Courtesy of Justin Verburg
We've all had that one former coworker who's moved on but still manages to hang out plenty at their old workplace.
At Windmill Brewing in Dyer, Ind., that would be Luther the cat. The white-and-striped cat was originally hired on as the brewery's mouser, but upon realizing there were sunbeams and treats available in the taproom, the rescue cat decided to retire to the easy life—and a little social media fame.
"He kind of got the taste of hanging out with people in the taproom then his interest changed significantly," Justin Verburg, the owner of Windmill Brewing, tells Daily Paws.
A Working Cat
Luther, who's now around 6 years old, was brought on as the brewery's mouser in 2016, according to The Journal Times. While dogs might be the pets most often associated with employment—as police officers, guide dogs, service dogs, etc.—cats have jobs, too. Keeping mice out of breweries is a popular one.
As Verburg puts it, "the mice are legion" because breweries—warm and filled with bags of grains, hops, and wheat—are rodent magnets. (If the beer is good, they are also magnets for this author.)
Luther's rescue organization, Strays in the Garden, was originally hesitant to let a brewery—an industrial setting—adopt a cat, but Verburg and the brewery staff showed the rescue that cats can have jobs. Luther, who was independent and not exactly a "people cat," fit the bill.
At the beginning, Luther did his job, catching a couple mice here and there. But it was his presence that really did the trick. Just having him around seemed to be enough to dissuade more snack-hungry mice from getting their whiskers wet in the mead. But the temptation of the taproom soon became too much for Luther to ignore.
"He's retired," Verburg says. "His home is in the taproom now."
Windmill Brewing now contracts a pest control company to take care of the mice problem.
Treats and Sunbeams
Windmill's taproom is exactly what a sunbathing cat like Luther wants: lots of windows facing the west and south.
"He will find any beam of sunshine he can coming through our windows," Verburg says.
When the taproom is open, Luther will exhibit some very "catlike" behavior, the owner adds. He'll ignore people trying to coax him over for pets, but if you're wearing a nice pair of black pants, you're probably going to find him in your lap. Same if you're allergic. Cats always know. (Windmill staff will relocate Luther for severe allergy sufferers.)
"He will somehow always seemingly find that person and jump on them. It never fails," Verburg says.
He loves treats, too. Too much really. He put on a few pounds in the winter—who didn't?—so the brewery staff has to monitor his intake. The same went for the brewery's spider plants. They aren't toxic for cats, but they do have a "mild hallucinogenic" effect on cats who eat enough of them.
As it turns out, Luther was munching a little much and got a little high, Verburg says, so the brewery removed the plants. Oops.
Social Media Star
It was really only a matter of time before Luther became as synonymous with Windmill Brewing as, well, windmills.
Verburg says the brewery's social-media posts that feature Luther are often more popular than the ones concerning the beer they produce. Some people come into the brewery mainly to see Luther, and the brewery had to field plenty of "How's Luther?" questions when the brewery had to halt in-person sales during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The brewery, smartly, has leaned into Luther's popularity. He began appearing on merchandise, and the brewery's can designers started including the cat in beer labels. It wasn't long before Luther had his own line of drinks: Brigadier General Luther's Lager, Luther's Paws Mango Lychee, and Luther's Paws Peach Pineapple among them.
"It is sort of fun mixing him into everything," says Verburg, whose favorite is Original Admiral Luther's Lager, a helles lager.
Verburg says that Luther even made him more of a cat guy. The head brewer says he's grateful to have Luther, who proves that even the more independent cats who aren't typical house pets can still live fruitful, love-filled lives. So good that they necessitate an early retirement.
"I love this cat," Verburg says.