BUSINESS SUCCESS STORIES
FFATS Brewing Company
Other than a business administration minor earned in 1996 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, Eric Staff had never spent much time as an entrepreneur. He had, however, been homebrewing beer in the garage for six years before finally opening FFATS Brewing Company in Whitehall, Wisconsin.
“The groundwork for FFATS started years ago,” Staff said. “We started going to beer events, giving away the product, taking away feedback and fine-tuning our recipes.”
Prior to opening up FFATS, Staff worked as a law enforcement officer, and had done so for nearly 20 years. He eventually decided he wanted to head in a different direction with his career, and his wife, Sarah, supported his endeavor. Shortly after, he was joined by business partner Bryan and Bryan’s wife Mary Lee, who bought a minority stake in FFATS that finalized in June 2017. “Bryan was also at a crossroads in his law enforcement career, and had both the time and knowledge of craft beer to be a valuable asset to the business,” Staff said.
But in order for FFATS to be born, it needed a home of its own. It took Staff several years to find a proper building-- and banks were asking for a 20% down payment. “We obtained help from Western Dairyland in both writing up a business plan and with worksheets that showed the profitability potential of the business. With those in hand, we were able to secure a loan through the Union Bank of Blair with 10% down," Staff said.
FFATS is categorized as a nanobrewery; total annual production falls under 250 barrels. Roughly 50 gallons are brewed at a time. At FFATS Brewing Company, patrons can try popular beers such as the Berserker, a Norwegian ale brewed with lingonberries, or the Awkward Ninja, a milkshake style IPA with blood orange and vanilla. Other hit beers include the Amish Super Hero, the UB Porter and the Verde Burro.
Where might FFATS end up in the future? “We want to be a small brewery with limited distribution. We want people to come seek us out in West Central Wisconsin to find the unique craft beer we offer. We want to be known a nice place to sit and enjoy a tap with friends. West Central has a lot of great craft beer destinations, and we want to be part of it,” Staff said.