Pigeon River Brewing expands
Company moving to Northwinds Banquet Hall
Just three years into operations, Pigeon River Brewing has outgrown its 4,000 square foot facility located alongside U.S. Highway 45 in Marion.
Demand has grown for the brewery’s flavorful offerings of beer and soda which are served through its on-site brewpub as well as being distributed to bars and restaurants throughout northeastern Wisconsin.
“The addition of the bottling line was the last straw to the facility’s already tight operations,” said Nathan Knaack, owner of Pigeon River Brewing. “We just can’t efficiently keep growing production in our current location. We need to be able to use a forklift in the brewery to move pallets of bottles and kegs to coolers and then to our distributor’s trucks.”
When it was time to make a move, staying true to their roots was a no-brainer for Pigeon River.
“We had been approached by other cities who offered financial assistance to move operations there,” Knaack said, “but Marion is our home. It’s where we started brewing, grew with the support of the community, and it’s where we intend to stay and raise our family.”
With promises to stay local, the brewery plans to move operations across Highway 45 to Northwinds Banquet Hall. Dave Joerres is the owner of Northwinds Banquet Hall, which is a full service banquet facility offering weddings, parties, holiday buffets, and catering. Northwinds has been providing Marion and the surrounding area with a gathering place for all events for more than 15 years.
“Dave had approached us casually on several occasions, and when we started realizing the many restraints we had, Northwinds was the first place that came to mind because of the continued support the community has provided with that facility,” Knaack said.
Joerres added, “We are very excited to be working together with an up and coming heavy hitter in the craft brewing industry.”
Both Joerres and Knaack seem to have similar views. Both coming from small towns and owning small businesses.
“When talking business together, Nate had expressed the restrictions with his current facility and the growing need of the brewery,” Joerres said. “The situation presented an opportunity for both Northwinds and Pigeon River to join together, remain local, and offer a unique atmosphere and experience for people to gather.”
The brewery began construction in early 2016 to convert the small side of the banquet hall to a brewpub complete with brewery, bar and dining area. They hope to make existing customers comfortable in the new facility by capturing the same rustic/industrial décor as the existing brewpub. It will have booths for comfortable private dining and also hope to have an outdoor beer garden. With the addition to the brewery, none of the services will change that are currently offered at Northwinds.
“We will provide the same quality of service and experience at Northwinds during the expansion and afterwards” Joerres said. “2016 looks to be a very solid year with weddings, sportsman banquets, and business meeting conferences, which will only enhance the transition of Pigeon River and experience for our customers.”
The benefits of the expansion go far beyond the brewery.
“We’re very constrained in our current location as far as parking space and the capacity of the kitchen. The kitchen at Northwinds is enormous. It’ll allow us to get food out much faster,” Knaack said.
The brewpub currently specializes in burgers, homemade pizzas, and daily specials. With the move, the menu will not change but Knaack hopes to expand the offerings further.
Knaack and Joerres see the move as a mutually beneficial way to increase visibility for both the brewery and the banquet hall. Knaack said he hopes to foster relations between Pigeon River and other local businesses.
“We’ve done a lot of work with Dupont Cheese which sells and markets a Scottish Ale beer cheese with our beer and jointly shares a billboard with us,” Knaack said.
Indeed, brewery tourism is growing in Wisconsin, fueled by a recovering economy and increasing start-up breweries in the state. According to the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild, there are more than 50 small breweries and brewpubs in the state employing more than 1,000 people, and those numbers continue to grow as startups come online and existing breweries expand. The Knaacks have been actively involved with the Wisconsin Brewer’s Guild’s efforts to foster a positive brewing environment in Wisconsin.
“Breweries have a lot to offer to their communities in the way of jobs and tourism if communities just take up the opportunity to embrace them,” Knaack said.
He sees Pigeon River’s presence at the Shawano County Fair as a step in the right direction, and hopes to have Pigeon River featured at more community events in the future.
“We are very grateful to all of our patrons who have embraced our business and craft beer,” Knaack said. “We will continue to focus on quality beer, hand-crafted food and friendly customer service.”