The owners of Prairie Brewing & Smokehaus hope to launch in 2015.
Sun Prairie may soon have its own brewpub. It's to be called Prairie Brewing & Smokehaus, and the owners are hoping to open in 2015 provided the financing falls in place. The Madison suburb is relatively untapped; with a population of about 30,000 residents, it's Dane County's second-largest city, yet in the midst of the current craft beer boom, it has no brewery.
The proposed brewpub is the dream of Brian Benzine, 54, and Ron Dombroski, 44. They're seeking to purchase the Round Table building at 1611 N. Bristol St. The 8,600-square-foot structure is currently owned by the Sun Prairie Knights of Columbus; it serves as a clubhouse for the Catholic fraternal organization and is used for periodic functions such as fish fries and bingo.
Benzine and Dombroski have been attempting to secure bank financing and private contributions from community beer enthusiasts. In September, they issued an announcement seeking potential investors, followed by an informational meeting at the Round Table. The event proved successful, generating over $160,000 from about 20 supporters. However, the pair is still short of the $900,000 they'll need to open the brewpub.
An initial offer to purchase the Round Table expired at the beginning of November; however, Benzine says they still have a verbal agreement that extends the offer into mid-December. If everything falls in place, they may be able to open as a restaurant, bar and catering business in the spring, with a brewing operation firing up come summer. City officials recently approved a liquor license and conditional-use permit for the location.
"Even if we don't get that building, we will find something else," says Benzine, although his preference is to locate his brewpub in Sun Prairie. "It's one of the fastest-growing markets, there is no brewpub there, there's enough of a population for the restaurant itself, and we are close to Madison," he explains.
Homebrew clubs can be a potential market, even an ally, for an emerging brewpub. The Sun Prairie Wort Hogs have been around since 2008, and the group is quite active, with about 25 members. The club meets monthly and also organizes several competitions throughout the year. Craft beer fans are always looking for something different, and they can be fiercely loyal to their hometown brewery.
"It would be really nice to have a brewery that is local," says Zak Holmes, president of the Sun Prairie Wort Hogs. "There are a lot of guys in our club who are excited about having a brewery. You can hear them talk pationately about their local beer, that this is 'my' beer and where I come from." Benzine says he's already reached out to the group with an offer to provide meeting space.
The concept for Prairie Brewing & Smokehaus is to offer a selection of house beers along with a food menu focusing on smoked meats and barbecue. The brewpub would be open for lunch and dinner six days a week, with a buffet on Sundays.
Dombroski owns Smokehaus Catering in Fall River and previously worked for Food Fight Restaurant Group in Madison. He will handle the restaurant side of the business, which will include managing banquets and catering.
"We're planning to use a lot of local ingredients, offer casual dining, and do lots of banquets," says Benzine.
Benzine grew up in Rio and currently lives in Columbus. An avid homebrewer, he plans to oversee the brewery and intends to hire an assistant. Should financing be approved, he will submit his federal brewer's permit and begin purchasing equipment.
Benzine is still evaluating the size of the brew house; its capacity will be determined by the location. If Prairie Brewing is successful in securing the Round Table property, he's planning to purchase a new U.S.-made system that will be capable of making either three-and-a-half- or five-barrel batches.
The brewpub's initial recipes are to be based on Benzine's homebrews. "I like hoppy beers, IPAs and big beers, but we'll have seasonals and a range," he notes.
"I see brewpubs opening up all over the place and doing well," Benzine says. "I know it will be a success in a market that's looking for a brewery, and I love to brew beer."