One of Wisconsin’s biggest breweries seems to always be getting bigger.
Waunakee-based Octopi Brewing – which opened in 2015 and which I profiled in this 2020 article – has announced a $62 million expansion that’s predicted to create 150 jobs in the next five years.
Octopi, which makes its own beer as Untitled Art and does a lot of contract brewing – including for Aldi – has had many expansions and had just expanded then, boosting its capacity to 200,000 barrels. Another planned expansion was to up that number by another 50,000 barrels.
And, founder/president Isaac Showaki had just purchased a 14-acre site just across from the brewery, which is located a few miles north of Madison.
“We’re growing almost 10 times in size, going from a 65,000-square-foot facility to over half a million square feet of space,” said Showaki in a recent announcement. “Adding new equipment will give us even more product capabilities as the innovation beverage market keeps growing.”
The brewery’s existing facility will expand to 165,000 square feet and a new 200,000-square foot building will go up on that land acros the road. Another 180,000-square foot warehouse is being leased a few miles away, to bring total square footage to about 545,000.
“It’s a response to what the market’s telling us and what our clients are telling us,” Showaki said. “We’re lucky to be in a position where we’re getting bigger and better clients who want more production volume, so we’re doing what we can to help them.”
According to Showaki, production capacity will reach a million barrels, or 14 million cases, annually.
"We should be the third largest production facility in Wisconsin after Molson (Miller in Milwaukee) and City Brewing (La Crosse)."
Octopi has 200 committed to hiring a total of 150 people, from a baseline of 90. That would mean a total of 240 new jobs.
"We are way ahead of curve on hiring and still have two years to hire the rest," said Showacki.
According to the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation (WEDC), an economic modeling study suggests the company could, down the road, potentially create still more positions. All these jobs would be expected to generate more than $800,000 in state income tax revenues over five years.
That’s surely one reason that WEDC is supporting the project by authorizing that amount in state income tax credits over the same period. The credits will accrue to Octopi based on the actual number of jobs created and the capital investments made during those five years.
“Octopi has grown into a tremendous success and is a significant creator of family-sustaining jobs in the Waunakee area,” said Missy Hughes, WEDC secretary and CEO. “WEDC has supported Octopi from its early days and is proud to continue doing so with this latest expansion.”
This will be WEDC’s third investment in Octopi, which earned $300,000 in tax credits for a 2017 expansion and $225,000 for the expansion undertaken just before my visit.
“When we started, we had six employees, and now we have over 200 full-time employees with amazing benefits and great wages,” said Showaki. “It’s pretty fulfilling to see how many people are part of Octopi and how many families are able to develop through that.”
In addition to brewing beer, Octopi also brews seltzers and other beverages, too.
“Anything that can go in a bottle, can or keg,” Showaki said, “we can do it.”
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.