While the mega-breweries that once made Wisconsin famous have largely disappeared, they’ve been replaced by a flock of innovative craft brewers who’ve put the state squarely back in the center of the beer universe. By mixing traditional European brewing techniques with local ingredients and a deft artist’s touch, these entrepreneurs have created some of the most highly regarded beers in the world – as well as vibrant tourist attractions. Here are just a few that are great to visit.
Lakefront Brewery - Milwaukee
Lakefront Brewery, located in the Milwaukee neighborhood of Riverwest, is full of Milwaukee charm and award-winning beers. The microbrewery’s acclaimed Organic ESB is one of the few beers in the world to use only 100 percent organic hops and grains. Expert tour guides offer samples of the suds, beer or root beer, as visitors learn firsthand how Lakefront makes its fine beers. Don’t miss the fun, Friday night fish fry – complete with a live polka band and the beer from the on-site brewery.
National Brewery Museum - Potosi
The National Brewery Museum is a joint venture between the American Breweriana Association and the Potosi Brewery Foundation. This world class national brewery museum showcases the artifacts and memories of America's breweries. The National Brewery Museum is located within the historical setting of the Potosi Brewing Company building that operated from 1852 to 1972. After learning more about American breweries, visitors can enjoy a cold Potosi beer or soda from the restored Potosi Brewery and grab lunch or dinner at the Potosi Brewery restaurant or beer garden.
New Glarus Brewery Co. - New Glarus
Nestled in rolling hills is the New Glarus Brewery Co., recipient of the “Midsize Brewery of the Year” and “Brewer of the Year” awards for multiple years at the Great American Beer Festival in Denver. Self-guided tours of the state-of-the-art brewery are free, and beer sampling is available for a nominal fee. Pick up a couple of six-packs on your way out as New Glarus beer is only available in Wisconsin. And here’s another tidbit. New Glarus Brewery’s Spotted Cow is the second best selling beer in the state behind Miller Lite and they’ve never advertised.
Minhas Craft Brewery - Monroe
Beer enthusiasts can head to Monroe and tour the Minhas Craft Brewery – a brewing tradition since 1845. The second oldest brewery in the nation offers beer, ales and lagers that are handcrafted in small batches. At any given time, more than 20 million pints of beer are at different stages of finish at the brewery. For a nominal fee take a two to three hour tour of the brewery and adjoining museum. Each guest also leaves with a “thank you” pack in hand that includes four bottles of the finest craft beers, one bottle of the famous Blumer Root Beer Soda and a branded sampler glass.
Capital Brewery Co. - Middleton
Located near Madison, Capital Brewery Co., started in 1984 and has specialized in producing lager style beers, the type of beers that made Wisconsin famous. Very few craft breweries in the country today dedicate themselves to this type of beer but Capital has always believed strongly in the brewing heritage and traditions of Wisconsin. Their lineup consists of at least 15 beers throughout the year, from mainstays such as Wisconsin Amber and Supper Club to exotics such as Eternal Flame, which was their 25th anniversary beer. Tours take visitors throughout the brewery and provide an overview of the beer making process. After the tour, visitors can stop by the Bier Stube or outdoor bier garden to enjoy a pint.
Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery - Milwaukee
German immigrant Jacob Best Sr. established The Pabst Brewing Company in 1844. Under the guidance of his son Phillip Best and Phillip’s son-in-law, Captain Frederick Pabst, a small local producer became America’s largest brewer from the late 1800's until 1946. In 2001, the brewery reopened as Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery, taking its name from the founders, Jacob and Phillip Best and its spirit from the Captain, Frederick Pabst. Be sure to take the The Best Place "Beer History Tour," which starts with a free PBR, Schiltz, or a root beer. You will step into the Captain’s Courtyard and have the opportunity to take a picture with Steamboat Captain Frederick Pabst. The tour ends with an update on how the rest of the Pabst Brewery is unfolding and the latest on PBR Beer. After the tour, visit the gift shop, hang out with your old and new friends and soak up more of the Best Place atmosphere, and experience true German "Gemuetlichkeit!
Sprecher Brewing Co. - Milwaukee
Sprecher is Milwaukee’s first microbrewery since Prohibition. Sprecher Brewing Co. fire-brews more than 20 award-winning beers and eight gourmet sodas in handmade brew kettles. Sprecher’s gourmet soda has also won accolades – The New York Times selected its root beer as #1 after testing 25 different root beers. Tours and tastings of beer and soda are offered throughout the week.
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co. - Chippewa Falls
Five generations of Leinenkugels have brewed beer at the seventh oldest brewery in the United States that today features seven year-round and four seasonal brews. Built in 1867, this brewery is also home to Leinie Lodge, a rustic visitor’s center and gathering place for fans of Leinenkugel's fine, handcrafted beers.
MillerCoors’ Milwaukee Brewery Tour - Milwaukee
The mothership of seven large brewing operations run by the country’s second largest brewer, home to more than 150 years of brewing history. The free, one-hour indoor/outdoor guided tour seamlessly blends the rich history of MillerCoors with the modern age technology of today’s brewing process. Tours are free with Miller samples included.
Stevens Point Brewery - Stevens Point
Established in 1857, it is one of the oldest continuously operating breweries in the country. Consider this for perspective: Steven Point Brewery provided beer to Union troops during the Civil War. Tours and sampling is available.