EVANSVILLE, Wis. - An increase in microbrewers and hop growers in Wisconsin is creating new business opportunities.
Rick Cole, a retired Evansville chemistry teacher, is finding himself right in the middle of the growing trend.
Cole has always had a love for science, but he never imagined that passion would also help continue the expansion of Wisconsin's brewing industry.
"I really like the idea of home culture, back-to-the-roots Wisconsin. We were known for growing hops, we've been known for years for our brewing. So it just helps things get back to perspective," Cole said.
Cole is using his 25 years of home-brewing experience, along with combining his love for chemistry and beer, to provide chemical analysis for local growers and brewers.
Cole officially opened his doors for business Tuesday, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony alongside friends and the Evansville Area Chamber of Commerce. Customers said testing alpha acids in hops is a key ingredient to crafting the perfect beer.
"To the growers you want to harvest it at its peak, when the acid contents are the highest, before the plant starts breaking down and going dormant for the year," said Brendan Deneen, a local hop farmer.
Alpha acids are what gives beer its bitterness. There are close to 50 different varieties of hops. However, with the majority of testing companies located on the west coast, Brendan Deneen, owner of Ore-ganic Wisconsin Hops, said local lab access is crucial to harvesting.
"I have a sensitive crop. I have a week or two where its ready to harvest up until it's too late. In which case, I have extremely expensive fertilizer. So, to have somebody local right here who can get me a 24-hour turnaround is huge," Deneen said.
Deneen, a former student of Cole's, gave him the idea to come out of retirement. Now, after years of teaching, Cole said he finally gets to take his own advice and pursue his passion.
"I guess I'm putting my money where my mouth is and actually doing what I've been trying to tell students to do," he said.
Cole plans to host an open house from 1-5 p.m. on Sept. 20.
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