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 the dreamy pond just like 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 #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 #4: Minhas Pairs Well With Monroe Commerce

shooting pictures through the rain

Rainy days and Mondays always get me down. Oops, except it’s not Monday—four days into our trip and I’m already mixing up my days. And the rain hasn’t gotten us down because: 1) we really need it, and 2) traveling in the rain is actually quite cozy.

If you don’t mind water-streamed pictures, that is. I liked this house, what I could see of it. The rain was really coming down!

The fourth stop on our Octoberfest Beer Tour was Monroe, Wis., the Swiss Cheese Capital of the world. It’s also the only city in North America still producing Limburger cheese—I’ll pass on that one, but just want to let you know in case you like smelling dirty socks.

And, of course, Monroe is also home to the Minhas Craft Brewery.

But let’s digress a bit for some philosophical discussion. Let’s talk about small town development and survival.

Green County Courthouse, Monroe, WI

Monroe is the county seat of Green County. With a population of 10,780, it’s also the largest town in this rural area of south central Wisconsin. Isn’t that an awesome county courthouse?!

Monroe, WIThe courthouse creates a downtown square and this is what the streets surrounding it look like.

Stores!

Not vacant stores, but real, operating, retail stores!

Downtown Monroe, WI

And parked in front of the stores are cars, as if people are actually patronizing them! Doesn’t it remind you of main streets of the 1950-60s?

Surely, I speculated, this town does not have a Walmart. Because we all know the big Save-Money-Live-Better (coughWalmart kills the local businesses of every small town it invades. Well, guess what. On the outskirts of town, Monroe not only has a Walmart, but also a Shopko and a complete strip mall of corporate-owned stores.

So what gives? How can Monroe’s 10,000 people support a full lineup of downtown commerce and a Wal-Mart when my hometown of Watertown can barely support a few Main Street stores? What could my town, and others like it, do differently to encourage private entrepreneurs to take a risk and open their own stores?

Speaking of risks, the story of Minhas Brewery is an interesting one.

Minhas Craft Brewery logo

(We thought parking smack in front of the door would keep us dry as we dashed inside. Then we saw the “please use other door” sign. Oh well.)

Founded in 1845, the brewery in Monroe has been owned by a number of people and branded under several names. Now known as Minhas, it’s the oldest brewery in the Midwest and the second oldest in the nation (Ying Ling is the oldest, a trivia question our tour guide asked on the tour).

Berghoff Beer logo

Like all breweries, the brewery in Monroe has brewed through industry ups and downs. In the 1990s, under the name of Joseph Huber Brewing Company, it introduced the Berghoff Beer. At a time when many other breweries were going flat, Berghoff kept the brewery afloat. It later sold Berghoff brand.

In 2006, the Minhas brother-sister duo purchased the Monroe brewery, changed its name to Minhas Craft Brewery, and invested in many improvements. Under their watch, production has gone from 85,000 barrels a year in 2006, to 320,000 in 2013, making it the Brewing Association’s 11th of the Top 50 Overall U.S. Brewing Companies.

Minhas Oktoberfest beer

Adunate rates Minhas Craft BreweryOktoberfest Beer
Minhas doesn’t allow guests to take pictures beyond the gift shop. But they did offer us some tasty sampling! Their Oktoberfest is good, but not enough for us to buy a 6-pack. After all, as part of the tour, we each left with a variety pack of five beers and a glass.

Ambiance
Any idea how growlers got their name? According to the brewery’s Herb and Helen Haydock World of Beer Memorabilia Museum, in the old days men would send their children to the corner pub with pails to be filled with beer. The men would get “growly” if they came back with too much foam and not enough beer.

The museum is great and, oh, how I wished we could shoot photos! It’s filled with beer memorabilia and advertising from all over the world. It’s a wonderful study in art, design and type, as well as the history of beer.

Tour
Great tour! Our guide, Tammy, was a walking encyclopedia on beer and Minhas. As we trailed through the fermenting, bottling and labeling buildings, she detailed each of the processes. She is proud of Minhas and represents her company wonderfully.

Community
Our time in Monroe was only a few rainy hours, but we were still impressed. We checked out the Minhas Distillery store and stocked up at Roth Kase Cheese. I love that the community holds strong to its brewing, cheese and agricultural roots.

Copy and Design
I like how Minhas celebrates the community by using the courthouse in their logo. I also like their website—the depth of information they offer is awesome, with lots of good imagery.

Next stop: Cassville,WI, and up the Great River Road

Day #3: Only in Wisconsin, New Glarus Brewing Co.

Night time in New Glarus, WI

You know how when you’re traveling you graze on all this food that normally isn’t allowed near your lips? Like jalapeño poppers, cheese curds and chocolate fudge (not necessarily together, although it does sound intriguing).

Now add beer to that.

That’s been my husband and me as we roam the countryside on our Octoberfest Beer Tour. So after settling into New Glarus on Sunday evening, we took a walk through town, rain and all.

Kristi's Restaurant, New Glarus, WI

The next morning we walked to Kristi’s Restaurant for a delicious and healthy breakfast. Don’t you just love this classic Victorian? It looks lovely inside, as well.

Hiking in New Glarus Woods State Park, New Glarus, WI

And we hiked for miles and miles through New Glarus Woods State Park.

Then we headed to New Glarus Brewing Company for beer.

New Glarus Brewing Company's original Riverside Brewery

When we toured New Glarus seven years ago, the magic all happened in this little, Swiss-styled brewery and warehouse. In 2008, it opened its Hillside Brewery and made the first batch of what’s now Wisconsin’s favorite beer, Spotted Cow.

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

Pretty impressive, eh?

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WICheck out this outdoor beer garden, filled with hop-clinging columns and hillside vignettes.

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

So, yeah. Outside, the brewery grounds are earthy and green, proudly overlooking the hillside and town below. Inside, it’s an immaculately different world…

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

…That of brewing, bottling and packaging.

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI
New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

Which results in this! In 2012, New Glarus turned out over 127,000 barrels of Staghorn Octoberfest and other beers.

New Glarus Brewing Company, New Glarus, WI

Last year, while touring a Cape May, N.J., craft brewery, we mentioned we were from Wisconsin. What do you think was the immediate response from anyone who knew beer? New Glarus Brewing Company! Interestingly, New Glarus sells its product exclusively in Wisconsin. This brings a marketing mystique to the ale that has out-of-staters thirsting for more.

Ratings

Adunate ratings for New Glarus BreweryOktoberfest Beer: Super!

Ambiance
Definitely impressive and a brewery to tour. I’d love to come on a warmer, dryer day and sip beer outside in the gardens.

Tour
New Glarus offers two tours:  A daily, free Self-guided Tour and a weekly, $20 Hard Hat Tour. The Hard Hat Tour is consistently booked so we took the self-guided tour. It was fun, but we had so many questions and would have really appreciated some narrative. Maybe just a set of headphones?

Community
The town of New Glarus is known as America’s Little Switzerland. Everything is Swiss! It’s a small town with a couple days’ worth of entertainment for all ages. We stayed in the Chalet Landhaus, which was just off the bike trail. Nice!

Copy and Design
New Glarus’ packaging style is simple and recycled (or at least gives the impression of such). I like their Thumbprint series, especially their explanation of it. And, as they say on their Oktoberfest: “Be sure to hold this one up to the light of any harvest moon…”

Next stop: Minhas Brewery

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