In pursuit of a passion, economic director changes careers, locations
From 5-gallon batches to 100-gallon, Johnnie Byrd Brewing Company isn't just expanding operations — relocating and opening a taproom are also on the to-do list.
Owner Greg Ptacek, of Neligh, saw Wayne not just as a great place to start a business but as a city with a culture he and his family could flourish in.
"That culture is exactly what drew me here. I can see the marketplace culture and the young entreprenuers and the people that gravitate toward them. I know Wayne can grow."
Ptacek recently announced his resignation from the Economic Development Director position in Neligh to pursue his dream of owning and operating a brewery. His wife Kelly is a title teacher in Neligh currently and the couple has three children together: Alexis, 2; Crispin, 1; and Liesel, 3 months.
To make the transition easier on all involved, the family will be doing a bit of a juggling act as Ptacek moves to a new home in Wayne while his wife and children stay in Neligh with her parents until she is able to find a job closer to the Wayne area in a year or so.
This will allow Ptacek to put in the immense amount of time required to make Johnnie Byrd successful, while keeping some normalcy for the rest of the family right off the bat.
"It will let me get my feet underneath me and then they'll move over. We just didn't want to have a lot of transition all at once. We wanted to keep a little stability."
While Ptacek is in Wayne, he will be converting the large north garage bay at the 1912 Emporium into his taproom while additional bays will serve as his brewing space and as an overflow area for larger events such as Oktoberfest.
Additionally, a patio will be going in on the north side of the building where an old evergreen tree had been located previously. The patio area will eventually be host to a fire pit or water feature of some sort.
The taproom itself will be an intimate set up, intended for under 50 people. With the additional over-flow space and the outdoor patio, however, Johnnie Byrd's location will be capable of hosting gatherings of over 150 people.
The garage door will be removed in the taproom area to make way for large windows, similar to those that grace the front of the 1912 Emporium. The entrance will be located directly next to those windows and will walk into the brewhouse area, so folks can get an idea of what the equipment and process look like.
"We will be doing a three-barrel system and each barrel holds 30 gallons, so we'll be doing about 100-gallons of beer."
Part of the reasoning for that, aside from being more manageable for a one-man operation, is because Ptacek "wanted to stay small so it can be rotated all the time."
Ptacek plans to keep 2 or 3 crowd favorites on tap at a time, with an additional 3 or 4 changing out likely weekly. He also plans to include a session beer, or a lighter beer with a lower alcohol content.
The Johnnie Byrd taproom will have seven taps total, but only six will be open to the general public. That elusive seventh tap will be available only to those who've donated fincancially to the brewery in their crowd-funding goal. The Tap 7 Club will get to taste more "experimental, small batch beers" Ptacek said.
Johnnie Byrd will give the people what they want, so even though Ptacek has a few favorites himself, he'll be waiting to hear how they go over before considering them crowd favorites.
"We want it to be 'I like that beer because it tastes good.' "
Before Johnnie Byrd Brewing Company opens its doors to the public though, Ptacek must gain approval from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which can take up to 18 months.
His application has been submitted with all the necessary information, including proof of a building lease and proof of equipment purchases as well as proof of financing.
"Basically I have to be a day away from opening to even hit submit. If they come and audit me and my floorplan I submitted isn't how it's set up, they're going to want some solid answers on why that had to change."
The last breweries Ptacek heard had taken six to eight months to open, so his best-case senario is opening this fall.
Johnnie Byrd will be in need of bartenders and servers and eventually a taproom manager, so Ptacek can focus on what he likes to do best — make good beer.