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A ‘Wild Leap’ for downtown

LaGRANGE – The annual Craft Beer Festival won’t be the only thing hopping in downtown later this year thanks to the new brewery that is slated to be opened by some of the festival’s founders.

Wild Leap Brew Company announced plans to open a craft brewery in the former Westbrook Tire building on Thursday, and the co-founders of the brewery were both excited to be able to use such an interesting piece of architecture in downtown to fulfil their dream of opening their own brewery.

“I happened to see the coolest looking building on the street as I was riding by, and I remember saying out loud to the person in the car with me, that would be a cool spot for a brewery,” said co-founder Anthony Rodriguez, who has lived in Atlanta for years. “Little did we know that the city would embrace our dream of opening a brewery – something that we had talked about for so long.”

Wild Leap is a new brand, but the brewery team has several decades of combined experience creating beers and working with customers at the Red Brick Brewing Company in Atlanta. Red Brick is one of the largest craft breweries in Atlanta, but the Wild Leap team wanted to be able to express their own vision for a brewery, so they decided to move to LaGrange and strike out on their own.

“When you work with a company as big as Red Brick (Brewing Company), you can have a lot of ideas for beers and things that you want to do and things that you hear that people like, but it’s not your company, so we just kind of realized over time that we had enough ideas that were just a little bit different from that that we were moving in a different direction,” said Head Brewery and Production Manager Chris Elliot. “We realized that there were a lot of beers that we wanted to make ourselves, so we started our own business.”

The brewery had several of those beers available to sample at the announcement, and with the help of another local brewery – who is allowing them to use their space while construction continues on the Westbrook building – they hope to have Wild Leap beer available in LaGrange as early as February.

“We anticipate having beers in the LaGrange market in approximately a month, and we’ll be unveiling one to two beers initially, and then adding from there,” said co-founder Rob Goldstein. “By the time we open in late summer and do our grand opening, we’ll have several more beers available.”

The brewery hopes to sell its beers at local restaurants like Brickhouse and Mare Sol, and the founders plan to release some beers to the local area well before those beers premiere elsewhere. The brewery has received the support of the city and the Callaway Foundation on the renovation project, which they hope will inject new life into that section of downtown while making use of a building that has long been part of the fabric of the community.

“The city council is very excited anytime a new project, a new investment (comes) to LaGrange anywhere, but particularly in downtown,” said Mayor Jim Thornton. “… This is a very exciting opportunity with the unveiling of the brewery here in downtown. It’s always exciting to have new businesses, and the new foot traffic that it will bring, but I am particularly excited about the location, not just in downtown, but on the south side of downtown because this is an area where we are… gradually expanding the footprint of our downtown area. It is no longer just the square, but if you go north, you go all the way up to Sweetland Amphitheatre, and now coming to the south, we have the District 4 Public Health Building as well as now this brewery here.”

The actual brewery is projected to open sometime during the summer, but due to the construction necessary to bring it up to standards for production, all dates are tentative.

“We are looking to open sometime mid-summer to late summer of this year, so this building construction is obviously (a lot),” said Rodriguez. “Remodeling an entire building from scratch and bringing a beautiful building back to life and restoring it on the inside takes a while. We’ve got months of construction ahead of us, but we are excited to be open hopefully midsummer of this year.”

Creating the craft beer will be only a small part of the building’s use though, as the company hopes to host a variety of events at the location as well.

“What’s great about this brewery is that we are so fortunate to have this building, and repurpose it in such a way where not only will it be a manufacturing facility – where we’ll be brewing and creating all the beers here – but we’ll also be able to host tours and throw large events,” said Goldstein. “It’s really important that we create opportunities for folks to host everything from corporate events to birthday parties to weddings to meetings in a really fun kind of laid back environment, and we believe we have the opportunity to do that.”

Under current Georgia law, the brewery would not be allowed to sell beer directly from the brewery to consumers. It would have to sell through a restaurant or other local distributer, but the brewery would be allowed to give out samples of beers to visitors who take a paid tour the facility. That law is expected to come up for review before Georgia’s legislature later this year.  Georgia is one of two states that does not allow direct sale to customers.

For the latest updates from Wild Leap Brewery go to www.wildleap.com.

Reach Alicia B. Hill at alicia.hill@lagrangenews.com or at 706-884-7311, Ext. 2154.