After more than two years in development, Leinenkugel’s has christened a new pilot brewery at its brewing campus in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, an operation that will allow them to develop, test and bring to market new beers faster than ever.
The small-batch brewery, which brewed its first batch of beer in late February, a pre-Prohibition-style lager inspired by Leinenkugel’s Original, is equipped with a flexible 3- to 7-barrel brewhouse with enough capacity to ferment multiple beers at any one time.
“Our overarching goal here is that the next big thing to come from Leinenkugel’s will be delivered from this pilot system,” Tony Bugher, a sixth-generation Leinenkugel who is slated to become president of Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. in 2023 told Beer & Beyond. “With Leinenkugel’s Master Brewer John Hensley at the helm, Bugher is “very confident we’ll achieve that goal.”
The pilot brewery, which will start with five fermenters and five bright tanks, will give Leinenkugel’s the capability to showcase and sample new beers to its most-important focus group…the 125,000 customers who visit the brewery each year.
Should one of those small batch take off, “we’ll make a decision on whether to scale the recipe, move production to the big brewery and into distribution,” Bugher added. “For as small of a system this is, it’s a massive deal because it gets to the heart of our biggest priority: To continue our tradition of innovation.”
In addition to new experimental releases, the smaller system will allow Leinenkugel’s to bring back fan favorites that have been in hibernation, beers from the Big Eddy Series, and past adventures like Leinenkugel’s Ice.
Beer pilgrims will be able to sample the new batches of micro-brewed beers starting in April. And those beers will be available for take-away in 16-ounce and 32-ounce crowlers.
The pilot brewery will allow the brewers in Chippewa Falls to “take their creativity to a whole new level,” said Paul Verdu, vice president of Tenth & Blake, Molson Coors’ US craft division…
“We set out just over two years ago to reestablish Leinie’s as a powerhouse Great Lakes-based craft brewery, and this is another major step in that direction.”
(All image credits: Molson Coors)