Hoppy proposal

(First published in the November 7, 2019 issue of City Pages)

North riverfront could see a new $1.5 million brewery by early 2021


Rendering of the proposed Karma Brewing Company on Wausau’s north riverfront.

A local entrepreneur hopes to build a $1.5 million brewery on the north end of Wausau’s riverfront area by January 2021.

The city’s economic and development committee Tuesday heard a proposal from Karma Brewing Company to build a facility at 101 Devoe Street, just northwest of Athletic Park. Wausau native Tyler Vanden Heuvel’s pitch to the city bills the brewery as a “social enterprise brewpub” and will create upwards of 35 jobs once fully operational. According to the proposal sent to the city, the brewery would open by January 2021.

The proposal is one of many expected for the site along the Wisconsin River that once held Great Lakes Cheese area. Those proposals for development are due in Dec. 12, says Community Development Director Chris Schock. Vanden Heuvel, who is originally from Wausau and moved back to the area recently, wanted to present his plan early.

City council President and Economic Development Committee member Lisa Rasmussen says the proposal is already generating excitement and is exactly the kind of partnership the city is looking for — helping out with infrastructure and land, not funding operations. “People are really excited,” Rasmussen says. “They’re not asking ‘is it coming?’ they’re asking ‘when?’”

Vanden Heuvel’s proposal states that staff at the brewery will coordinate volunteer events and a portion of every pint sold will be funneled into community projects. Community projects will include everything from helping little league organizations to river clean up to assisting hunger campaigns. Vanden Heuvel proposes to build a 4,500 to 5,000-square-foot building on a one-acre plot on the northernmost portion of the former Great Lakes Cheese campus, on land that didn’t have any structures on it. The brewery is asking for the land and infrastructure improvements (including the potential creation of a Karma Drive).

Besides having worked a graphic designer and an IT coordinator, Vanden Heuvel also worked as the brewer at Barley Brown’s Brew Pub in Baker City, Ore.

The one acre of land Vanden Heuvel asked for is a small part of the overall space and the brewery likely would fit well with other proposals expected for the Great Lakes Cheese area, Shock says. There would still be more than six acres remaining for development.