Roger and Cindy Miller have been brewing nostalgia in a bottle for the Chippewa Valley for nearly two years.
What started as a simple question of “why not?” after visiting a brewery in Maui, Hawaii, in 2013, transformed into a business on Nov. 19, 2015, and just in that short span their young, thriving business was named in May 2017 as the Chippewa County Business of the Year for quadrant two.
The Millers said their business, MoonRidge Brewing Company of Cornell, is now booming and now employs 10 people.
As their business grows, they said they are happily surprised with the community and tourists’ responses to their home-grown brew.
“One hundred pizzas a day, tons and tons of beer,” Cindy said about the expansive number of customers they are seeing. “Wow, where did all this come from?”
Before opening their doors as an official business, Roger said brewing began as a hobby with a kit at home because he was “tired of commercial beer.”
The first beer he ever made was an American Amber, but now the brewing company offers seven different beer flavors at its establishment, MoonRidge Brew Pub, ranging from an oatmeal stout to a honeyweisen to a cream ale.
The process of creating their beer, Roger said, is pretty typical, while the recipes remain a secret. Through heating water, mashing grains, bringing out and sifting starches and sugars, and draining out the water, Roger begins the process.
Cindy said the company then uses those sifted grains in the pizza crust, a style they are hoping to be known for. Depending on what recipe Roger is brewing, Cindy said guests can expect a different pizza every time as the grains change.
They combine the hoppy crust with unique pizza flavors to create options like a Reuben or cheeseburger pizza, Cindy said, and the styles can also change as the seasons do, too.
After boiling for a certain amount of time to determine a flavor, Roger drastically decreases the temperature on the brew and ferments and pitches the yeast, letting the beer sit for three to four weeks, typically longer than what he needs to do, Roger said.
And he does that simply because he said he wants to.
The flavors of their beers certainly attract the attention of guests even as far as Milwaukee and Eau Claire, Cindy said. According to the Millers, the summer season typically draws in the most tourists from around the state, but during the winter months they still feel the support of their local community in Cornell.
“We have what we consider an extended community,” Cindy said.
Yet it’s the name on the label that is drawing attention from local clientele.
When deciding what to brand and name their brew, the Millers decided to name their beers after popular party places in the area, and MoonRidge was by far their favorite.
The names have attracted the attention of fellow Chippewa Valley partiers, who will often visit and share their memories with the owners at MoonRidge Brew Pub, Cindy said.
“[We] looked at … some of the other areas and beers we kind of thought fit,” Cindy said. “We have children of our own that are very familiar with these places. We have older people that they know about all these party spots.”
Sharing a brew, a pizza and good conversation with locals, Cindy said the Millers have heard all kinds of stories about the places named on their beer, and it continues to bring back memories of their own.
While keeping the meaning behind their brew local, the Millers also try to keep all their supplies local. Roger said they try to buy their equipment and pieces to create the beer locally, and they purchase some of their grains from producers in Chilton and Little Chute, Wis.
They keep their brainpower and connections local, too.
Relying on help from fellow brewer Brewster Bros. Brewing Co., Roger said he is getting help for the design of MoonRidge’s new brewing system and expansion.
With the success of their brewery growing, the Millers have begun plans for expanding their business. Roger said they will be adding a 40-foot expansion to increase their brewing system flow.
As for what the future holds, their hope is relatively humble. Roger said they hope to be a familiar place for those looking to enjoy a well-brewed beer.
“Something that people want to drive to Cornell to get; something that you’re not going to find someplace else,” Roger said. “Some place you want to go back to.”
Yet the Millers know their success has not been purely on their own shoulders, crediting those who have supported them along the way to getting them to this point more than a year and a half later.
“We can’t do this without our employees,” Cindy said. “We can’t do it without people coming through our door.”
And they know the people coming through their door for some beer have to have good taste.
Their motto says so: “Good people drink good beer.”