Brewpubs on Broadway

Green Bay’s Brewery District is a Sudsy Little Fiefdom

By Tom Davis

Cross the Ray Nitschke Memorial Bridge over the Fox River to the west side of downtown Green Bay and you’ll find the Broadway District. It’s a place that fairly crackles with the energy generated by a multicultural fusion of entrepreneurs doing interesting, exciting things and by the people who come to enjoy them. There are ethnic groceries and restaurants, specialty shops and galleries, even outposts of the avant-garde like KaVarna, a seriously (if not tragically) hip coffee bar, and so on.

But while each of these establishments contributes to the Broadway vibe, its two brewpubs, Titletown Brewing Co. and Hinterland Brewery, Restaurant and Lounge, are where you really plug into the buzz -- whether you’re a beer drinker or not. And because they’re only a shout apart on opposite sides of Dousman Street, they in effect form their own sudsy fiefdom. On any given evening, customers trade back and forth, hitting one for cocktails, the other for dinner, or maybe just doing a compare-and-contrast investigation of the gourmet brews that flow from their taps.

The thing is, this suits the proprietors, Brent Weycker of Titletown and Bill Tressler of Hinterland, just fine. They’re happy to share the wealth, so to speak, and they view themselves more as collaborators than competitors.

Despite the two brew pubs’ similarities, notes Titletown’s Weycker, they ultimately fill somewhat different niches. “Hinterland’s more of an upscale dining place than we are,” he acknowledges. “We’re geared more to pub fare -- two of our most popular dishes are the sausage trio platter and the fish and chips -- although we have some very unique items on our menu, too.”

Titletown, Green Bay’s first bona fide brewpub, also has the nostalgia factor going for it -- big time. Since opening in 1996 it’s been housed in the old Chicago & North Western Railway depot, a Green Bay landmark since 1899 that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Crowned by an 85-foot clock tower, the depot saw countless thousands of passengers pass through its doors, including three presidents -- Taft, FDR and Eisenhower -- and such popular entertainers as Buddy Holly and Nat King Cole.

Not surprisingly, Titletown’s interior décor leans heavily toward railroad history -- photographs, posters, timetables, etc. -- along with a smattering of Packers memorabilia. (There’s a reason it’s called Titletown, after all.) The main bar and dining area are on the first floor, as is the brewhouse, the squat brew kettle and tall, gleaming fermentation tanks bringing to mind a portly king and his royal guard. Outdoor dining is available under the same canopy that once shielded families waiting to welcome their loved ones home. The trains that still rumble by on a regular basis add a fork-clattering note of authenticity.

Upstairs, oddly enough, lies the Beer Cellar, a smaller bar and adjoining pool room with four regulation Brunswick tables. “We call it the world’s only second-floor beer cellar,” says Weycker with a laugh, explaining that the depot doesn’t have a basement.

As for the beer, Titletown generally has six to eight fresh-brewed styles to choose from, including such standouts as Johnny Blood Red ale (reportedly a favorite of sportswriter Dick Schaap) and “400” Honey Ale, named for the Chicago & North Western 400 Streamliner passenger train. Titletown also brews its own root beer, Sno-Cap, so named because the recipe was passed down to Weycker, a Green Bay native, from his grandparents, who ran the fondly remembered Sno-Cap Drive-In on the city’s northwest side.

Bill Tressler is also a Green Bay native, but before returning to the area to start his Hinterland microbrewery he lived in California, where he studied fermentation science at UC-Davis and edited a brewing industry trade magazine.

A representative sampling of Hinterland’s offerings includes Pub Draught, a nitrogenated English-style ale with a creamy-smooth finish, and Amber Ale, which blends hints of caramel and roasted malt in a robustly bodied, gorgeously russet-hued brew that’s somehow reminiscent of Rita Hayworth. Tressler also is experimenting with new recipes. “We’ve gone berserk,” he quips, citing a beer he’s aging in Jim Beam whiskey barrels to prove his point.

Housed in what was originally a cold-storage facility, Hinterland has massive walls, high ceilings and angular interiors that give it an urbane, retro-industrial sensibility -- though the mounted moose head and stone fireplace adorning one of the dining rooms impart more of an Adirondacks-lodge feel. There’s a large second-floor bar and lounge, and a secluded courtyard offers alfresco summer dining.

Tressler and his executive chef, Kelly Qualle, have built their eclectic, California-influenced menu around two main pillars: game -- everything from elk to caribou -- and seafood, including fresh fish such as mahi-mahi, sashimi-grade tuna, sturgeon and grouper. Wood-fired pizzas are another Hinterland specialty. The menu changes daily; Tressler says this not only keeps the creative juices flowing in the kitchen, it keeps the customers’ culinary curiosity piqued -- and keeps them coming back as a result.

But if they want to cross the street for a nightcap, well, that’s entirely up to them.

Tom Davis lives in Green Bay.

When You Go

Titletown Brewing Co, 920-437-2337.

Hinterland Brewery, Restaurant and Lounge, 920-438-8050.

This entry was posted in Dining, Pubs & Taverns, Local Foods, Breweries and tagged Travelogues