Wisconsin is a beautiful state, most notably Door County, which is in the northeast part of the state and borders both Lake Michigan and Green Bay. My wife and I were fortunate to spend a week there with my sister-in-law, Pam, in June – in Sister Bay, a charming little burg of 876 residents, but which hosts year-round tourism in what some refer to as the “Cape Cod of the Midwest.”
It is the land of bays, beer, brats, churches and cheese. I can’t understand why Hillary Clinton was reluctant to return during the 2017 Presidential campaign, but that’s another story and one left best ignored when chronicling Beerchasing exploits.
After a smooth flight from Portland to O’Hare, we rented a car and drove from Chicago to downtown Milwaukee the first night – Sunday of Memorial Day weekend.
And the city, which we both really liked, has a lot of historic ambiance, but bustling energy and was hopping that weekend. Milwaukie is an old and renowned beer town – for many years touted as “The beer capital of the world.”
According to Beerhistory.com, “……indeed, the city has been home to some of America’s largest brewers — Pabst, Schlitz, Miller, Blatz.”
The website states that factors such as abundant water, availability of raw materials such as hops and barley, cheap labor and even loads of ice from Lake Michigan were not responsible for the City’s preeminence in the sudsy brew. Rather, it was a combination of factors including savvy business people with a vision and who expanded sales to outside markets and this very interesting bit of information:
“Proximity to the large beer-consuming population of Chicago — and the easy and inexpensive lake transportation thereto — was always a boon to Milwaukee’s brewing industry.
For example, the Great Chicago Fire of 1871 boosted sales of Milwaukee breweries enormously. Schlitz’s frequent shipments of beer to the devastated city earned it the slogan, ‘The Beer That Made Milwaukee Famous.’ Schlitz enjoyed a 100 percent jump in sales immediately after the Chicago fire.”
We arrived in the early evening and scouted Water Street – adjacent to the Milwaukee River for a good place to eat and a craft beer although some Northwest skeptics warned us that craft beer in Milwaukee is a “mug of PBR with an orange slice adorning it…..”
The Water Street Brewery was our first stop and one that was interesting for its history and its beer memorabilia – including collections of beer cans (50,000 of which 6,000 are featured in 25 displays), 1,400 tap knobs, 2,300 coasters, 825 bottle and can openers, etc.)
The micro-brewery, opened in 1987, was Milwaukee’s first according to the “Water Street Journal”:
“The city’s first modern “brew-pub” – with six gleaming copper vats to brew beer for tavern patrons opened Wednesday…..the building dates back to 1898…..
We had excellent beers and great food – bratwurst and spaetzle dumplings included.
My affinity for dive bars was accommodated by walking only one-half block from the brewery with two adjoining bars – Scooter’s Pub and Duke’s on the Water. Janet is not a fan of dive bars although she acquiesced when I told her I had to take advantage of Scooter’s special – drafts of Miller Genuine Draft in a large plastic cup for a buck!
“Aside from a hot bartender there were no women on this side of this odd bar connected to another bar on the other side which is called Dukes.
That side had many more people and few women ventured to Scooters and from judging and looking at the bro’ crowd I could see why. the dudes in here were both drunk and dumb and rude. The place seemed pretty shabby and the lone bartender was overworked providing fair service.”
The crowd was fine and I downed my MGD and we were on our way.
The next day, we decided to take a short side trip on the way to Sister Bay, so we could see Lambeau Field in Green Bay – the famous home of the Packers. Now Green Bay, with a population of a little over 100,000 is known as Title Town USA in light of the thirteen NFL championships, the most of any NFL city.
And Green Bay, does not have much else besides football, except for a few meatpacking plants and it probably doesn’t brag about the city’s other title – “The Toilet Paper Capital of the World”:
“…..Green Bay, home to the Quilted Northern brand. In 1901, Northern Paper Co. produced its first tissue. Named Northern Tissue in 1902, the product became splinter-free in the 1930s, two-ply in the 1960s and quilted in the 1990s.” (American Profile 1/14/2007)
And as expected, there were two breweries within a short radius of the stadium. The first, Hinterland Brewery had just relocated to a sparkling new building across the street from the stadium although it does have an older gastro-pub in Milwaukee. The brewery originally opened in 1995 in an old meat-packing facility.
It has a gleaming interior with a display kitchen, two large wood-burning fireplaces for those cold Wisconsin days and a great patio. We tried two of the twenty-four beers on tap – Hinterland’s own Cherry Wheat Ale and the Nitro IPA which the bartender told us was brewed with Oregon Simcoe hops.
A short drive down Vince Lombardi Ave. to the corner of Holmgren and Reggie White Ways….and we hit the massive parking lot for the Badger State Brewery. On game days, the parking spots are only $20 if one patronizes the brewery – a great deal!
(“This red ale has a beautiful color given by the various caramel malts which also contribute a nice sweetness. All-American hops add light flavors of orange zest to the beer. Sweet – Fresh – Rustic – Hoppy.”) Since we had just partaken at Hinterland, we split this one and liked the color and taste.
We drove the ninety miles to Sister Bay through the beautiful Wisconsin countryside – the flat terrain was a real contrast to our mountainous Oregon topography.