No visit to Wisconsin would be complete without a tour of the region’s top breweries. You’ve no doubt heard of traditional mega-brewers such as Pabst or Miller, but the recent craft brewery revolution has surprisingly older roots in the Badger State. Whether you’re checking out all that the area has to offer or you’re planning an ultimate Wisconsin beer tour, be sure to add these breweries to your itinerary. While you’re at it, gear up your smartphones with some great road-ready apps.
You might be surprised to learn that small craft breweries were the norm around 150 years ago in Wisconsin. Many towns had their own city breweries, founded by German immigrants who’d left their homeland’s political and economic chaos behind. They relished in their prosperity until the advent of larger beer companies and the impact of Prohibition closed them down. Yet some of these original brewers remain today, joined by newer establishments catering to unique customer tastes.
Immigration and beer are inextricably tied to Milwaukee’s long and storied history. This lakefront destination was often the first stop for German immigrants, many of whom opened breweries during the 1840s and 1850s. A few of these, including Pabst and Miller, rose to prominence and became the industry’s giants. They accomplished this feat by expanding into beer markets around the rest of the state, using trains to sell and distribute their product.
Even so, modern Milwaukee is a prime destination for small craft brewery lovers. Located in the city’s historic Brewer’s Hill district, Lakefront Brewery is famous for its wide range of IPAs, lagers and seasonal beers as well as its organic and gluten-free offerings. When you’re done with your brewery tour, kick back in its spacious dining room with your favorite brew and some handmade German-style food made from locally sourced ingredients. You can also visit Sprecher Brewery, a family-friendly establishment in nearby Glendale. Every Sprecher tour ends with a visit to its indoor beer garden, where you can sample its finely crafted beers and flavorful sodas made in gas-fired brew kettles.
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German immigrants who arrived in Milwaukee after the 1840s found the brewer’s market saturated, so they stayed in the city to work and save their money. Later, they traveled to and settled in other parts of the state. One of these people was Joseph Hausmann, the future owner of Madison’s Hausmann Capital Brewery. Standing proudly at the corner of State and Gorham streets, it enjoyed many decades of success until Prohibition forced it to close in 1920.
The old Hausmann Capital Brewery complex is no longer standing, but the local brewery tradition is alive and well with establishments like Capital Brewery and the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company. Capital’s legacy began with German-style beer, but it’s expanded to produce American ales, barrel-aged beers and a distinct collection of IPAs. Meanwhile, Great Dane Pub produces pilsners and ales in German, Czech and Belgian styles along with IPAs, porters and stouts, served alongside a robust menu blending global and local flavors.
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You can’t visit Chippewa Falls without stopping by the famous Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. Leinenkugel has brewed beer from the family’s recipes since 1867, and it’s probably best known for its Summer Shandy, a wheat or “Weiss” beer infused with its trademark lemonade flavor. Leinenkugel produces several more Shandy beers along with seasonal varieties and year-round offerings that include more Weiss beers, lagers and ales.
The brewer’s success continues with sixth-generation family members carrying on Jacob’s legacy. Stop by the Leinie Lodge and take one of its daily brewery tours. You can also find folks from the Leinie Lodge at Chippewa Falls’ yearly Oktoberfest, usually held in late September or early October.
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You probably know Green Bay best for its football team, but this city has also been shaped by its beer-brewing history. Several breweries called Green Bay home during the 1800s including Rahr Brewery and Blesch Brewery, both of which closed for good during the late 20th century.
Today, the local microbrewery and brewpub scene continues with well-known establishments such as Titletown Brewing Company. Housed inside a former Chicago & Northwestern Railroad Depot building, Titletown brews a wide range of award-winning ales, pilsners, lagers and seasonal beers and pairs them with a menu of soups, salads, hearty pub fare and globally inspired cuisine. Stone Arch Brewpub, located about 35 miles outside the city in Appleton, boasts a 110-year legacy that begins with the founding of Fischer Brewery. Visitors can choose from its menu of dishes made with locally sourced ingredients along with distinctive brews that include an oatmeal-based vanilla stout along with several handcrafted ales.
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