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

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.

DoorsOpen2014_Gas_2

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!

Meet Me at the Pfister

The Pfister Hotel, Doors Open Milwaukee

This spring my daughter-in-law, a native of Chile, became a U.S. citizen. Her naturalization ceremony took place in Milwaukee’s majestic Federal Courthouse and afterward we celebrated with lunch at the Pfister Hotel. It was very special. So naturally, since we were in the neighborhood for the Doors Open Milwaukee event, we stepped into the Pfister for a reminiscing visit.

One of many things that made our spring luncheon meaningful was the attentiveness of our waitress. When she heard of my daughter-in-law’s celebration she lavished us with anecdotal history of the hotel. “Meet me at the Pfister,” she said, was a common thing to pass along from one immigrant to another. Because the Pfister is right across the street from the Federal Courthouse, meeting there before and after a naturalization ceremony was the traditional thing to do. And since both buildings date back to the late 1800s, you can bet generations of immigrants have met at the Pfister.

The Pfister Hotel, Doors Open Milwaukee

As you can see, the hotel glories in its Victorian style. It’s described as a Romanesque Revival and everything about it, from the extensive artwork to the potted palms, affirms Victorian.

With one exception…

Pfister Hotel, Doors Open Milwaukee

In 1962, the Pfister was purchased by Ben Marcus. He restored the structure to its original glory, which is awesome. But he also added a 23-story tower of rooms that is, shall we generously say, not-so-awesome. Luxurious as they are on the interior, from the exterior they don’t quite harmonize with the Romanesque Revival. I hate when that happens. But once again in the spirit of generosity, let’s predict that the addition will someday be a historic example of typical 1960’s architecture.

The grey building with copper turrets on the left is the Federal Courthouse Building. The building of yellow brick, known as Cream City Brick, in the center is the original Pfister Hotel. And the lovely (ahem) circular tower behind it is the Pfister Hotel addition.

Milwaukee does have an interesting skyline, doesn’t it? I took this photo from the Gas Light Building. Stay tuned until tomorrow!