SMALL BUSINESS – What's on taaaaap

Posted on Jun 1, 2012 :: Small Business Spotlight
Sharon Verbeten
Posted by , Insight on Business Staff Writer

At Grant Pauly’s grade school job fair, he didn’t dress up as an aspiring fireman or professional athlete. Instead, donning a spiffy suit and tie, Pauly came as a businessman.

That passion came early for Pauly, 29, a third-generation business owner. Encouraged and inspired by his father, Tod, the former owner of Wisconsin Concrete Products in Kiel, Pauly teamed his entrepreneurial spirit with his love of beer to launch 3 Sheeps Brewing, a craft brewery which recently opened in Sheboygan.

Continuing a brewing tradition

Beer was nothing new to Sheboygan – or to Pauly. His family formerly owned Kingsbury Breweries (previously Gutsch Brewery) in Sheboygan, taking over after Prohibition ended. (They later sold the business to G. Heileman Brewing Co.).

With that history, 3 Sheeps is the culmination of a dream for Pauly. After his wife bought him a home brewing kit several years ago, Pauly, a history major, continued to refine his “major obsession,” as he calls it. He took online classes at The Siebel Institute of Technology, a brewing academy in Chicago, and was ready to pursue microbrewing on a larger scale, when the stars seemed to align.

“The timing and the financing were right,” admits Pauly.

With stainless steel fermenting vats and other brewing equipment already on site (in the old Wigwam Mills sock factory), the owners of the adjoining Hops Haven pub didn’t want to go into the brewing business, so they sold that portion to Pauly.

“It was right place, right time,” says Hops Haven co-owner Dennis Altmeyer. “It works out excellent.”

The pub sells 3 Sheeps’ beers on tap, and, “So far, the feedback is really good,” says Altmeyer. “Having Grant there is a big draw to the bar. It makes it a destination.”

Even at his young age, Pauly had plenty of experience in number crunching at his father’s business, so he approached a local bank, which was already familiar with him, and they took a chance on his venture. After about 4 1/2 months securing licensing and permits, Pauly was ready to begin brewing earlier this year.

Pauly won’t disclose his initial investment, but he does believe the craft brewing market is poised to grow. “Even in a recession,” he says, “craft breweries have grown across the state,” adding that exports of craft brews grew by 96 percent last year; he attributes that to other countries slowly embracing craft beers.

3 Sheeps has signed on with Beechwood Distributing of New Berlin, the largest craft beer distributor in the state. “We picked up a great partner,” says Pauly.

Right now, the company’s three beers – sold by keg only – are sold in seven bars in the region. But Pauly has big plans for expanding the company – which is, right now, the only brewing company in town. He recently hired a full-time head brewer, and he plans to add three fermenting vats by this summer.

The company has what Pauly considers a “comfortable” brewing rate, brewing two to three days a week, producing 450 gallons in one batch.

In addition to increasing production, Pauly plans to rev up an in-house bottling line, so the product can be sold at retail.

While beer drinkers at Hops Haven and statewide beer events have already lauded the brews, the county is pleased to have 3 Sheeps as a neighbor as well.

Betsy Alles, executive director of the Sheboygan County Chamber of Commerce, says, “Grant Pauly should be congratulated for introducing 3 Sheeps Brewing to our list of Sheboygan County attractions. As far as I know, it’s the only commercial brewer in the area, and, with their skill and special brand of creativity, I think their future looks solid.”

Craft beers may make up only about 3 percent of beer sales nationwide, according to Pauly, but he has confidence in his business and his brews. “We’ve had such support from the community,” he says.

“And to grow a brewery, you have to gain confidence of the customers.”