A Recap of Fermentation Fest 2014

Adunate's design work for Fermentation Fest

Six months ago when I traveled to Sauk County to meet Donna Neuwirth and the Fermentation Fest planners, winter was only beginning to leave the land. Everything was stark, barren and brown. Back then we were just planting seeds of ideas for the festival’s promotional materials and the fruition of this project seemed so very far away.

Two weeks ago, I was once again in Sauk County, this time for the big event. As my husband and I drove through the countryside I couldn’t help contemplating this full cycle of seasons. Just as I’d seen my Fermentation Fest project from start to finish, so I was seeing Sauk County’s agricultural season from start to finish. I feel really blessed to be part of these rural rhythms.

Fermentation Fest Corn Maze

This year, my husband and I did the Fermentation Fest Art D’Tour,  a 50-mile, self guided extravaganza through the winding backroads of Sauk County. Along the way was this corn maze, complete with meditative phrases to serve as guides. We wound our way through the field to a lookout with an over-the-corn view of the scenic hillside.

Fermentation Fest Corn Maze

I did say meditative, didn’t I?

Tractors at Fermentation Fest

For many people, a lineup of tractors is beautiful art. There was a great exchange of stories going on at this stop.

“Is that an F-20 over there?” I overheard a woman ask. “I learned to drive on one of those.”

Drift, Fermentation Fest

Drift is a large-scale floating sculpture that, according to the artists, “functions both as an autonomous intervention in the landscape and a site for exchange with residents and visitors.”

Standing inside this gently rocking raft and looking to the sky through its pieced seams was quite mesmerizing. I started thinking I’d should lay down and float through this dreamy pond just like the Lady of Sharlott (or should I say Anne of Green Gables).

Frermentation Fest food vendors

We’d be driving along and suddenly out of nowhere a Roadside Culture Stand would appear. These mobile food stands are works of art in themselves. So are the products they were selling.

Harvestore Bandshell, designed by John Shimone

A Harvestore silo turned serendipitous music stage—is this cool, or what? The Harvestore Bandshell was designed by photographers John Shimon and Julie Lindemann, and staged a variety of Pasture Performances. We missed Shimon’s We Go From Where We Know, but enjoyed hearing this guitar trio instead.

What a beautiful day to stand in a farm field and listen to music!

Invasive Species, Fermenation Fest

As the afternoon wound its way down, our last stop was this old, abandoned farmhouse. It’s part of the artwork called Invasive Species, by Isabelle Garbani. Her colorful leaves crocheted from plastic shopping bags are shown creeping along this beautiful house. They’re “slowly choking it with their invasive growth,” according to the artist’s statement, just as our world is being invaded and choked by synthetically produced plastics.

You can’t see it here, but this house has great architectural lines and original character. I was so happy to see a building permit in the window and signs of restoration work inside.

The best way to wrap up an inspiring Art D’Tour is a dinner at the Food/Drink D’Tour. Which we did. What a tasty evening of culinary delights, put on by the finest foodies the region has to offer.

This is something I want to do all over again next year. Sauk County in spring—I’ll be back!

Day #7: Our Final Discovery, Reads Landing

Storefront window in Red Wing, Minnesota

Fortuitous discoveries make for fun traveling. This was certainly true for us as we meandered through southwestern Wisconsin and up the Mississippi River on our Octoberfest Beer Tour.

And since it was a brewery tour, of course it’s only appropriate to say we learned a lot about the beer industry (as we partook in some mighty fine sipping).

For example, I know a lot of corporate brand buying and selling occurs in today’s monopolized beer industry. But I didn’t realize this exchange has gone on for generations, even among small breweries. Take Berghoff, an authentic German style beer with a great Midwestern heritage: Since it’s beginnings in 1887, it’s been brewed by the Herman Berghoff Brewing Company, Fort Wayne, Ind., the Falstaff Brewing Company, St. Louis, Mo., the Joseph Huber Brewery (now Minhas), Monroe, Wis., the Walter Brewing Company, Eau Claire, Wis., and now the Berghoff Brewing Company in Chicago.

Imagine the diversity of deals settled throughout history, all in the name of fermented grains!

