A beer geek is anyone who is inspired or excited about beer, especially craft beers. Stefan King, the founder and brewmaster at HopLore Brewing Co., and his co-owners, brothers Keith and Steve Wehmeyer, fit into this category.
“We like to call ourselves the brewery for beer geeks,” King says. “Our motto is, ‘Brewed with Imagination.’”
From the first time Steve and his wife Katey visited HopLore in 2018, he knew he wanted to be a part of the team.
“We just happened to be out one day antiquing,” he says. “By complete accident, we came to HopLore for a flight. I was incredibly impressed by the beer – so much so that I asked to talk to the brewer. Stefan and I talked, and I shared my admiration for the product. It may have been that day that I asked, ‘By any chance, are you looking for an investor?’”
Soon after that conversation, the brothers met to discuss possible retirement projects that they could do together, since both of them were either retired or would be retiring soon. Among the ideas they discussed, the one that jumped out the most to Keith was owning a brewery.
“I didn’t see that coming,” Steve says. “So here we are.”
The three owners of HopLore have an incredible synergy. Keith, previously a general manager in the computer industry, now utilizes his business expertise as HopLore’s chief financial officer. Steve, formerly a toy designer, exercises his graphic abilities as the brewery’s creative director. At the core of the business is King, who fully leverages his natural culinary skill in the development of truly unique beers.
“I think my favorite part is just the chance to work with these two guys,” Keith says. “I enjoy that the most, and by extension the rest of the team – the staff that’s a part of this. It’s fun.”
Since HopLore opened in 2017, the company has made more than 100 different in-house craft beers. At any given time, HopLore’s bartenders, Blake and Jane, are happy to pour a pint of any of their staple beers – Boo Boo’s Brown Ale, How Now Chocolate Milk Stout, Near East IPA, Outskirts Cream Ale, and 14 other beers, many of which are made in-house.
The drinks vary, but one thing remains the same – they don’t taste like ordinary beers. This is largely due to the brewing ingredients, which range from fruit to cookies and locally sourced doughnuts.
“Stefan approaches beer in a different way,” Steve says. “He’s very creative in the way that he combines flavors and it results in a different kind of beer. They’re just delightful beers. They’re very different than other stuff you’re going to find.”
They also have other domestic and imported craft beers on tap.
“I’m a beer geek,” says King, who took over brewing early last year. “I trade for beers all over the country and we get some of the rarest beers from other breweries as well, to accompany our beers.”
Throughout the year, HopLore offers specialty seasonal beers. One of their most popular beers, Milford Ditch, a favorite among the owners, is only released on Black Friday. Another Christmas season favorite among patrons is Imperial Amish Krack. This stout was inspired by and made from Rise’n Roll Bakery’s most popular doughnut.
Besides serving beer that is brewed in-house, HopLore also offers a signature menu, prepared by Chef Nick Furney.
“What I was looking for was a food lineup that went along with our theory for our beer,” King explains. “It was kind of the idea of bringing world foods together in a familiar palate.”
Although HopLore has a few constant food items – specifically their charcuterie boards, and a few tacos like their peanut butter and jelly and smoked salmon selections – the menu is constantly changing.
“I get bored really quickly,” says King with a chuckle. “We change our menu up almost every other week. The way we’ve dubbed the kitchen is it’s an experimental kitchen that is American fusion.”
HopLore is well-loved by patrons. There’s even a HopLore club for their most dedicated customers, called the Guild of the Hop.
“Our name comes from old-world terms,” King says. “Lore is basically a synonym for science, so essentially our name is Beer Science. But we like to play with that in more than just a name sometimes. The Guild of the Hop refers back to some old-world type of things.”
For an annual fee, guild members have carry-out and dining discounts, and access to special releases and new and exclusive menu items.
“There’s a population that has a great deal of passion for food and beverages in general,” King says. “Having an opportunity to interact with people that have such a level of passion for what you’re creating is really a cool thing for me.”
It’s not just the returning customers who enjoy HopLore’s products.
“We’ve won several awards for the beer over the years, one with a national organization – we won a gold there – and one with the state’s brewers guild – we won a bronze there,” King says.
To the owners of HopLore, the community means everything.
“Frankly, the people in the Leesburg and Warsaw area have been really receptive, enthusiastic, and supportive of what we’ve been trying to do,” Keith says.
Their enthusiasm has been so passionate, HopLore will be opening up a second location in Warsaw around Memorial Day.
“We’re in the downtown area, in sight of the courthouse,” Keith says. “We’re really excited about that location to be in the heart of Warsaw.”
The new location will have indoor and outdoor dining, a taproom and a large brewery.
“It will allow us to greatly increase our brewing capacity, and our storage and chilling abilities,” Keith says. “That’s just to keep up with the growth and demand that has been coming. It will allow us to branch out in wholesale sales and a lot of other avenues.”
HopLore Brewing Co. is located at 100 South Old State Road 15 in Leesburg. Their Warsaw location will be at 307 West Market Street. For more info, call 574-453-0496, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit hoplore.com.