Much to my mother’s chagrin (I think she’d want me to note it), I have taken a liking to beer. This liking manifests itself in a way that people usually associate with oenophiles. I like to try roll the roasted barley between my fingers, slowly savor a unique craft beer, enjoy fruity beer concoctions, sample a flight of mini-glasses, tour the actual breweries, see hops growing in the field, and learn about the return of craft beer. Others can drink until full on the brand of the Clydesdales (funny commercials, but a tasteless drink), I’ll stick to one craft brew (and pay twice as much for it).
This means that I tend to find myself surrounded with yuppies, hipsters, and idealists more than the biker crowd. Instead of brawls, there’s generally a discussion of what qualifies a stout as “imperial.” That said, although wine connoisseurs and beer connoisseurs can overlap, there is one huge difference. It’s okay not to know. Brewers and home brewers never seem to put on airs. We all know that wine comes with an [albeit unnecessary] air of sophistication and pretension.*Beer, not so much.
Okay, moving on. When younger sister agreed to take a southern Wisconsin road trip with me, I asked if she’d be interested in visiting the New Glarus Brewery. The New Glarus Brewery was started in 1993, started making craft beers from all natural ingredients, and decided to sell regionally (only within the state/not for the mass market). Since then, the brewery has been recognized for its accomplishments time and time again. Within the state, where you see “Only in Wisconsin” banners, you can guess that you’ll be able to find a New Glarus. Combining my interests in good beer with my love for my home state seemed like a logical idea. My sister agreed to join.
From Madison, New Glarus is only a half an hour drive. Skip the small brewery you see at first, and continue on to the new place. The huge place. The beautiful hilltop setting.
The new brewery is open and comes with a tasting room (3.50 for a small souvenir glass that you can fill three times with samples), a beautiful garden, a gift shop, and a spot for buying bottled beer. The tours are self-guided. I assume that once things are finished in the new place, there will be at least some signage or informational plaques to explain a bit more of what’s happening. Still, it’s pretty impressive.
On the way in, you’re greeted by the hops garden.
And then you roll up to what looks like a little Swiss village.
But with people posing in front of it.
Head on in. The self-guided tour is free. It starts with a display of some of the brewery’s accomplishments.
Then you’ll see the machinery. Beautiful, huh?
And once you’re done with that, move on to the tasting. The specialty fruit beers were available, as well as the usual Moon Mans and Spotted Cows, etc. Unfortunately, I think we were a bit early to try their sour beers, which are now out. I didn’t see any in the depot either.
We took our samples outside when it wasn’t raining. The garden was really neat. The vines haven’t quite covered the abbey “ruins” yet, but I imagine that in a couple years, it will look even more inviting.
The experience was great. I loved the Guinness brewery tour and even Beau’s, but this has been my favorite brewery visit yet. It definitely caters to a tourist experience, and I’m certainly biased–it being Wisconsin and all–but it was laid back, tasty, and fun. (Just needs to be a bit more informative and we’re set!)
After visiting the brewery, we decided to take a gander into the town of New Glarus. Were you wondering why the New Glarus Brewery went with a Swiss look? The town of New Glarus is known as Little Switzerland. The building were built in the Swiss style, and German is everywhere you look.
The town probably merited a bit more of our time. It looks like a nice place to spend a day or an afternoon. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that before we visited and hadn’t budgeted the necessary time. Next time, I guess!
*I wish it weren’t there, and I assume in places where it is simply part of the culture, and every Thomas, Richard et Henri (Get it?! The French Tom, Dick, and Harry!) has learned about wine production since they were children, it’s not impressive to correctly pronounce names of wine.