Germans wouldnt do, and thats add in a rye, and rye adds a nice little crispness. And the judges must agree because at the Great American Beer Festival in its first year Canoe Paddler was awarded a gold medal, and last year it was awarded a bronze. Then we did a Helles style beer, which are the sweeter, maltier style beers brewed around Bavaria, around Munich. We added five American hops. Germans would add one hop to it, it would be very low in bitter-ness, where ours is a little bit more aro-matic with hops. So, thats kind of where were going. Its got to kind of relate to us, and I think youll see more styles in the future coming out that take that German style and put a little American twist on it.

    You became president in January. How has the transition been? What advice did your brother give you?

    Jake is still giving me advice. Its not like hes gone away. When I took the chair, he said, First of all, Dick, youre going to have to manage your calendar, because theres going to be more and more demand on your time, and that is coming to be a brutal truth. As I assumed this position, so youre not only being asked by your distributors to be out in market representing the brand, youre asked by the national accounts team to accompany them on chain calls, Im being asked to do homebrew events on behalf of charity. ... There are all these things that all of a sudden that pop up on your calendar, these requests that come in, and Jake told me about that, and boy, its true, theres an increased demand on your time because of your position here and your position as the leader of the company in Chippewa Falls. I think the other thing is that Jake said, and he always counseled me on this, is that youve got to be part of this community as well. I havent lived here since I went away to college in 1976. I had to kind of be re-integrated or intro-duce myself to the community and the business leaders here.

    How much of Chippewa Falls and Wisconsin is integrated into this com-pany, in terms of the sales pitch you give when you sell the product around the country? How much do you highlight Wisconsin as a culture, as a place?




  • BEER & CHEESE Aug. 5, 2015 25

    We really tell the story a lot, about our roots, I think its really important. Its differentiating the family, the face, the place, and the story. The place is Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Why did Jacob Leinenkugel come to Chippewa Falls in 1867 and establish the Spring Brewery? Its a great story to tell: 2,000 thirsty lumberjacks in this town mining the white pine lumber to send down to build the great city of Chicago. Weve used northwoods before, and I think people in the Great Lakes get it because they vacation up here, they see the woods and waters and lakes. ... But our growth is going to be getting people in Texas and California and Florida and New England and the Pacific Northwest to enjoy Leinenkugels as well. And there they may not relate to quote-unquote the northwoods of Wisconsin. But Wisconsin is still recognized as a great brewing state, as a great state of craftsmen, whether its cheesemakers or sausage-makers or dairy, so I think its something we can continue to use and tell the story.

    You now distribute one of your beers, Summer Shandy, in all 50 states. That had to be a watershed moment. Whats the next big goal for this company?

    The next goal is to continue to grow our distribution, and its continuing not only to grow in the Great Lakes where were known, but certainly in what we call the Pacific Region, the Central Region, which is Texas and Colorado, and in the southeast Carolina, Georgia, Florida. Those states. To make our plan and our vision of doubling our business by the end of 2020, we need to accelerate our growth rate in those states. By the end of 2020, what Id like to do is get 2 million barrels of beer. Well be at rough-ly 1 million at the end of the year.

    To get to that 2 million goal, is that a lot more shandy, or a lot more everything?

    Yes (laughter). Right now all shandy combined so Harvest Patch, Cranberry Ginger, the variety packs, the Summer Shandy will be about three-quarters or 70 percent of our volume. Over time,

    50 percent of our volume will be made up by other beers, things like IPL (India Pale Lager), which I think will be a tre-mendous hit. I think well be able to grow Honey Weiss again. And then our sea-sonal beers like Octoberfest, Snowdrift Vanilla Porter, and other new beers that were adding. I would expect that by the end of 2020 half of our beer will be shandy, half of our beer will be a mix of other flavors, and there will be many beers that are currently in our portfolio that will be hibernated. And by the end of 2020 there will be other new beers in that portfolio. Its just the nature of the game.

    Any other things coming down the pike that you can talk about?

    Yeah, a couple of new things. One is Heart of Oak. Thats in the fall variety pack right now. Thats a beer that uses some oak in the brew kettle that imparts an oakiness to the flavor of the beer, so thats really, really cool. Its a Vienna style lager, so a reddish lager, with oak. Winters Bite, which is a beer thats spiced, will be coming out in the winter variety pack, and then were looking at some new beers coming next year as well potentially a new spring-summer seasonal.

    Among all the beers Leinenkugels brews, do you have a favorite?