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Industry Profile: Kate Ansay of Ansay International

By JEANETTE HURT
Photos by David Szymanski

Dec. 2017

Relationships are at the heart of the insurance and real estate businesses Kate Ansay’s grandfather, Adolph, and father, Mike, built in Ozaukee County. They’re also the how and why Kate Ansay, with her background in urban planning, got into the beer and wine importing business. In fact, as the operations manager of Ansay International, she and her staff became the only American importers of Luxembourgish beer, wine, cider and soon mustard.  Ansay, who just gave birth to a son, sat down with M Magazine to talk about all things Luxembourgish.
 

Tell us how you came to be the only importer of Luxembourgish alcoholic products in the United States.

My grandfather started the insurance business with my dad and his brother in the 1970s. The real estate company came out of the insurance company with the relationships they cultivated with the Luxembourgish farmers in Ozaukee County. A lot of the farmers only spoke Luxembourgish, and my grandfather spoke Luxembourgish. They really trusted my dad and his family, and the real estate business grew from that. And (also) because my father has a natural propensity to start things. Ansay International kind of came through the real estate company and through its relationships. That’s how everything’s been done in my family. And this company started with the Luxembourgish American Cultural Society in Belgium, Wis.

George Lentz, who is the ninth-generation owner of Bofferding Brewery in Luxembourg, attended Miami University in Ohio, which has a sister school in Luxembourg. The university has a strong relationship with the Luxembourgish American Cultural Society, and George, who is on the university board of directors, found out about the Luxembourg Fest held every second weekend in August in Belgium. He learned that his beer wasn’t sold at this festival, so he said, “We’re the national beer for Luxembourg, so you should definitely bring in my beer.” My dad was involved in the cultural society, so he helped to bring the beer to the festival in 2014. It sold out in three hours.
 

So how did helping get Luxembourgish beer at a festival lead you to get into the importing business?

We helped George find his first importer, but the importer we initially worked with let the ball drop a bit so we — my dad and I and a couple of other people — just started selling the beer on the side. We got our importing license in the middle of 2015 and brought over our first container. We started with places where my dad already had relationships with people, like Newport Shores in Port Washington. They tried the beer and absolutely loved it. We started to slowly grow our reach, just through relationships we had, but the turning point for us was when George landed the Lowlands in 2015, through another relationship my dad had with someone who went to college with the owners. The Lowlands Group has just been fantastic (and) a really great partner.
 

So how did you get into the wine side of things?

We realized we needed to optimize the containers, and the largest winery, Domaines Vinsmoselle, in Luxembourg, which is the size of Milwaukee County, had 300 growers under their cooperative umbrella. They had the distinction that, unlike many wineries in Luxembourg, they used 100 percent Luxembourgish grapes, instead of importing grapes from Germany. We’ve been working with them for a little over a year now, and earlier this year, we began working with Ramborn Cider Co., the first hard cider company in Luxembourg. Ramborn’s founder, Carlo Hein, had this passion for cider, and his family made cider at home. A lot of farmers in Luxembourg had orchards, but didn’t tend them — these 200-year-old trees were fading away, so Carlo made contacts with these farmers to (re-tend) those orchards. We brought over our first batch of cider in August, and we had our launch with Lost Valley Cider Co.
 

Tell us more about your products.

Bofferding is the largest brewery in Luxembourg, but they’re small. They’ve been family owned and operated since 1764, and their beer is very high quality. Their pilsner is a beer lover’s pilsner. It’s really crisp and clean, and the alcohol content isn’t very high. The triple ale is an abbey-style beer with fruit notes and fermented yeast. Their fruit ale actually tastes like cherries, plums, blackberries and currents. It’s fantastic in the summer months. The extra ale is a wit, and it’s got great citrus notes. But my favorite is the Christmas lager.

The wines are made from riesling, pinot blanc and pinot gris grapes. They’re fantastic white wines and sparkling wines. They also make a Poll on Ice rosé sparkling wine that is demi-sec, (which) you pour over ice. We have begun entering our wines into contests, and they’ve won a few awards already.

All of the companies we work with are family owned, and when I visit them, it’s almost like going home.
 

Do you speak Luxembourgish like your grandfather?

I know a few words, but I’m trying to learn French. (French is used more frequently than Luxembourgish in Luxembourg). But I am a dual citizen, with Luxembourg (and the U.S.), and my son will also be a dual citizen. My grandfather passed away in the ’90s, but he would be proud of what we’ve done.
 

What are your plans for the future of Ansay International?

We are currently distributed in Wisconsin and Ohio, and we’d like to be distributed in Illinois by 2018 and hopefully get out coast-to-coast in about three years. There are more Luxembourgish people living in America than in the country of Luxembourg, so there’s a market here. We’ve got people in New York, Florida, Arizona and California who want our products. The goal is to get out there as soon as we can, but to grow it in a sustainable way.







 

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