The Story Behind Wild Leap Brew Co.
Wild leaps inspire great stories. The story behind Wild Leap Brew Co. is no exception. It’s also one that keeps growing – not in a tall tale kind of way – but because it’s still very much unfolding before our eyes. This starts when a couple of friends leave their successful careers in Atlanta to embark on a quest to brew a better tasting, more accessible craft beer. After much dreaming and planning, co-founders Anthony Rodriguez and Rob Goldstein, with head brewer Chris Elliot, have made their wild leap official. As the community gathered around, Wild Leap Brew Co. was born on January 12, 2017, in LaGrange, Georgia. “Here’s to wild leaps and following your passions,” Anthony said, with a glass of their newly crafted blonde ale raised high.
Wild leaps often start as an idea that nags at you, and slowly builds momentum. Theirs had been brewing for quite some time. Finally, the big “aha moment” came when Anthony and Rob held a craft beer festival in LaGrange to benefit downtown beautification projects. If there was interest, they might be able to find enough support for a brewery. As it turns out, the 2015 event featured over 100 craft beers from around the globe, food from LaGrange restaurants and drew a huge crowd – as well as the backing of the community. It was a bona fide success. That’s when the Wild Leapers knew: Not only could this become an annual event; the city was as thirsty for a brewery as they were.
The community support
Fast-forward two years. LaGrange is now a major character in the Wild Leap story. It’s no wonder that in this community with its blend of Southern charm and progressive vision, the guys feel a kinship. LaGrange is as eager for the brewery to happen as they are. Before the recession, some joked that the Georgia state bird should be the crane instead of the thrasher, because of all of the steel-necked construction cranes that were in use. Now it appears the cranes have all migrated to LaGrange and Troup County. There are new projects going up all over, from new hotels and resorts to entrepreneurs returning to the downtown area.
The Wild Leap team found an amazing site. A building in the form of an old tire and service station provides just the right amount of vintage charm to almost steal their show. Anthony can even remember driving by the former Westbrook Service & Tire Co. and saying out loud, “That would be a really cool spot for a brewery!” It sits on the southern edge of downtown, on Main Street, flanked by green space. Mayor Jim Thornton is excited about the development and thinks Wild Leap Brew Co. will be “an important anchor” that will “expand the footprint of our downtown area beyond the square.”
Today, the hard hats are out, busy turning the old 1940s building into a brewery. It stood vacant for quite a while so extensive renovations are underway to restore its original character. The Wild Leap guys envision a laid back environment where everyone feels comfortable hanging out and friends gather. When complete, the venue will feature not only the brewery and a tasting room, but also indoor/outdoor event space with a capacity of about 800. An adjacent outdoor plaza gives Wild Leap the ability to host an additional 1,500 people. This will make it an event destination fit for weddings, festivals, corporate meetings and more.
The Wild Leap Brew Co. Facebook page already has thousands of passionately curious followers anticipating its arrival. And Troup County leaders are eager, too. “This is a perfect story that we’re anxious to tell,” said Page Estes, president of the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce. “We’re ready to take the leap with them! Wild Leap already means a lot to this community. They are using a local architect and local contractors, not to mention the jobs and the tourism they’ll bring to downtown. They are great partners with us, the Downtown LaGrange Development Authority and the Callaway Foundation,” she added.
It’s also a story whose time has come. While the U.S. is home to more than 5,000 breweries, Georgia only has about 40. It ranks 48th in breweries per capita but demand is high. Georgia ranks 10th nationally in overall beer consumption, so it’s easy to see the considerable growth opportunity. Tourism is a big part of the mix, too. It’s estimated that 400,000 people visit Georgia breweries every year, including more than 4,000 per week who like to take brewery tours. Asked about joining the ranks, Rob said, “We are honored to be the first in LaGrange and Troup County.”
What’s with the logo?
At the press conference to celebrate the launch, the Wild Leap logo was unveiled. It features the lone buffalo. So what does the buffalo have to do with a brewery? Known mainly as herd animals, this one appears alone, as if he broke away from the pack to forge his own path, or maybe to follow his passions. Native Americans hold buffalo and bison in high regard as symbols of an indomitable spirit; strong enough to face challenges, with the power to move forward. They believe the bison teaches us that when you want something, you must be “all in.” Quite fittingly, the buffalo also represents a manifesting of goals and service to the community, which is the essence of our Wild Leap story.
Bring on the beer!
Attendees at the launch press conference were the first to experience the brand’s two new brews. True to their goal of creating an easy-drinking beer, the first one the team unveiled was a classic, crisp blonde ale, which is considered to be the most approachable craft brew style. The guys also showcased their India Pale Ale (or IPA). This is the most popular style of craft beer, which is all about hop flavor, aroma and bitterness. These selections were the first two Wild Leap beers available to purchase locally at the end of February 2017. Once the brewery opens, they plan to have a staple of core beer offerings and seasonal brews along with some “exclusives” that will only be available at the brewery. You can also show your support for LaGrange’s first craft brewery by sporting a Wild Leap logo t-shirt, now available on the website.