In technology, there’s always the “next big thing.” It’s the same in the brewing industry.
That’s why it’s no surprise that Paul Hoffman would be active in both industries. As an IT web and software development instructor at Lakeshore Technical College in Manitowoc, Hoffman teaches students about the newest developments in software, apps, websites and coding.
But as owner/operator of PetSkull Brewing Co., Manitowoc’s newest — and believed to be first — craft brewery, Hoffman turns alchemist, creating the next big thing in beer.
“I wanted to help educate people about craft beer,” says Hoffman, 46, who splits his time between his two careers, both of which he loves.
Hoffman, a graduate of LTC, has a master’s degree in IT project management from Capella University. After working as an IT professional traveling around the Midwest for his job, he admits it’s a bit surreal to be back at LTC as a teacher.
“I had the opportunity to get into the classroom and that fit my personality. It was really weird at first,” he says.
Because Hoffman loves to drink and brew craft beer — and because his schedule at LTC allows him flexibility — Hoffman and his wife, Kathi, ventured into entrepreneurship last August by opening PetSkull Brewing Co. in downtown Manitowoc.
“When we would travel, I would try to find the little brewery with a little taproom, and I really enjoyed it,” he says. “Manitowoc didn’t have anything like it. As time went on, I thought there might be opportunity here.”
He says the city has been accommodating in helping establish PetSkull. “They had wanted this so bad; they bent over backwards.”
One of those supporters is Manitowoc Alderman Scott McMeans.
“Having someone step forward in the community that wanted to share his knowledge and appreciation for the art of beer making by taking a risk on a startup business was special,” he says. “Paul’s taproom has created a local gathering spot for those appreciating the art of making beer.”
A home brewer for about 12 years, Hoffman now does it on a bigger scale, producing about 200 barrels in his first year.
“The biggest thing is the equipment is so much bigger; your volumes are different, things like how you control temperature,” he says.
In a fortunate twist, Hoffman was able to use LTC’s fabrication class. “They jumped all over it. They welded my connections on my kettles,” he says.
While Hoffman wrote a business plan for the brewery, most of his financing came from credit cards and personal savings. “I was able to spend just enough money to get going,” he says, adding that writing the plan did help him “think things through so I had an idea of what I should be looking at.”
Located in an old retail storefront, PetSkull — which does not include a restaurant — is open Thursday through Saturday evenings. Hoffman’s wife manages most of the operations, while he handles the brewing.
“The biggest thing is if I had any different job, I don’t know if I could do this,” he says.
That means often working late nights to get everything done, but Hoffman has made this dream come true. “If you want to do both things, you’re not going to have a lot of free time,” he says.
Side hustle: PetSkull Brewing Co.
On the web: petskullbrewing.com