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 #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

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, I’ll cover it in full in the weeks ahead).

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