The journey to small business ownership has been a real adventure for Greg and Molly Harris. These owners of Hudson’s newest brewery, Hudson Brewing Company LLC, have honed their craft for more than ten years, traveling from Arizona to Ireland and across Europe, finally landing in northwest Wisconsin.
Greg Harris first learned the art of brewing in Arizona from his father-in-law, who passed away in 2002, leaving Greg his brewing equipment. Five years later, the Harrises moved to Ireland for Greg’s job. In Ireland Greg continued to perfect his home brew to the satisfaction of his Irish friends and beer enthusiasts. “That is really where I honed my home brewing skills,” notes Harris. “I started brewing with different strains of Belgian yeast and Belgian grain.”
Three years later, back in the states, Harris further perfected his skills, earning a brewing certificate from the Siebel Institute of Technology, America’s oldest brewing academy located in Chicago, Ill. After that he was ready to take his hobby to the next level. That’s when he contacted business counselor Steve DeWald at UW-River Falls Small Business Development Center.
“Steve DeWald was invaluable to getting this business off the ground,” says Harris. “In August of 2011, I showed up with a business plan, that wasn’t even close to a business plan. I met with Steve several times. He helped me with the income statements and prepared me to deal with the banks.”
Four months later, in December 2011, the Harrises officially founded Hudson Brewing Company LLC and released their first beer under the American Sky Beer brand in June 2012. The brand, with the slogan “Let Freedom Pour,” and the packaging display a WWII airplane theme, influenced by the Harris’s rich history of military aviation in WWI and WWII.
Today American Sky Beer selections include Tail Gunner Gold, Amber Salute and USA IPA, sold in bottles and on tap throughout Menomonie and Eau Claire and in a growing number of stores and restaurants in a six county area.
“And we have the only tap room in western Wisconsin. We are open three days a week,” says Harris of the unique tap room, aptly named The Hangar, where visitors can tour the facility and sample the unique brew. “Our beer is very sessionable, meaning it is easy drinking for the average person who likes good tasting beer.”
Hudson Brewing Company currently employs four people. Molly Harris works full time at the business, while Greg maintains his day job as an engineer for a local medical device company, devoting his remaining time to the brewery.
Of the future for this new brewery, Harris says, “Our expectations are to continue to grow in Wisconsin and be a regional craft brewer in the state. We would like to get up to 5,000 barrels at sometime as a company.”
To learn more about Hudson Brewing Company and American Sky Beer, check out www.americanskybeer.com or stop by the tap room at 1510 Swasey Street in Hudson and sample a pint for yourself!
Photo by Brenda Bredahl