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Combining the dairy industry with beer making

Luxemburg brewery recently celebrated six years in business

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May 17, 2023

LUXEMBURG – With Kewaunee County being known for its dairy farms, it only makes sense Thumb Knuckle Brewing Company – located at E0208 WI-54 in Luxemburg – uses refurbished milking equipment to help make its beer.

“A group of friends and I got into home brewing, loved doing that and thought it would be cool to open a brewery at some point,” Ed Thiry, owner/head brewmaster, said. “We kept working toward that goal and found creative ways to open the brewery with limited funds.”

That’s where, Thiry said, the used dairy equipment came into play.

“Almost all the tanks we use are converted from the dairy industry,” he said. “We found a lot of used dairy tanks at a great price, but it took some time and engineering to get them converted for brewing.”

Jesse Ledvina, who helps with the financials of the company, said some of the tanks date back to the 1950s.

“Using dairy tanks allowed us to go bigger right away,” he said. “Our capacity is quite significant for a smaller brewery. If you were to purchase our brewing system new, it would be significantly higher in price compared to what we paid.”

Ledvina said all the dairy equipment is stainless steel.

“People are impressed with how Ed put his engineering skills to use in putting the system together,” he said.

Thiry said Thumb Knuckle – which got its name from its location, the thumb knuckle of the state – produced almost 300 barrels of beer – or 600 half barrels – in 2022.

“Our system can handle about 1,300 barrels of beer a year at maximum capacity,” he said. “We do roughly 50 barrels of beer per batch.”

Ledvina said the building Thumb Knuckle is located in used to be a bar.

“The current brewing area used to be a sand volleyball court,” he laughed. “It’s a nice space now. Even with the bar area – we ripped everything out of there and took the ceiling all the way up. We did almost all the work ourselves with family and friends – people like it.”

Ledvina said the volleyball court area was a huge draw in securing the building.

// Thiry

“All we had to do was cement the floor and put drains in,” he said. “We had a nice big building we could do what we wanted with.”
Six years in operation
Thumb Knuckle celebrated its sixth year in business in March.

“There might have been a pandemic thrown in there, too,” Thiry and Ledvina laughed. “We were growing steadily before the pandemic, and then all of a sudden, no beer was sold at all. That was quite a shock. I think we’re still coming out of that, but we’re growing steadily and have some good plans going forward.”
Popular brews
Thiry said “there are quite a few popular brews available” on-site.

“One of them is a light lager called Shrub,” he said. “That one has been popular – it’s a flavorful light beer that people like to drink. It’s refreshing and a good beer to try if you drink many of the light beers out there today.”

Thiry said another popular choice is the Gunmetal Porter.

“That one is a dark ale,” he said. “It’s dark in color but light in body. All the sugar is fermented out of it, so that gives it a clean and light flavor.”

Customers can also try Belgian Beauty, Whitetail Weiss, Solea Amber, Ya Der Hey, Farmer’s Tan and the Knano Series.

“The Knano beers are delicious,” Thiry said. “Ted VanderMeuse, who works for us, hand squeezes all kinds of different fruits – like grapefruit, limes, etc. – and adds it to the beers. He’s done an amazing job of being creative with our beers. He’s creative and uses all-natural ingredients. You can tell people love those beers. There’s a beer for everybody.”

Thiry said Thumb Knuckle has 12 taps in the bar area, which rotate often.

“One of those 12 taps is a soda we make,” he said. “It’s a popular style in Germany – it’s an orange-flavored soda. We call ours Orla. It’s half the sugar as a regular soda and has no caffeine. It’s popular among families – it’s a little treat for the kids.”
Looking ahead
Though Thumb Knuckle’s beer is currently not canned or bottled, Thiry said that’s “coming soon.”

“That’s the plan,” he said. “I’m hoping later this summer customers will be able to pick up some beer to go.”

Thiry said after the canned/bottled beer is available in the taproom, the next step will be grocery/liquor stores and bars.

“We currently distribute our beer in kegs as well,” he said. “We have plenty of room to grow our capacity.”

// Knuckle Brewing Company’s logo is the State of Wisconsin wrapped around a glass. The brewery is located just outside of Luxemburg on Highway 54. Photo Courtesy of Thumb Knuckle Brewing Company

Ledvina said the plan is to also put in a system to start testing new beers.

“You always have to be looking at new things to keep up with what the market wants,” he said.

With dozens of breweries in the greater Northeast Wisconsin area, Ledvina said the market is competitive.

“That’s why Thumb Knuckle is always working to improve things,” he said. “There are still breweries coming out, and that makes it challenging. If you produce a good beer with the right marketing that people like, you should be able to do okay – that’s the fun part of the business… coming up with new ideas.”

Though Ledvina said the competition is fierce, it’s also fun working with other breweries.

“Noble Roots and Stillmank (both in Green Bay) helped us when we started this brewery,” he said. “People in the industry were excited when we came aboard. It’s a nice profession to be a part of – you’re dealing with beer. It’s always fun seeing people at the different shows we do.”

Thumb Knuckle is open from 4-8 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 4-9 p.m. on Fridays, noon to 9 p.m. on Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. on Sundays.

The brewery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. 

To learn more about Thumb Knuckle, visit

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