Wiedemann Brewing launching Kickstarter to raise funds to build brewery, taproom

NEWPORT, Ky. -- Geo. Wiedemann Brewing Co.’s cup might not runneth over yet, but if all goes well in its new Kickstarter campaign, that might be about to change.

The historic Newport-based beer company – which was revived by Jon and Betsy Newberry in 2012 after previous owners ceased producing and distributing the brand in 2007 – is launching a fundraising effort Friday on the popular crowdfunding platform. The six-week-long push was created to help Wiedemann build a brewery and taproom in Greater Cincinnati, preferably in its historic home of Newport, although other areas are being considered. The campaign's official fundraising goal is $30,000, but Jon Newberry hopes to round up much more.

The campaign will kick off Friday with the tapping of a Wiedemann Bock keg at Mecklenburg Gardens, and a new video at wiedemannbeer.com and kickstarter.com will explain the goals and incentives. Kickstarter rules (and many state laws) prohibit giving free or discounted alcohol as an incentive. Instead, donors will earn invitations to special events including a brewery pre-opening, as well as a variety of goodies created specifically for the campaign: art prints, mugs from Germany, beer glasses, T-shirts and a host of other items – all bearing the Wiedemann logo.

Roger Weddle of Newport predicts the beer brand’s storied local history and feverish support from fans could help propel the Kickstarter effort.

“It has such a strong history in this area, especially in Newport,” he said. “They were very innovative and were one of the largest breweries in the country at one point. And Wiedemann memorabilia is still very collectible.”

Weddle has learned just how much cachet the brand name still carries since he and his wife, Donna, restored the stately Wiedemann Hill Mansion in Newport – which brewery founder George Wiedemann had built for his family in the late 1800s – and began operating it as a popular event venue. While that business is unrelated to the brewery operation, Weddle said he has heard hundreds of guests say things like, “Oh, that was my dad’s beer!” or “I’m so glad it’s back.”

Wiedemann’s $30,000 fundraising goal is a drop in the vat compared to what is needed to open a brewery and taproom. But in the world of Kickstarter, aiming too high is a death knell. That’s because the site’s fundraising is all-or-nothing: If a company or artist sets a goal of $100,000 and lands $90,000 in pledges, they don't receive a dime; the push is declared unsuccessful, and no pledges are collected.

But Newberry thinks the $30,000 figure is achievable. Plenty of breweries in the United States have collected that or more on Kickstarter, after all, including Land-Grant Brewing Co. in Columbus. And he’s encouraged by the success of Covington’s Braxton Brewing Co., which set a Kickstarter record for breweries when it raised nearly $72,000 in late 2014 to help it open a taproom.

But truth be told, Newberry is hoping Wiedemann’s campaign generates much more – several hundred thousand dollars would take it a long way toward the estimated $1 million it needs to make the brewery and taproom a reality. Some brewing projects have caught fire to that degree on crowdfunding platforms – most notably the $2.5 million raised on Indiegogo in 2014 by California’s Stone Brewing.

The Newberrys also are continuing to negotiate with private investors, as well as traditional lenders, to hammer out working capital loans and loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration – a process that has been more grueling and time-consuming than they predicted. But based on the interest, they’re optimistic.

“We get calls and emails from all over the country saying, ‘Where can I get Wiedemann? I used to drink it,’ " said Newberry. “We’d love to get it beyond Cincinnati.”

For now, Wiedemann is available only in Greater Cincinnati: at grocers including several dozen Kroger stores, Party Source, Jungle Jim’s and some Remke locations; restaurants such as Mecklenburg Gardens, Pompilios, Green Derby and Arnold’s; and at festivals, community events and beer tastings. Until it can build its own brewery, Wiedemann is crafted by the Cellar Dweller brewers at Valley Vineyard in Morrow from a recipe created by Kevin Moreland, head brewer at Taft’s Ale House. Moreland was with Listermann Brewing when he made the recipe. And, Newberry said, the creation of the resurrected Wiedemann would not have happened without the guidance of Dan Listermann, whom he called “the godfather of the Cincinnati craft beer movement.”

The Kickstarter campaign ends April 6, which means Wiedemann has 47 days and several big events – including the Bockfest parade, St. Patrick’s Day parade and Reds Opening Day – to whet fans’ appetite to contribute. As important as raising money, Newberry said, the effort could raise awareness and persuade more bars, distributors and lenders to take a chance on the brand, which served its first brew in Greater Cincinnati more than 100 years ago.

Said Newberry: “Hopefully we’ll reach thousands of rabid Wiedemann fans all across the country and blow past our goal and just keep going.”

Kickstarter Kickoff
What: Wiedemann Bock keg tapping, announcement of campaign
When: 6:30 p.m. Feb. 19. Arrive at 6 p.m. for a German fish fry ($16)
Where: Mecklenburg Gardens, 302 E. University Ave.
Information: 513-221-5353

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