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 was 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.

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.

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

And 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-looking 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 total 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 beer 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 the Grumpy Trolls 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

Our First Stop: Corner Pub at Fermentation Fest

Corn maze at Fermentation Fest, Reedsburg, WI

Oh, Creator of Autumn. Could you have given us a more glorious beginning to our Octoberfest Beer Tour? I think not.

On Saturday we launched our tour in the most appropriate of ways—attending the Fermentation Fest in Reedsburg, Wis—and I must say we couldn’t have had better weather. We did the Art D’Tour in the afternoon and the Food/Drink D’Tour in the evening. Both events were great! I am so proud to have done work for this remarkable organization (don’t worry, next week I’ll cover it in full).

Corner Pub Brewery & Bakery, Reedsburg, WI

In the meantime, let me share with you the first stop on our Octoberfest Beer Tour. Before starting the art tour we stopped for lunch at Reedsburg’s Corner Pub Brewery & Bakery. Let me preface with the understanding that Wisconsin pub fare is an art form all its own. Think of burgers that only a well-seasoned grill can sear. Or any-food-imaginable deep fried to a beer-complimenting delight. The Corner Pub meets the mark. Delish!

The Corner Pub Brewery & Bakery, Reedsburg, WI

The Corner Pub is the oldest operating tavern in Sauk County. Pointing to the steps right behind our booth, the friendly server told us owner Pete Peterson brews his batches two barrels at a time right there in the basement. Her welcoming conversation is noteworthy because the place was packed with Fermentation Fest-ers. Tapping, I mean topping that off, we loved the Oktoberfest beer!

The Corner Pub's Oktoberfest served in a Fermentation Fest glass

So yes, the Corner Pub’s Oktoberfest is everything I enjoy in a beer. I like its smoothness and depth (I never could handle carbonation). It’s not over-hoppy. Simply put, it tastes very much like the autumn richness we enjoyed that afternoon.

Saturday evening, the Corner Pub was one of the fine breweries tempting our taste buds at the Fermentation Fest Food/Drink D’Tour. I liked the pub’s Cream Ale and Weiss. My husband was so-so on its Saison, but he really liked the Bourbon Scotch Ale.

Our RatingsAdunate ratings for Corner Pub Brewery & Bakery, Reedsburg, WI

Beer: Great!

Ambiance: Kudos that Corner Pub makes its home in a historic Main Street building. The pub is decorated with interesting memorabilia and fun sport souvenirs.

Food: Fresh, tasty, delish!

Community: My 5-stein rating encompasses all of Sauk County. Such a beautiful area and so much to do!

Copy & Design: The pub’s Facebook page Corner Pub Rocks gives it a fun online presence but, really, we’d love to read more about those tasty brews! Corner Pub needs a website—I can help you with that, Pete!

 

Next stop: The Grumpy Troll

 

Rating Our Octoberfest

Autumn Colors in Sauk County, WI

I don’t know about you, but when my husband and I travel we like to see a variety of things. Then we we like to compare one to another and rate our favorite. So what better way to share the fun places on our Octoberfest Beer Tour than a 5-stein ratings chart!

Ratings chart by Adunate Word & DesignActually, we really don’t know that much about beer. Not from a connoisseur’s perspective, that is. But we know what we like and sometimes we might even know what gives beer the qualities we like. For example, neither of us is cool enough to have developed a heavy hops palette, therefore we’re not big on IPAs. But we do enjoy a good, old-fashioned lager, which is why we like Oktoberfests.

Then there’s ambiance. This is huge for me. Perhaps I’ve mentioned a few hundred times that I really like historic architecture? If I find a food venue in a well-preserved, old building, you can bet that’s on our itinerary. Five steins for an old building!

And absolutely ZERO steins for chain restaurants. I know this sounds rather food snobbish, but please understand we’ve just come off three pure months of eating food directly from our garden. A week on the road could easily throw our wimpy digestive systems into proliferated chaos so I’m allowing no corporate food. I’m excited to patronize original downtown Main Streets with entrepreneur-owned stores and restaurants. I look forward to experiencing the culture of a community and all it has to offer.

Copy and design, you say? You bet. I am in the marketing business after all. Of course I’m going to thrill in a beautiful logo, like this one from Reads Landing Brewing Company in Reads Landing, Minn.,—yes, we are stopping across the river for sip! Or this storytelling copy from Tyranena Brewing Company in Lake Mills, Wis., which brilliantly celebrates the culture of the area. (My husband, on the other hand, just likes the beer:-)

So there you have it—a bit of our thinking in the days ahead as we rate our beer stops. We’re excited! And look at that stunning Sauk County, Wis., hillside in my top photo. How can we not be excited?!

First stop: The Corner Pub Brewery & Bakery