Guttenberg Brewing Co. breaks ground

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From left are Jonathan Klaes, Guttenberg Brewing Company owner Kathryn Klaes and general contractor Kevin Klaes digging the first ceremonial shovel of dirt at the brewery's groundbreaking event on Oct. 29. (Press photo by Michele VonHandorf)

By Caroline Rosacker

The Guttenberg Brewing Company held its groundbreaking ceremony at 530 South First Street in Guttenberg on Oct. 29. Mayor Bill Frommelt welcomed guests followed by remarks from Austin Coon, Guttenberg Economic and Industrial Development Commitee; Michelle Geuder, Guttenberg Chamber of Commerce; Andy Reimer, Foundation of Cornerstone Communities and Kathryn Klaes, Guttenberg Brewing Company owner. 

Kathryn, and her husband, Jonathan, and his father, Kevin Klaes, the general contractor for the project, officially broke ground followed by a beer tasting of Kathryn's award-winning craft beer, Hardly Stout and Golden Frau.

Kathryn and Jonathan Klaes

Kathryn attended Iowa State University in Ames earning a degree in Food Science. "Much of my course work focused on chemistry and engineering specifically related to food," she commented. "During my college years, I worked at breweries and wineries in the area learning about the fundamentals."

The new business owner is currently employed in food safety at PSSI in Keiler, Wis. Her husband, Jonathan, teaches high school science at Clayton Ridge in Guttenberg. The couple resides in Guttenberg. "Although it’s an hour commute, I enjoy the challenge of ensuring food safety for a large company that nationally employs nearly 17,000 people," she noted. "After gaining an education and work experience I am excited to be launching a business in Guttenberg." 

A return to their roots

The couple is native to Clayton County and Guttenberg. Jonathan's family has a long history of owning successful area businesses including a brewery – Rudolf Wolter Brewing 1874 - 1885, which later became Wolter Soda Bottling; Klaes Implements; First Klaes Builders; Diamond Jo Warehouse restaurant; Cellar Nook gift shop and Klaes Transportation. Kathryn's own great-grandparents, Frank and Elma Lee, grandmother, Diane Schilling, and parents, Brian and Jackie Lee all live or have lived in Guttenberg. 

Starting from scratch

Kathryn's philosophy — be brave, do new things, and work hard to ensure the results follow — will benefit her immensely in the upcoming months. "After months of research, looking at buildings, understanding the various limitations of existing spaces, renovation costs and available local, state and federal aid, the decision was made to build a new structure on the corner of First and Schiller Street," explained Kathryn. "I was so impressed with the city’s vision to revitalize Schiller Street to improve walkability, visibility and the general appearance of the area. It’s exciting to be building a new structure on this street. I know the Schiller Street project was controversial, but I firmly believe you can’t continue to do the same things in a community and expect different results."  

Creating a business plan

Last February Kathryn reached out to Emily Yadoff, former Guttenberg Community Vitality Director, and expressed interest in locating a new business in Guttenberg. "Emily immediately began researching available spaces and seeking out available funding resources for the potential business," said Kathryn. "I worked hard creating a business plan, researching, and meeting with other brewers" 

Kathryn dedicated thousands of hours to business plan development, grant writing, mentoring times and relationship building. "It’s funny, before you start down the path of creating a business, your perception is that there are abundant sources of free money available and all you have to do is ask," she commented. "Although there are lots of resources, the requirements don’t always fit the project, the timing isn’t right and/or the competition is steep."

Yadoff, along with the City of Guttenberg, assisted the Guttenberg Brewing Company in securing a grant through the Community Vitality Initiative. The grant was funded by the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities. "The grant was the catalyst for the initial land purchase, and was really the start for getting my funding package together. Beyond the financial aspect, it also gave me the signal that an influential group of business leaders believe in my vision!" she said with gratitude.  "The grant money accounts for less than 1.5% of the total project cost, so I have a long way to go with raising additional capital."

Brewery design

The brewery owner's original vision has changed throughout the design process. "As much as a rooftop bar was desirable, after much consideration, it was determined the best path forward was a one-story structure with a large outdoor patio," she commented. "I hope to create a unique, clean, friendly environment that patrons enjoy."

The eager business owner hopes to offer numerous craft beer creations palatable to a wide variety of tastes – and maybe even bending her personal rules and offering a popular domestic for clientele that aren't micro-brews fans. "My goal is to create a consistent product, ensure year-round availability for the ingredients, and make sure it’s what my customers prefer and will buy again and again," said Kathryn. "If this business is going to succeed, I need support from the residents of the community and surrounding area. I will paying very close attention to all those factors so people will want to come back again and again!”    

Food and entertainment offerings will be limited at the brewery. “The plan is to focus the attention on the beer, and partner with existing local businesses who offer great full-menu alternatives,” she said. “In time I plan to offer entertainment, however, I will need to make sure I can afford to do so before I jump into scheduling a robust list of performers.”

A desire to inspire others

Jonathan and Kathryn were living in Dubuque,but  desired to live in Guttenberg. Her decision to open up a brewery in Guttenberg vs. Dubuque is a blessing for our growing community.  “The more I researched my dream, the more I fell in love with the idea of locating the business in Guttenberg, versus Dubuque. I say again and again to myself and the skeptics, ‘Why not here – why not me?’” she asks. “My belief is that if I provide the things customers want and the business is successful that other entrepreneurs will see Guttenberg as a community to locate their businesses in. Creating an economic stimulant for this beautiful community would be the ultimate measure of success.”

The Community Vitality Director, City Manager, Guttenberg Economic and Industrial Development Committee and the Foundation of Cornerstone Communities have contributed to the brewery’s success. “I am grateful for all the support. I’m not foolish enough to think that every day will be roses and rainbows. I’m sure the winter season will be hard to make ends meet. I believe if I provide a good product, clean environment and friendly staff that local people will support the business year round,” she said with a smile.  

The Guttenberg Brewing Co. hopes to have a soft opening sometime in April 2022 and a grand opening on Memorial Day weekend.

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