There’s not a single fingerprint on the glossy bar yet. The kegs are full with four new beers and the growlers just arrived.
A decade after Tanner Brethorst first made beer from a home kit, his dream of opening his own brewery has been realized.
Not far from the water tower in the Wisconsin Dells Business Park sits the first brewery in Columbia County since Eulberg’s closed in 1958.
And today, the doors to Port Huron Brewing Company are open.
“It will be a pretty big sense of accomplishment,” Brethorst said of the opening. “I don’t know if I will take enough time to sit down and enjoy it.”
Having worked as a brewer at Lake Louie and Capital Brewery, Brethorst decided to return to the county he grew up in to start his own operation.
With the help of friends and family, Port Huron sprang up in a 7,000-square-foot facility a few minutes from the busy downtown Dells.
The name of the brewery stems from a family legacy that started with Brethorst’s grandfather who owned a Port Huron steamer, a once-mighty tractor that’s been in the family 60 years.
Not only is the brewery named after the family tractor, but a picture of the steamer is on the label.
And each fall, the family gets together and fires up the Port Huron for the Badger Steam and Gas Show near Baraboo.
Having grown up in Lodi, Brethorst saw that the Madison market was flooded with breweries, so he looked at the Wisconsin Dells area to start his own.
Since 1980, the number of craft breweries in the United States has skyrocketed from 100 to 1,759 by 2010, according to the Brewers Association.
Those numbers were about the same at the turn of the 20th century — before Prohibition devastated the industry.
Beer companies once dotted small towns like Portage, with Eulberg’s, and Effinger in Baraboo, which stopped production in the 1960s.
Now, many breweries are tied to restaurants as brew pubs, which make up more than 1,000 of the craft breweries in the nation.
With plans for seasonal beers, Brethorst has started off making four styles of brew — a honey blonde ale, a German hefeweizen (wheat beer), a robust porter and a German alt (amber) beer.
He also has begun selling Port Huron in area stores and establishments. The feedback has been positive.
“The nicest experience in just talking with people is you get a really good sense of satisfaction when they comment about the beer and how much they like it,” Brethorst said. “That’s where it feels good.”