Green Bay, WI, is an “untapped beer city on the brink of exploding.” This prediction from Thrillist is not only being fulfilled, but is exceeding all expectations in a state known for its breweries. Not only are small breweries thriving, but they are building a community of connections that sustains them, even through hard times.

The continuing growth and success of this group of breweries is due to the people behind the labels and their commitment to one another. “The past few years have been challenging for all of us, due in part to supply chain problems,” David Melton of Zambaldi Beer said. “If one brewer ran out of an ingredient, say, a particular hops, he could call around to the other brewers and see if they knew where he could find some. Oftentimes, brewers would share what they had with others.”

This type of interdependence and neighborliness strengthened the already strong bond that brewers had in the Greater Green Bay Area. It helped them get through tough times, like the first two years of the COVID pandemic.

“We are all buddies,” said Brad Stillmank of Stillmank Brewing Company.

Melton attests to that friendship. “Brad’s the reason we were able to stay open during 2020-21,” he said, adding, “I can call anybody in town and they will help me out. We don’t look at each other as competitors.”

Brad Stillmank of Stillmank Brewing Co. Photo by Tamra M. Bolton

The eight breweries in the GGBA take care of one another and give a “hand-up” to their fellow brewers instead of viewing them as rivals.

Each brewery is unique in its beer offerings and in its ambience. Every brewhouse fills a niche in their neighborhood. They have something special to offer their patrons, both in their craft and in their atmosphere.

Zambaldi’s has a family-friendly community feel to it, hosting everything from family fun days to yoga classes, and they also provide a wonderful play area for kids in their open-concept taproom. Noble Roots is a father-and-son enterprise that is popular with locals and tourists alike for its cozy neighborhood feel and primo selection of craft beers.

The breweries also make use of local ingredients, involving local farmers and producers. Locally sourced grain is used, and many of the breweries send their spent grains to local farmers for their animals, widening the circle of support in the GB area.

Nick Calaway, owner/brewer of Ahnapee Brewery, uses a Wisconsin-grown mushroom to brew his special “Fun Guy” beer, which has what he calls a “cult following” because it’s so popular.

Badger State Brewing Company makes one of their most popular beers using a local shop, Coffee Wizards, to supply the coffee for “Buzzy Badger,” their coffee brown ale.

The greatest takeaway from the GGBA brewers is the concept of growing together. Each would agree with the old saying “A rising tide lifts all boats.” With the brotherhood of GGBA brewers working together, they will continue to set the standard for community service and excellence in production for many years to come.

They have given other cities a blueprint for success with their outstanding devotion to the craft and to each other.

by Tamra M. Bolton