In telling the story of the Wisconsin Brewing Company, we actually must delve into the history of two separate breweries, both of which have overcome some rather unfortunate events. We begin with the founding of the Pioneer Brewery way back when in 1856, when Ulrich Oderbolz set up shop in Black River Falls, Wisconsin. Tragically, in the late 1880s Ulrich’s teenage son Charlie fell into a boiling vat of beer. Managing to pull himself from the vat, he died hours later. His father survived him by just a few years. In 1900, Frank Oderbolz, the eldest son of the founder, took over operation of the brewery. Tragedy struck again when he drowned in a boating accident at the falls themselves 11 years later. The family subsequently sold the brewery to local businessmen. The brewery reopened as The Badger Brewing Company, but was closed shortly thereafter due to prohibition (damn that prohibition to hell we tells ya!). Fast forward to the end of the century when brothers Dave and Jim Hellman purchased and refurbished the old brewery building, rechristening it in 1996 as the Pioneer Brewing Company.
Fellow Wisconsinites, The Wisconsin Brewing Company began on the banks of the Menomonie River in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, also in 1996. They too dealt with their share of water-related misfortunes. While their proximity to the fresh waters of the Menomonie was great for brewing purposes, the river bore a temper that was unleashed a bit too often… The brewery was ravaged by floods—twice in 12 months if you can believe it. The first time it happened, the owners had no insurance, and with 48 inches of water filling their recessed brewery, it was pretty much a total loss. Not only had their equipment been damaged, but much of their beer inventory was lost as well. Friends and community members graciously rallied together, aiding in the clean up and donating new equipment.
The Wisconsin Brewing Company got back on their feet and back to brewing… until a year later, when flooding struck again. Learning from their fist experience, they were sure to have insurance. Rather than rebuild a second time, they decided to shut down their Wauwatosa brewing location for good, but not before ensuring that the craft brews they developed had a good home to go to. In 1998, they moved production of their entire brand to a facility operated by the Pioneer Brewing Company. They sent over one of their brewers, Mike Suchara, who worked at Pioneer making the Wisconsin brews alongside Pioneer’s gifted Head Brewmaster, Todd Krueger. Todd has not only kept the Wisconsin B.C.’s beers alive and kicking, he has expanded the original line to include a variety of styles. We elected to feature one of the brewery’s original flagship beers, Rainbow Red Ale, as well as one of their newer offerings, Oscar’s Chocolate Oatmeal Stout, a beer developed by Todd that has become one of their top-selling brews. Pop those babies open and find out why they’ve been such strong sellers!
For more information about the Wisconsin Brewing Company, call (715) 284-7553 or check out the following web site: www.cuttingedge.net/~pioneer/.