APPLETON, WISC. —You will never go broke selling beer in Wisconsin. The Stone Cellar Brewpub in Appleton, Wisc., was started in 2004 by the father-and-son team of Tom and Steve Lonsway. The building they bought and renovated dates back to 1858 and was originally used as a brewery —one of the first in the state.
Located on the Fox River only minutes away from Lake Winnebago, the Stone Cellar has made a point of using locally-sourced products to make its food and beer. As their customer base expanded, the Lonsways moved from just supplying their own patrons to bottling and selling their beers to other local bars and restaurants under the Stone Arch Brew House label. They now produce seven distinct types of beers year round with several seasonal offerings.
As demand outstripped supply, the Lonsways decided to expand their brewing and bottling operation. Their first task: finding a reliable, high-capacity hot water source. For a solution they turned to Eric Baumgart, VP of Baumgart Plumbing in Seymour, Wisc.
“I’ve been doing work for Tom and Steve for a while now,” Baumgart said. “Whenever they had leaks or miscellaneous plumbing problems, we took care of them.” Baumgart Plumbing, like the Stone Cellar, is a family-run business owned and operated by Eric and his brother, and founded by their father in 1983. They do service and new construction, commercial or residential, and have dabbled in hydronic heating.
“When they decided to expand they asked me what I thought about it,” Baumgart said. “The way they were doing things before was just a big old tank with a burner underneath it. Not the most efficient thing in the world.”
Eric Baumgart ended up installing three Eternal Hybrid water heaters, two for the brewery and one for the restaurant. The hybrid models are designed to provide a continuous hot water supply like a tankless heater, but have a small reserve tank so hot water is instantly available upon demand.
“We’ve been installing the Eternal heaters for about three years now,” Baumgart said. “We’ve had the best luck with them. They don’t scale up… and the output is way better than other hybrid units I’ve worked with, especially for the cost.” The heaters are 98% efficient, with ultra-low emissions.
A complicating factor was the very cold Wisconsin winters. In winter months, incoming water can be lower than 40°F. Getting that water from 40°F up to 180°F for the brewing process would have been a struggle for the system. Baumgart installed a 500-gal. tank that would let the Stone Cellar make use of the ambient air temperature inside the brewery.
“What they do is, they fill that 500 gal. tank the night before,” Baumgart explained. “In the morning it’s up to somewhere around 60°F, and then they run it through the two Eternal heaters and they get their 180°F water at close to 15 gallons per minute.”
Baumgart Plumbing spent between 80 and 100 hours on the job over a total four months during the spring and summer of 2012. In addition to installing the Eternal units and the warming tank they also did the chiller lines, sinks, floor drains and almost all of the associated plumbing and piping, although not the stainless steel process piping that carries the beer itself. That work went to FX Fabrication LLC in Chilton, Wisc., who specialize in stainless steel.
“We had some problems with the building,” said Baumgart. “It’s more than 150 years old and the walls are three or four feet thick throughout the whole building. We had a few difficult holes we had to drill.”
The renovation has reduced the brewery’s energy consumption and labor costs while increasing their production. Where before they could produce one batch of beer in an eight-hour workday, they now produce two batches in a ten-hour workday.
“The impact has been unbelievable and has really helped boost the Stone Cellar Brewpub’s bottom line,” said Lonsway. Output has been tripled from 1,000 barrels (217,000 gal.) to 3,000 barrels (651,000 gal.).
The Lonsways already have plans to further expand capacity with new bottling and labeling equipment. And why wouldn’t they? “When I talk to Steve,” said Baumgart, “he’s telling me that as much as they can make they’re getting it right out the door.”