Blackbird Bar owner Holly DeShaw vividly remembers her rural neighbors driving up to her father's southwestern Wisconsin farm to buy his corn, pork, hay and beef.
"I grew up a lot with buying local and that concept, and living out in the middle of nowhere you don't really have the option to buy from other places," said DeShaw, "One day I was in the basement and I was just kind of doing my ordering ... and was like 'Wow, there are so many good Wisconsin beers ... Why am I buying from all over the country when I can just support locally and buy from Wisconsin?"
DeShaw emerged from the bar's basement and quickly got to contacting her distributors about the possibility of transforming her beer menu almost into almost exclusively Wisconsin-brewed beers.
"We have kept a couple of staples of things we sell a lot of at the bar, but beyond that we kind of got rid of everything else and started fresh with all Wisconsin products," DeShaw said.
When Blackbird launches its new Wisconsin beer list in January, the blackboard framed with barn-wood from her parents' farm will feature nearly 60 Wisconsin brews from 20 different state breweries, she said.
According to her distributors, DeShaw said, Blackbird will have more Wisconsin brews for sale than any bar in the county.
"With my dad being a local farmer, when you have that local mentality people know they can trust your product. They know you. They feel better about buying from you and I guess that is kind of how I feel about the breweries. I am getting to really know these breweries and we are building up a relationship," DeShaw said about the process.
DeShaw has always put her unabashed state-pride on display at the bar, 3007 S. Kinnickinnic Ave., with a giant state emblem adorning one wall, and a room filled with paintings of Wisconsin's native birds by Milwaukee artist Luke Chappelle.
And soon a giant pull-down classroom map from the '60s DeShaw bought from an antique store will show the locations where all their beers are made.
"To know what you are putting into your body and where it came from is kind of a cool concept, because I can go to Central Waters, or I can go to Brew Farm Brewery and see where it's made," DeShaw said.
DeShaw has also sought out Wisconsin spirits in addition to the locally produced cheese they use in their Bloody Marys and other Wisconsin made bar snacks; an extension of her quest to make Blackbird as locally focused as possible, she said.
"We are just trying to do everything we possibly can within our state boundaries, and we've always kind of had that mentality. It's not always the lease expensive way to do things, but it's kind of like a social responsibility," DeShaw said.
Local vendors applauded DeShaw's efforts.
"We think it's a great idea. We always appreciate when a local bar supports a local business and keeps the city's economy going" said Matt Krajnak, Lakefront Brewery spokesman.
Guy Rehorst of Great Lakes Distillery called it "great news" for Wisconsin beer producers.
DeShaw says the official roll-out of the new Wisconsin beer list in January will include a week of tastings and demonstrations from Wisconsin brewers, followed by a featured in-state brewery every month.
She is also toying with the idea of a craft cocktail night using only locally produced ingredients and spirits.
"Coming from where I came from and kind of bringing those values to the business just kind of makes me feel better," DeShaw said.