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.


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

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!

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

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

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!

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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 it 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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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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

Preserving Faith and Natural Resources

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Doors Open Milwaukee

Who says churches aren’t sustainable? Last weekend we toured Doors Open Milwaukee and the top “must-see” on my list was the Basilica of St. Josaphat. Wow! Step inside this work of art and you experience sustainability in more ways than one.

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Doors Open Milwaukee

According to the basilica’s story, in the late 1800s Polish immigrants were pouring into this neighborhood of south Milwaukee and 12,000 of them were members of St. Josaphat. The parish’s Father Wilhelm Grutza sought a way to affordably build a larger church. He learned of plans to demolish the Chicago Post Office and Custom House, so for $20,000 he was able to purchase the salvaged materials and have them shipped up to Milwaukee. From this the parish built its new church. It was completed in 1901.

It’s often said that churches of old were believed to be portals to the divine, that their beauty helped prepare parishioners to the experience of worship. It this were true, Milwaukee’s doorway would open straight to the heavens. There is an exceptional number of stunningly beautiful churches in this city and as we stood outside St. Josaphat, we knew this was one of them.

And then we stepped inside the nave…

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Doors Open Milwaukee

We were completely blown away! I’ve never been in European cathedrals, but this is how I imagine them to be—breathtakingly beautiful.

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Doors Open Milwaukee

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Doors Open Milwaukee

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Doors Open Milwaukee

Over the years I’ve been accumulating a photography collection of rose windows. St. Josaphat added quite a few to my collection!

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee, WI

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Milwaukee, WI

Basilica of St. Josaphat, Doors Open Milwaukee

I appreciate religious organizations that aren’t shy in promoting their history or their physical assets. In a lower level of St. Josaphat, the parish displays a fascinating timeline of its structure. It’s a wonderful illustration of how much God has done for them and reminds members to be good stewards of their wonderful blessings!

So that’s it folks, our day of Doors Open Milwaukee! Definitely a worthwhile time and one we want to do again next year!


An Edifice of Eternal Encasing

Milwaukee City Hall, Doors Open Milwaukee 2014

If it seems like every time you drive past Milwaukee’s City Hall it’s encased in scaffolding, it’s because it is. It’s been that way now for years. And years. And years.

Milwaukee City Hall, Doors Open Milwaukee 2014

In 2006, the city began an exciting restoration project on the historic building’s exterior and due to some unfortunate developments, the project just never ends. Originally built in 1895, the City Hall is a 393-foot Flemish Renaissance Revival and is trapezoidally nestled between four angled streets.

And scaffolding.

Milwaukee City Hall, Doors Open Milwaukee 2014

To get into the building, you have to walk through a tunnel of scaffolding before it gives way to what someday will once again be a welcoming open-air rotunda.

Milwaukee City Hall, Doors Open Milwaukee

And then you step inside. Voilà…here is this fascinating interior of intrigue. All eight floors of it.

Milwaukee City Hall, Doors Open Milwaukee

As history goes, seven people jumped to their deaths during the Great Depression. This led to the installation of a protective wire barrier and it remained in place until 1988.

Milwaukee City Hall, Doors Open Milwaukee

I like this. It shows both a sense of sustainability and community. I also like the creative display of responses.

Milwaukee City Hall, Doors Open Milwaukee

There is great beauty in repetition and serendipitous alignment!

That’s all for today, folks. Come back tomorrow for the Basilica of St. Josaphat. You’ve just got to see it!


When the Flame is Blue

Gas Light Building, Doors Open Milwaukee

When the flame is red, it’s warm weather ahead!
When the flame is gold, watch out for cold!
When the flame is blue, there’s no change in view!
When there’s a flickering flame, expect snow or rain!

Since 1956, downtown Milwaukeeans have only needed to look to the rooftop of the Milwaukee Gas Light Building for their next day’s forecast. See that flame-shaped dome at the top of this magnificent, 20-floor, Art Deo skyscraper? It’s the gift of the Wisconsin Gas Company (owners of the building at the time) to Milwaukee—a color-changing beacon along with a cute rhyme of explanation. It’s iconic treasures such as this that instill a hometown in the hearts of its people.


After decades of Victorian extremism, imagine how, in 1930 when the Gas Light Building was completed, its simplicity was noticeably distinct. That’s kind of how we felt as we stepped inside for Doors Open Milwaukee. It’s obviously different than the previous buildings we’d toured, but we thought it beautiful nonetheless.

Wisconsin Gas Light Building, Doors Open Milwaukee

Who says Art Deco isn’t ornate? Don’t you just love this jazzy sunburst?

Apparently in the 1960s (oh, those architecturally dreadful ’60s), the gas company “modernized” the building. Along with removing granite ornamentation and other characteristic elements, they did away with the deco bronze sunburst. However in 2002, the Paul Weise Real Estate Corporation purchased the building and restored it to its original luster, including a duplicated sunburst.

Milwaukee Gas Light Building, Doors Open Milwaukee

Once again, design is in the details. Even the street address is done in Art Deco. Such a classy typeface!

Gas Light Weather, Milwaukee, WI

And to close of this lovely autumn day, maybe you want a little Art Deco, weather-predicting, Milwaukee-flame excitement for your iPhone. Here’s a Gas Light app. Don’t worry if you don’t live in Milwaukee, it will forecast weather no matter where you are. Milwaukeeans are really nice like that.

Next stop? Check in tomorrow for Milwaukee City Hall!