Hop Haus opens second, bigger location in Fitchburg
New spot in the suburbs offers rooftop patio, full kitchen, beer, wine and liquor
Hop Haus Brewing Co. opened — you read that right, opened not re-opened — a second location on Sept. 1 in Fitchburg. The brewery, also featuring a full kitchen and full bar, is run by Wisconsin-natives Sara Hoechst and her husband. Now with signature brews available in stores and two locations — the original Hop Haus is located in Verona — Hoechst says she’s grateful for the support that allowed the duo to open up a second location, this one outfitted with a rooftop patio.
While the pandemic delayed a few furniture orders, Hoechst says the rest of her September opening went smoothly and expects to see more guests enjoying drinks soon, including her personal favorite drink: The Voyager—a bourbon-based cocktail with notes of lemon and cardamom.
“I think that people just want to be able to go out a little bit, feel safe and kind of have that taste of the old, everyday life,” Hoechst says. “The people in Fitchburg are just so excited for us to be here, and we just feel so grateful for that. We’re really just excited to be open and to be able to show them around, have them try some stuff and just see where it all takes us.”
Hop Haus traces its roots back to Colorado, where the husband and wife team first got the idea to open a brewpub. But having grown up in Verona and Fitchburg, the couple found their way back to Wisconsin, where they used their basement as an at-home beer lab to test recipes. They came across the Verona location and demolition on their first brewery started the same day they rushed to the hospital to have their second child.
After a “wildly successful” Verona brewery opening in 2015, Hop Haus began offering brews in south-central Wisconsin stores. But the couple — who met while attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison — hoped they’d find another spot to grow the business. This second location adds elements the Verona brewery doesn’t offer: a full food menu, a full bar and a larger footprint. The Verona location offers only beer, wine and light bar food.
Opening day was busy, Hoechst says. Visitors enjoyed the rooftop patio, which Hoechst says she planned to have before the pandemic as a way to help locals enjoy the outdoors in the warm months.
“It’s funny because everybody says, ‘Oh it’s so great you had that built in before COVID hit.’ Well it’s Wisconsin! I think most people want to be outside as much as they can in the nice weather,” says Hoechst. “It wasn’t like [we were thinking] what if a pandemic hits … people like to sit outside, [so] let’s find some place for them to sit outside.”
The Fitchburg location is well staffed, said Hoechst, but she says with the coronavirus-related restrictions often changing, it’s been difficult to know how many people she will need on her team. With capacity limits affecting her staffing decisions, she has found it difficult to prepare for an unknowable future. At the same time, Hoechst has to balance the safety of her staff, her customers, the restrictions and keeping her business open.
“We’re kind of always trying to prepare for that unknown which, unfortunately, is always lingering right now,” she says. “You just do what you can.”
There is a silver lining, she says. Due to many businesses furloughing employees, Hoechst was able to find amazing servers and cooks who might not have been available before the pandemic.
Now that Hop Haus is open for business in Fitchburg, Hoechst is looking to the future. Next summer, she hopes that with the pandemic’s end, she’ll be able to host live musicians and events at her bar, as well as get those few final patio chairs that remain on back order.
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