The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company brewed its first beer in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin in 1867, and it remains headquartered there today. A fifth generation of the Leinenkugel family leads the company today, brewing award-winning beers, such as Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss, Summer Shandy and the Big Eddy Series.
Settling in Chippewa Falls was a carefully calculated move for Jacob. He knew he could make the product –great beer – but he needed customers. The prospect of 2,000 thirsty lumberjacks in the area convinced him that Chippewa Falls was the place to set up shop. The rest is history.
Helping to write the next chapter of Leinie history is Richard “Dick” Leinenkugel. Having grown up in the family business – every Leinenkugel did their part as soon as they were old enough to hold a broom. However, Dick resisted the lure of the family firm to make his own mark after graduating from Chippewa Falls High School in 1976.
Having earned a naval ROTC scholarship, Dick attended Marquette University in Milwaukee, earning a BS in Business Administration with a specialty in Marketing.
He then fulfilled his commitment to the armed services by spending four years in the U.S. Marine Corps. Stationed in Hawaii, he was deployed twice to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean.
However, he was on shore in Hawaii long enough to make the acquaintance of a young nurse named Jean, who, after graduating from nursing school in her native Wisconsin, moved to Oahu. The two hit it off and were married in 1984, the same year that Captain Dick Leinenkugel was discharged from the service.
The newlyweds settled in Palatine, Illinois. Jean took a job at a hospital in Barrington and Dick started work at Kemper Sports Management. He stayed with the organization until 1987, when he asked his brother, Jake, about joining the family business. He started work as a sales rep in Chicago for the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company.
That same year, the first of Jean and Dick’s three children, Jeffrey, was born, followed by twins Katie and Lindsay in 1989.
In 1988, the Miller Brewing Company purchased the Leinenkugel brewery and in 1991, integrated its sales forces and Dick went to work for Miller selling the entire portfolio of Miller and Leinenkugel brands.
By 1994, brother Jake persuaded him to return to the Leinenkugel side of the business to head up the national expansion of Leinenkugel’s Red and other specialty beers. He and Jean, “cheeseheads” at heart, packed up the kids and moved to the Milwaukee area where Dick worked as a V.P. of Sales for the Leinenkugel Division of Miller Brewing for the next two decades.
After observing the half-century mark of his life, Dick decided that it was time for a new chapter. While admittedly a “non-political” person, he was intrigued to hear that Jack Fischer had resigned as the Secretary of the Department of Commerce. Heading the department presented an exciting opportunity. Governor Jim Doyle agreed, and appointed Dick as the Secretary of Commerce in September 2008.
In 2010, Dick returned to the beer world, heading up Business Development for Tenth and Blake Beer Company, the craft and import division of MillerCoors. In addition to being able to keep an eye on the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company, Dick helps build relationships with fellow craft brewers around the country.