Updraft Brewery is a decade in the making and will be a new must-see spot when visiting the Driftless Region. John Patakos and his partners are bringing beer and building community in downtown Platteville. Check out his new brewpub and meet him at the Driftless Makers Market September 27 at the Platteville Business Incubator.
[Koziol]: Today we have the pleasure of talking to John Patakos who is with Updraft Brewing just about to open in Platteville, WI. I think it's what August 14th is when you open, John?
[Koziol]: Great. So tell me a little bit about Updraft. How long has this business been in mind to open in Platteville?
[Patakos]: Yeah, it's been about 10 years. We started with the idea with me and a friend of mine, Tom Nichols. We were kicking around the idea by doing a brewery, and we thought that would be something that the city really needed and another place for people to sit down and socialize. And especially those are like a nice brew. And he's very good at what he does – brewing beer. And I think I'm good at business. So we decided to meld the two together.
[Koziol]: I think you're pretty good at business too, John. Just give us a thumbnail of your sort of career and what's led you to where you are today.
[Patakos]: Well, I was born in Greece and when I was 13 years old, and I moved to America. I didn't speak much English, so the only choice I had really was to work in a restaurant. And I was a busboy for about six months, almost a year, and then I worked my way up to a cook because then I could read and write the tickets. And from a cook I wanted to become a manager at Steve's Pizza. And then at 23 I bought it and I owned it until last November. So I had about 40 some years of experience in the hospitality industry and this has really helped me with the process of the hospitality part of a brewery. So the tap room is going to be a very important part.
[Koziol]: Tell us a little bit about the Tap Room. Where is it located in Platteville and what kind of experience can people expect when they get to visit?
[Patakos]: We are at 45 S Chestnut, right across from the hotel, the Holiday Inn, right by the library, right downtown area, and between Hartig's and Steve's Pizza. It's a small place. It's about 40 people. We have seating inside and outside and it's a nice welcoming atmosphere. It's nice cozy wood on the wall. Tappers are here. They look really nice that we're just set up. We have a nice menu, screens on the walls, and nice colors. Of course we got to have free popcorn for people to come in and something to munch on. And our goal is to make good beers and then at the same time to teach the community about what it takes to brew good beer. So we're working with the university and we're going to do some tours. We're going to see how we can also work with other business people in the area, like Badger Brothers, who've been talking to them about using some other coffee so we can make a nice coffee stout for a beer. And so we're trying to do everything we can to help the downtown area and also includes bars and restaurants who have food. If they put our beer on their tappers, we will reward them by putting their menus here. And people can have their food doordashed here or delivered here. And it's kind of like a thank you to them.
[Koziol]: I love it. I love the collaboration. Small communities such as Platteville. They do have such strong business partners along Main Street and throughout the region. Badger Brothers being able to help Updraft and Updraft and helps others to win all the way around. I had an opportunity to speak with Tom the other day and we just talked endlessly about beer, one of my favorite topics. Tell me a little bit about the process to get to open the brewery. I'm sure everything went smoothly and there was never a hiccup and never a setback. So tell me a little bit about how you got to today and tips that you might have for other people that are thinking of opening some sort of hospitality business.
[Patakos]: It's, it's a long haul. It's a lot of government involvement into this. And it takes a long time to go from one department to the other and everybody wants like you're first born, as we say. So yeah, it's a lot of, it's a lot of paperwork, it's a lot of headache, but we got through it. We had a lot of patience, but also since COVID hit us, we weren't sure how businesses were going to go, what was going to happen to the economy and all that. So that kind of put a damper in our plans and we backed off a year and then once was COVID was over and we thought that the economy was stabilized, we were going out to eat and things were turning around more stable. We decided to get at it hard and it took us about a year and a half to get it done.
[Koziol]: Great the government regulations, that's because of the regulation of alcohol. So what departments did you have to work with?
[Patakos]: We have to start with the federal government. It's called Tobacco and Alcohol Firearms. And so we have to start with that and that takes about six months to a year to go through because they have to do background check on you and everything because they're afraid of somebody. Terrorism actually is what I think they're worried about somebody brewing beer and hurting people. So they want to make sure. Yet they have a background on everybody who is involved. Then it goes to the state level. Brewing beer is also considered food, so we have to deal with the health department. They have to come in and make sure everything was fine. A lot had to do with the Department of Revenue, but everybody was like really nice and polite. But it just took a long time to go through all the, to jump through all the food,
[Koziol]: We're all thrilled and looking forward to the day when Updraft opens and Platteville has their wonderful homegrown variety of beer. And Tom Nichols, your partner and in the brewmaster, he has quite versed in beer and all things of that nature. We're expecting great things and I know we're not going to be disappointed. What recommendations might you have for others that are thinking about this? Anything that you can share that can help make someone else's path a little bit easier?
[Patakos]: Really, to tell you the truth, you kind of have to have a lot of patience because it's a very slow process and you're jumping from talking to one person to another and, you know, just jumping through all the hoops that you have to go through. But you have to have a lot of patience and tenacity. You have to really go after your goal and your hands are really your life is in the, in the hands of someone else at, you know, above you like a government official. And that's where there's really not much you can do. You just got to, you know, hurry up and wait type of thing. But you know, between me and Tom and then also Brian Mulligan came on board, he's another Brewer for us here, another years of experience. He used to work for the university. You know, he's the one that does a lot of marketing right now and advertising on our TV screens and such. So between him and Tom, we have a lot of experience between us.
[Koziol]: That's that's marvelous. So working with Brian and with others, how are you getting the word out? I know there's quite the buzz. How do you get the word out about a new brewery? You have a little competition in the brew world.
[Patakos]: A little bit, yeah, but we don't see it as competition. People will come in and try our beers and we'll go to a place like Seven Hills and stuff and they'll try their beers and they give people more of an option and probably becomes a destination and people will circle around the community and leave their money here. And so we, we don't see it as competition. We see it as a good destination. The hotel, they've been looking out their window every single day. They come in and ask when are you opening, when are you opening. But mostly it's because between me and Tom and Brian, we know hundreds of people in town, if not thousands. And it's nice to know people because everybody's asking you all the time, when are you opening? What are you doing? Sometimes we bring people in and give me a little bit of a short tour of the place. It really the word of mouth has been the biggest thing for us and the fact that we're home brewers, all three of us have experienced. I'm mostly learning but I do have a one year of experience, but we're working also with the home Brewers in the area. Our goal is to have a synergy between home Brewers and brew beer, then put their recipes on our tappers. That will put somebody else's name out too, not just ours. So it's another way for people in the community who love beer and brewed beer to show off their good product that they produce.
[Koziol]: In my conversations with other brewers and brew houses, I've not seen like an avenue for a home brewer to partner with an established commercial brewery. So marvelous, if you're an avid home brewer, you've practiced and you're in smaller batches and then to have the chance to go big time in a commercial space, that's really quite a step up and I'm sure quite an honor for them.
[Patakos]: Oh yeah, it's a badge of honor to have your, your name on our, like our TV screens or our menus or on our tappers. Because, you know, these people have been practicing for so many years and this is a chance for them to show off what they've created. Their creation is their baby. So it's a good thing that we try to, you know, help everybody who can. Around here.
[Koziol]: That's amazing. So leading up to an opening, and I'm, I'm so thrilled you had a chance to talk with us because your opening is only 11 days away. What's been going on in order for you to prep? I mean, you've been building out the space and you're getting equipment on a daily basis. How do you prepare for a grand opening? I'm sure other businesses may be launching in the coming years. What are some of the steps that you and your team have taken to be ready for that opening day?