Cycling Brews open now in De Pere
By Janelle Fisher
City Pages Editor
For Fox River Trail travelers and beer enthusiasts alike, there’s a new business in De Pere that’s not to be missed.
Cycling Brews, owned and operated by Josh Smits and Steve Beckett, celebrated its grand opening just three weeks ago, but the pair said opening a taproom is a dream they’ve been working on for much longer.
“A couple years ago we were at The Brewing Projekt in Eau Claire and we had been to a couple breweries that day,” Smits said. “We were looking around like ‘We can do this. We’d like to start something like this.’ We know we can’t brew beer… so we were like ‘Let’s open a taproom.’ From there, the discussion started.”
With both Beckett and Smits being survivors of lymphoma, Beckett said it was an easy decision to take the leap, leaving their careers in healthcare and IT to pursue a passion.
“We both agreed that life was too short to just not do something we wanted to do,” Beckett said. “So that helped us take the risk. We figured, as cancer survivors, what’s the worst that can happen at this point? So we took the chance on it and so far, so good.”
Smits added that the support they received from their families also aided in their ability to take a chance on the new business.
“Our wives were also behind us and helped a lot,” Smits said. “This was not a decision to make without their support.”
Once the decision to open a taproom had been made, Smits said deciding what, and how many, beers they would serve was the first thing on the agenda.
“First off we thought, ‘Let’s do all local beers,’” Smits said. “We figured out the 11 local breweries, and then it became ‘Well, okay, how many taps do we need based off of that?’ We started off with 22 – two beers from each brewery. And then we were like ‘Well you have to have room for other Wisconsin breweries.’ And then we were talking about intruders from other states and we finalized ourselves at 36.”
Working with the local breweries, Smits said, has been a smooth process.
“The brewery community has been really helpful,” Smits said. “We met with all 11 breweries. Our plan is more to highlight them than to take away business from them. They were all very receptive.”
When it came to finding a location, Beckett said Cycling Brews home at 1109 Honey Court in De Pere was found “by dumb luck.”
“We had two other locations that we were looking at that both fell through just due to construction or the cost involved,” he said. “I was online looking to see what other commercial real estate was out there and this was listed for a day. I think within a week we were in here for the first time walking through it. And we both kind of agreed that this would be the spot… We didn’t have much to do construction-wise. We took out a few walls, filled in a few doors, and then just finished off all the openings.”
Smits said the location puts the taproom right in the middle of the Fox River Trail, making it an easy stopping point for those traveling along it.
“What’s nice is we’re about halfway to Ledgestone Winery and about eight miles to downtown Green Bay and right off the trail,” Smits said. “So we’re a nice mid-way stop.”
When looking for a name for the taproom, Beckett said it was important to both he and Smits that the business’ proximity to the Fox River Trail and the cyclists who utilize it would be incorporated.
“We knew we wanted something kind of like Bikes and Brews, but that was already taken as an event name,” Beckett said. “We just kept going around with other words for biking and settled on cycling.”
From there, Beckett said the name played a part in influencing the business model for Cycling Brews as well.
“And once we had Cycling Brews, we also decided that if we’re going to have that as our name, let’s cycle through the beers that we have on the 36 taps,” he said. “So no staples, no one brewery is always going to be in the same spot. It’s just whatever we get, we’ll put on.”
To help keep track of all those taps and the different types of beer being swapped in and out, Smits said the taproom utilizes a new piece of technology — a digital pour system.
“We have a digital pour system,” he said. “We’re one of currently 10 places in Wisconsin that have that. The next two closest locations are Milwaukee and/or Madison. It keeps track of the keg levels and shows you the type of pour, what it is, where the brewery is from… It gives you information and then we can easily, when a keg kicks, swap it out, put the next one in and move on — keep rolling along.”
With the digital pour system in place, Beckett said it is easy for not only he and Smits to see what’s on tap and what’s running low, but also customers.
A listing of the beers currently on tap, and how much is left of each one, can be found on Cycling Brew’s website.
“The system updates to the minute with the app, the website and the display board,” Beckett said. “It’s all connected.”
Not even a month since opening the doors to Cycling Brews, Beckett said that system has been put to the test as more than three dozen kegs have already been finished off and swapped out for new beers.
“In the three weeks we’ve been open, we’ve kicked 36 kegs,” Beckett said. “So basically our entire tap system.”
Beckett and Smits said that business has been good since Cycling Brews opened, and noted that soon, beer won’t be the only thing drawing people in.
“We’ve got our first musical performance this Friday — Matt Stillwell from Tennessee will be here,” Smits said. “We have other events planned and we have things we’ve talked about and different things that we’ll incorporate as time goes on, but we need to get our feet underneath us first before we start jumping into that. We’ve had people ask us about mug clubs. They’ve asked us about having bags events. They’ve asked us about having trivia. It’s all stuff that we want to do, we just have to figure out how it all works.”