Dan Lehnerer is one of those lucky people who does what he loves everyday.
It took a lot of hard work to get there and continues to throw challenges his way, but as the owner of New Oberpfalz Brewing, he wouldn’t have it any other way.
After graduating from the University of St. Francis with a business degree, Lehnerer spent a number of years working as a sales manager and was ready for a change. “I always wanted to own a business, and I was an avid home brewer who enjoyed everything about making beer. So I had a very long conversation with my wife and we decided I should open New Oberpfalz,” he said. The tap room opened in January 2015 in downtown Griffith named for the area in Bavaria from which his ancestors emigrated in the 1850s.
Since opening, the brewery has seen a lot of growth. “Our staff has grown over time, and we've more than tripled our first year's production,” he said. “I used to be worried about survival, but now I spend more time thinking about how we manage our growth, manage the team and get better with what we do every day.”
With all of his responsibilities on the business side of things, he serves as the secondary brewer, leaving most of the hands-on work to his head brewer.
“My wife has been incredibly supportive of me, and I don't think we would still be in business were it not for her,” said Lehnerer. “We have two great kids who think their dad has a pretty crazy job.”
The job may get a little crazy, but Lehnerer admits it’s pretty cool to make beer for a living, especially with the positive feedback that comes from customers.
“I get to brew beer pretty much whenever I feel like it, and I get to see our customers enjoy what we do,” he said. “Watching our staff, our customers and their families, our beer quality and the business grow over time has been rewarding. We have customers who were dating when we opened, then got married, and now visit us with their kids. We've also been able to keep a lot of our staff happy enough to stick around and continue to help with everything we do.”
Lehnerer also loves to fish and play golf. “Maybe some day I'll be able to do more of both of those things but my life is basically work and my family. But that's nothing unusual for small, independent business owners who are doing what they love to do,” said Lehnerer.
“The biggest challenge is that there are no small challenges. Everything we do gets amplified as it moves through the business. It doesn't matter what it is, there simply are no little things. Perhaps that is a good metaphor for living a rewarding life: everything matters.”