On Thursday, Verona-based Wisconsin Brewing Company (WBC) not only announced that its Lake Louie brand will become the company’s only consumer-facing brand, but that its new pilot brewery at Wisconsin Brewing Company Park should be up and running in late October.
The changes follow the May announcement that Paul Verdu – who had led Molson Coors’ craft beer division – would become WBC’s new president.
Verdu said that he immediately got busy talking with WBC employees and distributors to get a grip on the brewery’s business. That led to efforts to boost growth in Wisconsin via a simplified approach. Hence, the distilling of WBC’s products into a single brand name.
“Once WBC bought Lake Louie in 2019, we had two distributors in 25 counties within the state of Wisconsin,” said Verdu. “One of the first things I noticed was the need to be a lot more consumer focused and a lot easier to work with for our distributor and retail partners. We are too small to be complex or confusing.
“We had to make some difficult decisions, but I am happy to say we are now fully aligned to one distributor in every country in the state, which makes our business more streamlined and efficient.”
“Making Lake Louie our sole focus will help us grab the attention of the state’s craft beer drinkers. Plus, we’re putting our money where our mouth is and executing on several exciting initiatives behind the brand.”
WBC-branded beers like Badger Club Amber Lager will be rebranded with Lake Louie labels, but the beer will remain the same.
WBC, said Verdu, will also continue its contract brewing work for other beverage brands.
A new consolidated distribution deal was signed in September.
The change will bring a new look to the Lake Louie Brewing brand – which WBC acquired in 2019. WBC was launched in 2013.
That branding, according to a statement from WBC, “pays homage to where the look and feel of the brand have been historically, but also provides a more differentiated and contemporary visual identity. The brand has always been playful, not taking itself very seriously and has celebrated that carefree lake life.
“The brand has also used a traditional fishing imagery but the new ‘beer lure’ is designed to reinforce that Lake Louie is a beer brand and it’s intended to lure in new drinkers by encouraging them to dive right in – to the brand, the beers, the lake or anything that floats their boat.”
WBC will increase its marketing efforts to boost the new brand design, Verdu said.
Part of that investment includes firing up a five-barrel brewhouse at Wisconsin Brewing Company Park in Oconomowoc, which opened in May.
The stadium is home to the unaffiliated Lake Country DockHounds team, which plays in the American Association of Professional Baseball.
The brewery is expected to be operational before the end of the month, and an official grand opening event will be announced soon.
According to Verdu, the focus of the new system will be innovation. Beers perfect there in test batches are expected to be available on tap at the ballpark, at the Verona taproom and, ultimately, at retail.
“The new brewery at the ballpark is an absolute gem, that while not large, it is mighty,” said WBC co-founder and Brewmaster Kirby Nelson. “The Brewhouse has capabilities to utilize brewing techniques not commonly found in small breweries. You name it, we’ll be able to brew it, from traditional to contemporary styles, it’s a brewer’s dream.”
Verdu said the plan is to have the park’s club area open during the offseason with a slate of events like live music, trivia, sports viewing events, game nights and more, with, of course Lake Louie beer available.
There is no plan to change the naming rights deal on the park, said Verdu.
“We will not change the name on the park,” he told OnMilwaukee. “Our company will still be Wisconsin Brewing Company. We have two lines of business under that umbrella. First, our contract brewing and blending business – which will always be WBC. It will be good to keep that name out in market as our overall corporate moniker.
“The new pilot brewery inside WBC Park will be named Lake Louie Brewing – The DockHaus. This is to reinforce our consumer focused brand name and will build local awareness for our craft brand.”
Verdu hopes that the changes will make 2023 a banner year for the Madison-area brewery.
“With a new, sole focus on Lake Louie Brewing, our investment in the brand’s new identity and the pilot brewery at the ballpark along with a fully aligned distributor network, 2023 is shaping up to be a real game changer for the brand,” he said.
“When the team executes all of this, the sky’s the limit.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.