Eau Claire’s original microbrewery is growing up and leaving the town where it got its start.
Northwoods Brew Pub & Grill, which opened in 1997 at 3560 Oakwood Mall Drive, will close Nov. 1, and owners hope to reopen in a much larger Osseo location by Jan. 1.
The new Osseo site will be in a former dairy plant, owned by Osseo businessman Nels Gunderson on Condensery Road. Northwoods Brew Pub will occupy about 12,000 square feet of the lower level of the brick building, where Gunderson is planning a large reception hall on the upper level.
The extra space will allow for a significant expansion of the craft brewing operation.
“This is huge for us. We’ve been looking to expand, and this new building really opens it up for a lot of growth and expansion,” said general manager Sean Annis. “We’re essentially doubling the size of the brewing operation initially, but there is also opportunity for growth beyond that.”
The company, which has been growing every year, had maxed out its capacity at the Eau Claire location, Annis said. Northwoods owners hope to retain as many of the operation’s roughly 50 employees as possible at the new site, he added.
Officials from Wisconsin Dells-based Monk’s Bar & Grill, which has four Wisconsin locations, confirmed they plan to open a franchise next year in the current log cabin-style Northwoods building just northeast of Oakwood Mall.
Though Eau Claire has been a successful location for Northwoods, majority owner Jerry Bechard said he is excited about the move because it will enable the company to add a canning line and ramp up beer production and distribution.
Ironically, Northwoods beers may become more readily available in Eau Claire after the company leaves town. Some restaurants and bars in Eau Claire have been reluctant to offer Northwoods products because they viewed the brewpub as competition, which no longer should be the case, Bechard said.
Bechard said it will be fun to breathe new life into a historic building in Osseo that has been empty for several years.
“It’s a really cool building,” he said. “It was built in the early 1900s and has a lot of character. It’s kind of a landmark down there.”
The new brewpub will have a fireplace, and many of the interior furnishings will come from the Eau Claire location, Bechard said.
Plans call for a more limited menu, but the new facility still will have a bar and restaurant as well as a retail outlet where customers can buy the more than dozen varieties of beers brewed by Northwoods. Large glass doors will allow brewpub customers to see into the brewing area.
Bechard said he also plans a large deck at the site along a recreation trail north of Highway 10 on the west side of Osseo.
The new site won’t include a Norske Nook component, as the Eau Claire location does, because the original Norske Nook is already a downtown Osseo institution.
“We already have the mother ship down there,” quipped Annis, a Northwoods partner.
The owners hope the new brewpub will complement Norske Nook, also owned by Bechard, as a tourist destination in town.
“Osseo is a quiet little underrated town right now,” Annis said. “They have a lot of growth happening down there, and we think their future is looking pretty good.”
Bechard noted that the owners plan to extend memberships by six months for Northwoods’ popular mug club so members can continue to take advantage of discounts on tap beers at the Osseo location.
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