Another bit of beer history we learned was the extent to which ales were brewed, especially in Wisconsin and other Germanic-influenced states. According to this article, in the late 1800s breweries were as much a part of Wisconsin communities as churches and schools. My own town of Watertown has record of nine different breweries and we’ve all heard stories of the underground tunnels, some of which still exist.

Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, MN

So, as we wrapped up our tour, my husband and I were especially excited to share the fun of new discoveries. For our last stop we hopped across the river and, together with my dear aunt and uncle, checked out Reads Landing Brewing Company in Reads Landing, Minn.

Even though my aunt and uncle live a short jaunt up the road, and even though they’d driven through Reads Landing many times, they never knew this little gem existed. We had a great time and the food and drinks were delicious.

Ratings

Adunate rates Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, MinnesotaBeer
It was a full house when we visited yet owner/brewer Bob Nihart took the time to chat with us about his beer, which he brews three barrels at a time. He didn’t have any Oktoberfest on the menu, but we liked his Cap’n Amber and American House Pale Ale.

Ambiance
Gorgeous! According to Reads Landing’s website, its 1869 building was formerly a dry goods store and has been in the family since the 1930s. They’ve done a fabulous job preserving its character and structural soundness. The restaurant overlooks the Mississippi River and the large storefront windows offer a beautiful view. The décor was fun and fitting.

Food
The food was good, hearty bar fare.

Community
I’m extending the Reads Landing community to include the surrounding river towns, since the whole area is truly beautiful. Although Reads Landing is unincorporated and I can’t even find a population, its neighboring towns are much larger. We spent several hours in Red Wing, which is just 30 minutes away and we attended church at Salem Lutheran, Woodbury, another 30 minutes beyond that.

Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, MN

Copy and Design
I’ve previously mentioned how much I like Read Landing’s logo. After visiting, I love it even more. Everything about it fits the business’s brand perfectly. It’s website is also well done, with lots of good information on the restaurant, beer and the area.

Well, that’s it folks—our 2014 Octoberfest Beer Tour (said with a melancholy sigh). It’s been so much fun, we’re thinking we could make it an annual event. Maybe we will!

Day #6: Trempealeau Food, Fountain City Brew and Good Company

GlenDi_CartoonI don’t know if you’ve noticed but cartoon Glen and Di are getting more and more robust with each post I write. That’s what happens when you spend a week feasting on Wisconsin’s savory fare and specialty brew.

No calories there whatsoever.

As we navigate our way up the Great River Road, each Mississippi town has been as quaint as the next and we’ve met some super nice people. Trempealeau and Fountain City are especially distinct.

Trempealeau

Sunset over Mississippi River in Trempealeau, WI

Trempealeau Hotel and Restaurant, Tremealeau, WI

Hands down, our best meal has been dinner at the historic Trempealeau Hotel and Restaurant, overlooking the river and this beautiful sunset. Besides serving Spaten, my husband’s favorite Oktoberfest beer (which we won’t discuss because it’s a German import), the restaurant has an obvious appreciation of its vintage atmosphere and local farmers. My husband had the walleye with a heavenly kale-bacon-whatever sauté. I had a shrimp skewer drenched in butter and lightly crusted with a blend of herbs.

Getting hungry? I am, just reminiscing.

To work this off, the next day we hiked through Perrot State Park, another beautiful area with killer-bluffs overlooking the river. Actually, hiking the bluffs isn’t that hard, but be mindful that this week real Glen and Di are not a tight stretch from cartoon Glen and Di. At the top of one bluff, we met a lovely family with young boys whose infectious enthusiasm for nature reminded us of how blessed we all really are.

Fountain City

Monarch Public House, Fountain City, WI

Further up the Mississippi we lunched at the Monarch Public House, a food and drink destination since 1894. We had fish because it was Friday and in Wisconsin you have fish on Fridays, even if the Monarch calls it fish ‘n chips, which it does because it’s Irish. It’s just what we do (along with run-on sentences).

Our server explained their heritage style of baking the fish at 600+ degrees instead of deep frying. It was delicious!

vintage bar in Monarch Public House, Fountain City, WI

Isn’t this bar stunning? Our server said it’s original to the building. The pressed tin ceiling is also original and easily 16-feet high, if not more. The Monarch’s website shares an interesting history of the building—be sure to scroll all the way down.

