The second destination on our Summer Brewery Tour of Wisconsin, following our first stop in Madison, was to visit the brewery which initiated the whole idea of making this trip – namely New Glarus Brewing Company.
Whilst at the Great American Beer Festival 2013 in Denver, Colorado, we had tasted their fruit beers (Raspberry Tart and Serendipity) and were so impressed, along with a continuous line of other people, that we just had to visit the producers of these fabulous beers.
America’s Little Switzerland
45 minutes south of Madison sits a small town of about 2100 inhabitants that was founded by Swiss immigrants. We only knew about the brewery but it turns out that this town is a holiday resort and holds a number of festivals such as the Swiss Volksfest to celebrate Swiss Independence Day. This includes yodeling, choral folklore music, flag throwing and much more. Further details can be found at SwissTown.com.
We stayed at the Chalet Landhaus Inn which is built in the traditional alpine-style with huge overhanging eaves and plenty of carved wood plus geraniums adorning the balconies.
New Glarus Brewing Company – original location
Whilst driving into the town of New Glarus we had noticed the brewery on our left-hand side and were relieved to see it was only 0.5 miles from the hotel so perfectly walkable – bonus we thought! So after we checked-in and unpacked we headed along the road to check out the brewery and its beers.
Upon reaching the brewery we noticed the parking lot was relatively quiet for what is supposed to be a very popular brewery – how very odd… that was until we read the sign that the Gift Shop & Tours are located at 2400 State Highway 69 approximately one mile back down the road past our hotel!
We about turned and headed off in the ‘right’ direction back past our hotel and further down the road then after about 10 minutes we had the added bonus of rain. Just great! Eventually we reached a Red Barn which is at the entrance to the new main facility at New Glarus Brewing and on the other-side of what looks like a newly surfaced road is an area of hops being grown by the brewery.
New Glarus Brewing Company – new location
After turning off the main highway we walked another 0.2 miles along a winding road up to a somewhat bigger complex which is still being extended. It turns out that the original brewery was setup in 1993 and in 2006 they broke ground on the new location producing their first batch of beer in 2007.
In 2009 the brewery was opened to visitors and in 2011 further additions were added. The visitors area comprises of a tasting room, a gift shop, and a bottle shop. Outside there is a very impressive area overlooking the countryside where you can sit and enjoy your New Glarus beers.
Inside the tasting room we each bought our wristbands after presenting ID, this entitled each of us to 3 x 3oz tasters and we could keep the etched tasting glass. There were nine beers available for tasting which worked out perfectly and below are these beers together with our tasting notes, estimated alcohol content (ABV) and a rating out of five.
Sampler #1 (regular beers):
- Totally Naked (Wisconsin Lager – 4.0% ABV): light, smooth, refreshing and effervescent – 3.5*
- Spotted Cow (Farmhouse Ale – 4.8% ABV): highly carbonated, some fruity notes and slightly spicy – 3.0
- Two Women (Classic Country Lager – 5.0% ABV): bitter and caramel flavor – 3.0
Sampler #2 (regular beers):
- Back 40 Bock (Wisconsin Bock – 5.0% ABV): malty with slight caramel – 3.0
- Moon Man (No-Coast Pale Ale – 5.5% ABV): clean, light citrussy and grapefruit, tasted dry-hopped – 3.5
- Dancing Man (Hefeweizen – 8.0% ABV): banana esters, slightly spicy and highly carbonated – 4.0*
Sampler #3 (specialty beers):
- Belgian Red (Wisconsin Fruit Beer – 4-5% ABV): cherry nose and flavor, sweet yet tart with moderate carbonation – 4.0
- Serendipity (Wisconsin Fruit Beer – 4-5% ABV): cranberry dominating apple and tart cherry – 4.5*
- Strawberry Rhubarb (Wisconsin Fruit Beer – 4-5% ABV): cloudy rhubarb color, strawberry aroma and flavor that is slightly tart – 4.5*
* denotes our favorite(s) from each of the above sampler flights.
Note: the Specialty beers will age for 2-3 years even with the relatively low alcohol percentage.
In addition to doing the 3oz samplers it is also possible to purchase the Regular beers by the pint for $6 each with $3 refills or the Specialty beers by the pint for $9 each with $8 refills – both of which you can keep the New Glarus stemmed glass which costs $4.50 in the Gift Shop.
After sampling the beers we went on the self-guided brewery tour. A hard-hat version is also available on their web site but this was booked up months in advance. The self-guided tour is still very interesting and whilst walking around I managed to speak with one of the workers and gleen the following facts:
- Currently 18k barrels (BBL) are brewed per month.
- 7 batches of Spotted Cow can be brewed per day due to the separate Mash and Lauter Tuns which means a new batch can be brewed once the Mash Tun becomes available i.e. staggered batches.
- Each batch can be up to 105 barrels depending on the specific starting gravity.
Below are some photos of the brewery which is the cleanest one we have ever seen to date and we have seen many different breweries so were suitably impressed:
Some short videos which we took of the Bottling Line in operation can be found here.
After our visit we started the 1.2 mile walk back to our hotel and after about 100 yards a couple of visitors from Denver, Colorado, nicely offered us a lift back – fantastic!
New Glarus Brewing Company is definitely a place for any Craft Beer enthusiast to visit, the beers are great, it has a fabulous location, and on a summer’s day they have a nice space outside to kick back and relax.
Sugar River Pizza
That evening we headed out the back of our hotel and went to Sugar River Pizza for something to eat and drink as we had noticed a sign from the road advertising 80+ craft beers available. Sure enough once seated we opened the menu to find a huge selection of beers available in the bottle from around the world and at very reasonable prices.
As well as having something to eat we indulged in the following beers:
- Trappistes Rochefort 8 – 9.2% ABV.
- Old Rasputin (Russian Imperial Stout) by North Coast Brewing – 9.0% ABV, 75 IBU’s.
- Weihenstephaner Vitus (Weizenbock) – 7.7% ABV.
- Bigfoot Ale (American Barleywine) by Sierra Nevada Brewing – 9.6% ABV, 90 IBU’s.
We managed to chat with the owner who is a Craft Beer enthusiast and also had a tour of his temperature-controlled beer room. Very enjoyable and interesting.
After eating we retired to the hotel and enjoyed some more New Glarus beers including their Winter Warmer and Spiced Ale that we had picked up from the supermarket across the road from the hotel. The following morning we called in again to stock up on some 750ml bottles of the fruit beers and some of the Dancing Man Hefeweizen to take home.
If you have any comments or questions on this article please leave them below. Our next article covers our subsequent brewery destination of Milwaukee – home of the Brewers!