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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kickstarting a Brewery

Big Head Brewing opens in Tosa

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Like many hopeful entrepreneurs, Wauwatosa-based brewer Andrew Dillard turned to Kickstarter last spring thinking he might use the popular fundraising site to raise $27,000 to start a microbrewery in Tosa. Big Head Brewing Company, as he called his start-up microbrewery, would specialize in a low-carb craft beer based on his own recipe along with a selection of other ales and beers.

By late spring, the Kickstarter campaign had “failed terribly,” in Dillard’s own words. But it did attract the attention of the community newspaper, and after the paper ran an article on Dillard’s campaign, a local investor with Type 2 diabetes tracked him down and offered to fund his project.

Several months later, Big Head Brewing Company is moving forward and is slated for a soft opening this month, with a grand opening in August. “People around here love beer,” Dillard said. “I’m just really excited for this to get going. This has been a dream of mine.”

Big Head will be the first brewery to open in Wauwatosa since the 1990s, when Wisconsin Brewing Company closed its doors on State Street after a major flood. That brewery was bought out and relocated to another part of the state.

Dillard began transforming his own home-brewing hobby into a business over the last couple of years. While he plans to brew a variety of beers, from IPA to amber ales, he hopes to fill a void for flavorful, low-carb beer diabetics can enjoy. The inspiration to create a recipe for a diabetic-friendly beer came from his wife, who has been a Type 1 (insulin-dependent) diabetic since she was twenty years old.

Dillard said there are, of course, other low-carb beers, but most are bland, lacking the robust flavors of malt, hops and yeast found in craft beers. His diabetic beer is a farmhouse-type ale with malt characteristics. “It’s a really drinkable beer,” he said. “This one is lighter in body and lower in alcoholic content, so you can drink more of them than your other craft beers.”

His professional expertise is in business management with a specialization in start-ups and small business management. So while he loves brewing, he plans to eventually focus on the business end of the brewing company and hire a classically trained brew master to oversee the brewing of Big Head beers.

For now, Dillard will brew all Big Head beers at the old warehouse at 6100 W. State St. that he and his partner are transforming into a workshop area with brewing tanks and a taproom. The taproom will be open to the public Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays for tastings. “It’s a great spot to grow into,” Dillard said.

To start, the brewery will serve three beers, eventually expanding to eight, with even more possible in the future. Dillard wants to focus on local sales, distributing his beers to local bars, restaurants, beer gardens and selling to walk-up customers through the taproom. Big Head won’t sell bottled beer—it will be available by the keg and on tap—but Dillard may look into this in the future as business grows. Big Head will also offer taproom customers beer growlers—64-ounce jugs customers can fill with their beer of choice and bring home with them.

Big Head Brewery will have a booth at BrewFest at Milwaukee’s lakefront on Saturday, July 27, offering samples to festivalgoers. Learn more about the festival at milwaukeebrewfest.com. For updates on the development of Big Head Brewing Company, follow them on Facebook.