Having spent the last few weekends working around our house, Michelle suggested that we get out of Milwaukee this past Saturday. Having a keen sense of my emerging love of craft beer, she suggested we go to New Glarus Brewing Co., of New Glarus, Wis., a short two-hour car ride away.
A bit of research revealed that we could also enjoy a tour at Tyranena Brewing Co., of Lake Mills, Wis. I had drank beers from both brewers, but didn’t regularly purchase any–save for New Glarus’ new “Serendipity,’ a fruit ale that is effervescent and tasteful.
Nevertheless, there isn’t a better way to get turned on to interesting brews than heading to the place they are made.
We set out on the cloudy April morning, departing from home at 10:30: my iPhone on shuffle, full mugs of coffee perking us up along the way, and a thirst for beer soon to be quenched.
A little more than two hours later, we arrived in New Glarus, known as Little Switzerland. Many of the buildings adhered to this theme including the old New Glarus brewery. We were slightly confused because we thought we were in the right place, luckily, there were directions on the door.
A winding, climbing drive brought us to the brewery and we were amazed. New Glarus shifted operations to this location in 2007 and began hosting the public there in 2009. The brand new, attractive buildings were bigger than I would have ever imagined and carried the Swiss theme.
For $3.50 each, we received a wristband with tear-away tickets good for three samples of beer and a souveiner tasting glass. Since they are debuting their new year-round black IPA, Black Top, we received a ticket for a free sample of that. Also on tap were Spotted Cow (their flagship, a farmhouse ale), Snowshoe (an ale), Two Women (a lager), Moon Man (an American Pale Ale) and the aforementioned Serendipity.
I first tried the Snowshoe, which was crisp and light-bodied. Michelle ordered a Serendipity, the first of two she’d have with her tickets. The outdoor seating area was nice and will be even nicer when the finish a large scale construction project that is underway.
After finishing our first sample, we took the self-guided tour. There were several employees positioned throughout the huge, immaculately clean brewery, standing ready to answer any questions. I was amazed at the almost lab-like atmosphere.
Thankfully, you could still smell the wonderful malty, boiled grain that signifies beer brewing. After the tour we had the rest of our samples–the Black Top was great and I enjoyed the Spotted Cow, which I hadn’t tried in years after being pretty ambivalent towards it! Then we headed to purchase a few items in the gift shop.
Beer could be purchased away from the gift shop in a large cellar under the tap room. We purchased several bottles of their seasonal beers, things that wouldn’t be available at any local liquor stores, and left New Glarus in our rearview.
One hour later, we arrived at Tyranena in the midst of a rut of factories on the outskirts of Lake Mills. They opened their doors in 2007 and brew on a smaller scale than New Glarus.
We arrived about 20 minutes before the 3:30 tour. The lively brewpub was already hopping. The only tour of the day is free of charge but comes with no tasting. We opted to purchase some walking pints–Michelle had Rocky’s Revenge (a barrel-aged brown ale) and I tried the Stone Tepee (a pale ale). For the animal lovers, they allow dogs in the brewpub area.
Nearly 20 people attended the tour and we learned quickly how to say the confusing name … “Like two women’s names, Tyra-Nina.” We learned that all the beers are named after local legends–a little thing that a person like me really values.
Though I didn’t get the same lab feel I had at New Glarus, I was again pleased with how clean everything at this brewery was. A lot of the equipment had been purchased from a brewer that went out of business, but it almost looked new. We learned that the brew mostly ales at Tyranena because that is what the owner loves.
Several beers at Tyranena are burbon-barrel aged. Interestingly, they brew one batch, barrel age it and then mix it with another batch to ensure the burbon-barrel flavor isn’t overwhelming. After the tour, we had another drink in the brew pub, I tried their IBA while Michelle tried Three Beaches (an American blonde). We also tried their chipolte-infused porter. Each beer was crisp and complex. The pub atmosphere led us into a discussion with a couple and two guys from the tour about brewery tours.
Alas, it was time to eat. My friend from work, Diane, recommended Carp’s Landing, in the Rockwellian, park-centered Main Street area of Lake Mills. As the Wichita State-Louisville Final Four game began in the bar area, Michelle and I sat in the nice, up nort’ inspired dining area.
On Diane’s recommendation, I ordered my favorite meat, brisket. It was a bit pricey at $15, but it was smokey, tender and worth every penny. I paired it with a Tyranena Bitter Woman IPA.
Michelle enjoyed her brisket sandwich and opted to drink local as well, having the Tyranena Headless Man Amber Alt. She liked both.
After a drive to see the lake, we returned to Main Street and made our last stop at the Lewis Station Winery, a micro-winery with a gas station theme. Michelle had found it online, and we walked in to a spanish wine tasting, five samples for $5. Though we were bummed out we didn’t get to try any of their wines, we purchased one after we finished our samples at the well-attended, lively tasting.
We enjoyed our day, but it was time to return home–our car stocked with beer and wine–certain we’d return to both of these breweries someday soon!