Fountain Brew, Fountain City, WI

In addition to being the longest running tavern in Wisconsin, the Monarch has also resurrected Fountain City Brewing Company. Long part of the community’s heritage, this brewery originated in 1862. When it closed in 1965 and the building later demolished, it seemed the local flavor would be lost forever.

That is, until 1997.

By then John Harrington owned the Monarch tavern and was guiding it through a loving restoration. One day a nearly 90-year-old, retired assistant brewmaster named Wilbert Schmitt came forward with the original recipes he had saved all these years. Harrington and Schmitty, as he’s known, collaborated and reintroduced Fountain City’s beloved brew.

Fascinating story, eh? The Monarch tells it in greater detail here. Again, be sure to scroll completely down the page.

Next year, according to our server, the Monarch will break ground for a brewery building right next to the tavern. Bucket list: Go back to Fountain City in two years and check it out!

Gasoline Alley, Fountain City, WI

Octoberfest_2014_FC_CarWhile wandering Main Street, we met John Campbell of Gasoline Alley. One compliment on his car parked outside and he proudly brought us inside to see his latest work.

I like his business logo!

Seven Hawks Vineyard, Fountain City, WI

John shared fun stories of Fountain City. He also pointed out how the buildings on the town’s main streets are all veered to match the angle of the river. None of them were built square to the street. Intriguing!

RatingsAdunate rates Fountain City Brewery, Fountain City, WI

Beer
Fountain City doesn’t brew an Oktoberfest but we enjoyed their signature styles nonetheless. My husband had an Irish Valley Spring Bock and I went all historical with the original recipe Fountain Brew. Both were great!

Ambiance
Need I say more? I loved this building and its meticulous restoration.

Food
My husband had fish ‘n chips. I had a Caesar salad. We shared and were extremely happy travelers!

Community
An endearing little river town, where life seems slow and peaceful. With this list of things to do, we could have stayed longer than the one afternoon we did. Next time!

Copy & Design
The Monarch has a great story to tell and does so very well on it’s website. It’s Facebook page shares the same enthusiasm and friendliness our server did. I’m looking forward to the promotions in puts out when they build the brewery.

Our next, and final, stop: Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, Minnesota

 

Day #5: A Heart-Swooning Logo on Pearl St. (on St. Andrew St.)

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WIOne of the fascinating things about our Octoberfest Beer Tour has been the diversity of breweries. We’ve sampled beer from a boutique 100-barrels-a-year brewed in the Corner Pub’s basement, to the cranked 320,000-barrels-a-year at Minhas‘ updated, multi-structured complex.

We found our visit to Pearl Street Brewery on Saint Andrew Street, La Crosse, to be somewhere in the middle of those extremes. More importantly, it sports a logo I just love.

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WI

If you’re like us, you might find Pearl Street outwardly intimidating when you first manage to find it—a GPS comes in handy for this. Apparently, the brewery originated in a downtown Pearl Street location, thus the name, and later expanded to a space in this old warehouse.

(Hey, says my husband, this used to be La Crosse Footwear and they make my boots.)

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WI

Step inside and you’ll feel much more relaxed. It’s a big, open, no-nonsense, welcoming brewing space. There’s a taproom bar amongst the fermenting vats, along with tables and a funky stage for live music.

We stopped by after brewing hours on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, so we missed the Saturday tour. But, hey, we can entertain ourselves. We had fun sipping and browsing on our own.

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WI

Pearl Street Brewery is my kind of business—homegrown, hardworking and obviously a fun sense of humor. It’s recently expanded its distribution to Minnesota and, interestingly, it has its own Printasaurus Lex, as she’s referred to, designing and producing Pearl Street’s packaging from an in-house print shop.

(Did you know packaging is the most expensive detail of making and selling beer? We learned this on our Minhas tour.)

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WIPearl Street Brewery makes some mighty fine beer! My husband had the Rubber Mills Pils, which brought him smile of pleasure. I had a Pearl Street Pale Ale—smooth, full, and easy on the hops, just the way I like it.

Don’t you just love Pearl Street’s logo?

Adunate rates Pearl Street Brewery

Ratings

Beer
Pearl Street’s version of Oktoberfest is its Lederhosen Lager Fest Bier, a malty and easy-to-drink seasonal. This would have been my first choice, but since it’s already October and most autumn seasonals come out in September, it was no longer on the menu.

