Potosi Brewing Company
The original Potosi brewery was founded in 1852, and the new craft beer company was launched in 2008.
Potosi Brewing Company is embarking on an expansion project that may revive its glory days. Brought back to life in 2008, the brewery is in the midst of constructing a new brew house, packaging line and storage facilities that will position it to re-ascend into the ranks of Wisconsin's largest breweries.
Now home to a brewpub and the National Brewery Museum, the broken-down old Potosi building had sat abandoned since it closed in 1972. More than a century earlier in 1852, Gabriel Hail and John Albrecht originally established a brewery on that site less than a mile from the Mississippi River. At its height in the mid-20 century, the Potosi brewery was fifth biggest in the state, making over 60,000 barrels of beer a year.
The new round of construction at Potosi will double the brewery's current output of around 7,000 barrels. However, over time, the additional space and equipment is designed to allow it to expand up to 70,000 barrels annually, even larger than heyday generations ago.
"We'll have state-of-the-art packaging, and be able to do some nice things with beer," says Steve McCoy, who took over as Potosi's brewmaster earlier this year. The new brewhouse will be able to produce 40-barrel batches, a big increase from the current 15-barrel system, which will continue to be used for limited-release beers.
Potosi Brewing also contracts with Stevens Point Brewery for its bottled beers. However, the new 40,000-square-foot facility will have both a bottling and canning line of its own, with plans to move all production to Potosi.
Over the summer, construction progressed rapidly on the $3.5 million brewhouse. The building is funded by local investors, who are leasing the space back to the brewery. Potosi's strong ties to community residents have made its success possible. Much of the restoration to the original brewery and its museum are supported by local contributions from those who take pride in having a brewery in their town.
The structure is nearly complete, but its new equipment has yet to arrive. Much of that is being manufactured locally by Darlington Dairy Supply.
"The most exciting thing for me is to be able to have the flexibility to do different styles of beer," says McCoy. "We're still working out how this will affect our beer lineup, but we'll be creating new experiences for the consumer."
Potosi currently offers four year-round bottled beers: Good Old Potosi, Pure Malt Cave Ale, Snake Hollow IPA, and Potosi Czech Style Pilsner. Its seasonals include Gandy Dancer Porter, Fiddler Oatmeal Stout, St. Thomas Belgian Abbey, Miner's Dopplebock and Steamboat Shandy. Additionally, some of the brewery's more limited draft-only releases occasionally find their way into Madison's more extensive tap houses. Much of Potosi's market is centered on south-central Wisconsin, which is booming with craft beer.
One of the changes McCoy has in mind is to focus more on barrel-aged beers. "We'll have a whole cooler for barrel-aging, so we'll come out with more of those beers," he says.
McCoy is also planning to take on the evolving frontier of sour beers. To do that, he'll take advantage of on not only the new capacity, but some of the historic elements of the former brewery. "Down the road, I want to start a sour program and use the space in the old brewery with its caves. That space is perfect to age sours," he says. These caves were actually part of the original Potosi complex, constructed in the 1800s, and visitors to the National Brewery Museum can actually view them today.
Potosi's new brewhouse is expected to be operational by end of the year, which means its first round of beers may be released by early 2015.