Laura Johnson (formerly known as Laura Duesterbeck) and Ben Johnson are the proud proprietors of Duesterbeck’s Brewing Company, located in Elkhorn, occupying the historic grounds of The Duesterbeck Farm. Boasting a rich heritage spanning 150 years, the Duesterbeck farmstead has been under the stewardship of Laura and her sisters, representing the farm’s sixth generation of family ownership. In late October 2019, the brewery opened its doors to the public, marking the beginning of an exciting journey. Over the past few years, Duesterbeck’s has undergone meticulous phases of renovation, breathing new life into its premises, while also introducing a delightful array of beers and seltzers to tantalize the taste buds of its patrons.
For over 150 years, the Duesterbeck family has owned the farm, but over time, many of the farm’s buildings fell into disrepair, becoming run down and abandoned. The state of the old barn was particularly dire, requiring extensive repairs that would have cost more than demolishing it altogether. Consequently, the original barn, which had stood on the Duesterbeck farm since the late 1800s, was dismantled and reconstructed from scratch, incorporating the original wood into the construction of tables and trim work. This restoration project marked the start of a monumental endeavor to replace every structure on the farm with newer and more versatile versions. The construction of the new barn commenced on December 10, 2018.
Before they could proceed, there was an obstacle that her family members had to overcome. They needed to establish a specific definition for a microbrewery location in Walworth County in order to maintain the brewing company as an agriculture business. This task took two years to complete. However, once this hurdle was successfully cleared, it was finally time for them to delve into the business operations.
Despite the need to dismantle the old barn, they were able to salvage a substantial amount of wood, which they utilized in the construction of the new building. This reclaimed wood adds character to various elements, including the wall behind the bar where the tappers are located, the bar top itself, as well as trim, beams, and shelves. The new structure stands impressively at a height of 47 feet, surpassing the original barn by 10 feet. To ensure its visibility, particularly during winter, they deliberately chose a vibrant shade of red, brighter than the typical barn red.
In June, Duesterbeck’s introduced the pig barn pavilion, inspired by the previous pig barn that occupied the same spot. The only alteration, as explained by Laura, is that the lean-to now occupies the opposite side. One notable feature of Duesterbeck’s is its expansive outdoor patio, which opened on Memorial Day in 2020. Following that, the brewery established its gift shop in the existing granary in July 2021. The next planned addition is scheduled for winter 2021, involving the demolition and reconstruction of the North shed into a beer production facility.
Brewing beer has been a long-standing hobby for Ben Johnson, dating back to his college years at UW-Madison, where he started with less-than-stellar beer brewed from kits. Ben, a dentist who practiced in Delavan, spent years perfecting his brewing skills. Duesterbeck’s not only distributes their family-brewed beer, but they also showcase original artwork. Their 16-year-old son, Makai, designs the artwork for all of their beer cans, adding a personal touch to their brand.