This fermenter is one of the <a href=http://republicbrewpub.blogspot.com/2008/03/republic-has-bomb.html>latest additions</a> to Walt's homebrewing operation.
Some entrepreneurs are secretive about their business plans. Not Joe Walts. At his blog, the east sider writes about the brewpub he'd like to open, hopefully in the Atwood area, hopefully by this time next year. His writing is detailed, sometimes exhaustively so.
"I know that incorporating the business as an S-corporation would result in more paperwork than would be worthwhile," he blogged earlier this month, "but I'm not sure about having an LLC that's taxed like an S-corporation."
The blogging is good publicity, he says, and you other would-be small business owners out there might want to read his stuff especially closely. "Another goal is to document the process of starting a business," notes the 28-year-old. "I spent all day looking at how the LLC concept works for restaurants, and every question, I go through the same process."
Walts calls his business RePublic, with a capital P. What does that signify? "We're bringing back the public house," he says, meaning the sort of English pub that is part drinking establishment, part community center. But with the name comes a potential snag: Some brewers in Austin, Texas plan to open a Republic Brewing Co. there next year. Walts has contacted them about the name. "They ignored me, so as far as I'm concerned, it's not an issue."
Walts does not yet have a license, much less a site. (If Atwood doesn't work out, he is open to Monona, or even Sun Prairie.) But he has been working on the project full-time since December. His wife, a nurse, makes that possible. "She's going to basically be my sugar mama," he says, "because brewers don't make any money."
Late last year he returned from Vermont, where he worked for ten months at Otter Creek Brewing, a brewer and bottler. Before that, he was assistant brewer at J.T. Whitney's, the west side brewpub.
A dedicated home brewer, Walts is an engineer by education. After college at the University of Michigan, he worked at Williams International, an engine manufacturer in Walled Creek, Mich. Engineering training actually is appropriate to brewing, he says: "It's useful to know how fluid flow works."
Even if his business is only the theoretical stage, Walts already is mulling his beer lineup: a British mild, a stout, perhaps a Belgian blonde, plus seasonal brews. He may even offer a mint chocolate porter, with Corsican mint grown by his wife. A dedicated home brewer, he currently is fermenting a summer lager with grapefruit zest. (Much of his blog is devoted to home brewing, not just tax law.) Walts would like to have his brewpub's beer certified organic, and to serve organic and local food.
Walts is encouraged by the recent growth in artisanal beer, but he notes that the American market is still small, just 5% or so of all the beer sold. "I think the exposure of craft beer is bigger than the market share," he says. "What that tells me is that it's going to keep growing."