BLOOMER — The folklore of the Bloomer Brewing Co., from moonshine and raids to top-shelf beer and non-alcoholic brew, continues to grow.
You have Bloomer residents Dan Wolf and Dan Stolt to thank for that.
Wolf owns the complex at 1526 Martin Road that comprised the brewery until it closed in 1947. Wolf has renovated the impressive structure over the past three decades into a number of startup business spaces.
Stolt, who's rented space many years in the building for his excavation and trucking business, started microbrewing beer in the building several years ago and has refined it enough to start a small business about a year ago.
Today, the Bloomer Brewing Co., which dates to 1875, is back in business twice a week, with patrons flocking to the site for beer and stories.
"You can't believe all the people who come in here who have some story about what it used to be like, or who used to work here," said Wolf. "That is one of the great things about this place: everyone either has a story or wants to see it because of its history."
Because of its local success, plans are in the works to substantially increase production and business.
"The last 15 years or so, we've really put quite a bit of work into it," said Wolf. "We've been cleaning out one hole after another. It's sure changed a lot, and we're pretty excited about it all."
Wolf has owned the building since about 1980.
"This has been a labor of love redoing all this," he said. "It was just a mess, with ceilings falling down and things like that.
Wolf, an electrical contractor, bought several buildings in Bloomer over the years, including the former Ideal Theatre. The theater's popcorn machine is now in the brewery's seating area, and Wolf claims he's "in charge" of making it for patrons.
"My jobs are the beer taste-tester and the popcorn maker," Wolf said, smiling at Stolt. "I think I do those pretty well."
Wolf gladly gives tours of the complex, from the lower-level caves where beer was lagered (fermented and conditioned at low temperatures), to the upper levels where grains were stored. He's got stories about every level, including areas where 50,000 gallons of beer were stored many years ago.
"There is so much history here," he said, pointing to old blueprints on one of the walls decorated with memorabilia. "I think that's why people like coming here."
Stolt has been renting business space for many years, but it was about eight years ago that he got the interest in microbrewing.
"My oldest son, Ryan, was living in Fort Lauderdale, and he was brewing with a guy, making about a half-barrel. I did help him a little," Stolt said. "It was some awesome-tasting beer, so when we got home, my gears started turning."
Learning the craft
Stolt's brewing experimentation became a hit, especially during the annual Good Friday fish fry at the brewery building.
"It got a little bigger all the time and all of sudden we couldn't keep brewing enough beer, so I had to make a bigger system, and now I can't keep up again," Stolt said.
Plans call for putting in air conditioning, a bigger cooler and expanding the current 40-gallon batches possibly to a 217-gallon system, he said.
Current brews are Bloomer Town Brown, Duncan Spring, Buckingham Ale and Bloomer Beer, which offer a spectrum of tastes, from a lighter, crisper ale to amber-brewed with a special roast. He has more recipes in mind, all the while trying to maintain the quality of the products.
The bar opened up a little more than a year ago and has become a popular spot, especially when patrons start talking about the history of the brewery.
According to historical accounts:
John Wendland and Fred Adler built the first brewery in 1875. It burned in 1883 and another was built, only to burn in 1888. The existing one was built in 1889 and was in operation until enactment of the Volstead Act (Prohibition) in 1919.
"Near beer" and soda were then made at the brewery by owner John Breunig until he rented the brewery to men who started a moonshining operation.
The brewery was raided by federal agents who found two operating stills, with capacities of 200 and 900 gallons, respectively, and confiscated 3,000 gallons of mash, 3,600 pounds of corn sugar and 125 gallons of 180-proof alcohol, along with 250 one-gallon tin cans.
Breunig was eventually sentenced to a year in jail in Milwaukee, but returned to Bloomer and started a non-alcoholic brew called Wert Beer, which became extremely popular.
Serving the soldiers
Prohibition ended, and the brewing of beer returned in Bloomer, with Al Tankenhoff taking over in the mid-1930s. He shipped large quantities of beer to the U.S. Army camps in the States during World War II. The Army canceled its order when Japan surrendered in 1945, and two years later he closed the brewery, shipping his remaining beer to England and the brewing equipment to St. Paul.
Wolf and Stolt have more than enough stories and artifacts to satisfy the most inquisitive visitor to the pub — and an increasing customer base for the brews.
"To bring this back to life is very meaningful," said Wolf. "I just like the camaraderie of it, and that I have one job, to taste beer every night."
"This whole thing means quite a bit," added Stolt. "I enjoy the people who come up here, and it gets more and more fun as we get more into this. It's amazing to see how far this has come. Who knows how far it will go?"
Rupnow can be reached at 715-830-5831, 800-236-7077 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If You Go
What: Bloomer Brewing Co.
Where: 1526 Martin Road, Bloomer.
When: 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesdays and 1 to 8 p.m. Saturdays.