Brewery transforms building
Unique setting at H.H. Hinder Brewing Co.
By Angie Landsverk
When Brandon Oltmann and Mike Stroik decided to start a brewery, they wanted to create an experience for their customers.
They found the space they were looking for at 804 Churchill St., in Waupaca.
“It’s amazing. I can’t even describe how cool it is,” Oltmann said of owning the brewery.
He is H.H. Hinder Brewing Company’s brewmaster, and co-owns the business with Stroik.
They opened the brewery on the city’s east side last October.
“All these recipes we have right now were born in my garage,” Oltmann said. “I developed the recipes and tried them out.”
He started homebrewing about nine years ago, after his wife Tricia bought him a homebrewing kit.
Oltmann created his own recipes and also built his own equipment when he could not find things to match the ideas in his head.
Living in Amherst at the time and aware of Central Waters and its background, Oltmann dreamt of working there.
“I came home from work one day and Tricia said Central Waters posted a job for a brewer,” he said.
Oltmann applied and got it.
That was about five years ago.
“I was nervous the first day. It’s one of the biggest production breweries in the area,” he said.
Oltmann quickly learned it was homebrewing, just bigger.
“Brewing is brewing,” he said. “Everything you do is essentially identical, just on a bigger scale.”
Oltmann worked there about three years.
“At Central Waters, I really learned the production level of things. I refined my knowledge, how to produce commercially,” he said.
Owning his own brewery became his second dream.
During family get-togethers, Oltmann shared the beer he homebrewed.
Stroik is Tricia’s uncle.
“Everybody really liked it,” Oltmann said of his homebrews. “Mike and I kept talking more and more. He said, ‘You know what – we should start a brewery.’”
The conversation turned more serious a few years ago, and they started looking at buildings in Waupaca.
A native of Amherst, Stroik lives in Hartford and owns a construction business.
Oltmann said they chose this area because there was not a brewery here.
With Oltmann the brewmaster, it was also a logical space for the business.
Over the course of about a year, they transformed the former Waupaca Family Center into the brewery.
There were a number of things they liked about the building.
That included its size, cement floor and the original ceiling from the 1950s they found behind the drop ceiling.
“The ceiling in the taproom was a big draw to the building,” Oltmann said. “We both agreed it was a beautiful way to finish it off.”
It is the only thing in the building they did not touch.
“We just dusted it off,” Oltmann said.
Behind the bar is 100-year-old reclaimed brick from the Chicago area.
H.H. Hinder is a seven-barrel brewhouse and seller, he said.
There will always be at least eight flagships on tap, with seasonal brews as well.
Their plan has always been that in order to get their beer, people have to go to their taproom.
Their business took off quickly.
“The first six months, I did all the production by myself, from start to finish,” Oltmann said. “It was hard keeping up with the taproom.”
They recently hired a brewery assistant.
“We anticipated one batch of any style would last about three months. I was hoping that would be the case, so the beer would be as fresh as possible,” he said.
On average, they yield about 12 half barrels per batch.
During the last six months, the average batch lasted about three to four weeks, he said.
“That’s probably some of the freshest beer you’ll ever have,” Oltmann said.
The hops, honey and coffee for their various brews are locally sourced.
Customers may also order pizza, appetizers and the root beer Oltmann makes with his sons.
Many comment on what the business brings to that side of Waupaca.
“Maybe this will be a push to get things going on this side of town,” he said. “Maybe we’ll be a catalyst to drive a little bit of rejuvenation.”
They also bought the building next door from the Waupaca School District and plan to eventually remodel it.
Currently, their plan is to turn it into an event space for wedding receptions and parties, Oltmann said.
The taproom is open Wednesday through Sunday.