So one stein for no Octoberfest. But five steins for the styles we sampled!

Ambiance
Fun place. I liked the unpretentious atmosphere and that Pearl Street is repurposing an old building.

Taproom
A taproom, or tasting room, typically distinguishes itself from a bar by only serving its own beer. Pearl Street is kind of hard to find, but it’s taproom worth getting to.

La Crosse Queen, La Crosse, WI

Community
La Crosse boasts the vibrancy and diversity that comes with being a multi-college town. It makes full use of the Mississippi River for its geographical interest. Think paddle boats, barges, locks and river walks. We took a 3-hour lunch cruise on this La Crosse Queen. Super fun!

Copy and Design
So, I’m forced to automatically deduct one stein because Pearl Street uses that cheesy “are you at least 21 years old?” entry into its website. It was fun, say, 15 years ago, but nowadays it’s outdated and a pain on the smart phone.

That aside, I LOVE everything else about Pearl Street’s marketing. The organic, hoppy flow of its logo—be still my heart—makes me swoon! Their website copy is fun, energetic and full of delightful stories. I love their labels. Hey, I love everything they’re putting out (except the website entry).

Next stop: Fountain City Brewing Company, Fountain City

Day #2: No Grumps Here!

Autumn leaves 2014

When your husband is owner of the greatest team in the NFL, you don’t spend Sunday afternoons driving around looking at scenery.

Well, he’s part owner.

Okay, well, he’s a shareholder, one of an intimate 363,491 fellow shareholders.

Still, it’s very important that my husband watch the games. So Sunday, after attending the friendly and welcoming Faith Lutheran Church in Reedsburg and checking out the Shoe Box in Black Earth, we headed on down to Mount Horeb to watch the Green Bay Packers.

Mount Horeb, population 7000, is a quaint little town. Hey, it’s the troll capital of the world! It’s also home to the Fisher King Winery, a delicious Main Street presence, and the Duluth Trading Company, a flagship in a wonderful, creaky-floored mercantile building.

But most important to my husband on Sunday at noon, Mount Horeb is home to the Grumpy Troll Brew Pub.

Grumpy Troll Brew Pub

Grumpy Troll Brew Pub, Mount Horeb, Wisconsin

What a fun place! Located in the 1916 Mount Horeb Creamery building, it’s been a restaurant and brewery since 1996. There’s a family restaurant on the first floor and a pizzeria on the second, along with the very important large screen TVs in every which direction.

Mural in Grumpy Troll's Pizzeria

Is this a young and thin Martin Luther? Just wondering, you know, with Reformation coming up and all. This mural is on the wall of Grumpy Troll’s upstairs pizzeria.

Anyway, our daughter and son-in-law joined us and we enjoyed sharing good food and beer. Best of all, the Packers won 27-24 in a last minute drive. Based on the loud whoops, there were no grumpy trolls watching this game!

Ratings

Adunate rates the Grumpy Troll Brewpub in Mount Horeb, WIBeer
I feel bad awarding brewmaster Mark Knoebl only one stein, especially since he’s won so many awards elsewhere. He features up to twelve beers on tap, of all tastes and styles. Refreshingly, his beer menu changes regularly and as it happened Sunday an Oktoberfest wasn’t on the list. Oh well, there were many others to try. Our son-in-law, a hobbyist brewer himself, and daughter both appreciate a hoppier flavor and their eyes lit up when they tasted the Hoppa Loppa.

Ambiance
Of course I loved the old building. It’s wonderfully preserved and furnished with appropriate decor. The staff was super friendly and it was a fun place to watch the game.

Food: Great!

Community
With lots of interesting shops, one could spend a fun day in downtown Mount Horeb. The area also boasts a bike trail, parks and many other attractions. Sadly, one of its greatest historical sites, Little Norway, is closing after 86 years.

Copy and Design
I love it! The Grumpy Troll has a super website with fun information about its history, the building, its food and beer. Be sure to keep scrolling down while on the home page so you don’t miss any of this good stuff. And who wouldn’t like a logo with a cute grumpy troll guy?!

Next stop: New Glarus Brewing Company