And the kick-assiest beer, if you will, is found at The New Glarus Brewing Company just down the highway from Madison in America’s “Little Switzerland”. Founded in 1993, this brewery expanded just a few years ago, and their new facility is beautiful. Miles of high tech pipes snake around the brew house, drawing beer from the vintage copper kettles and moving it along to the fermenting area (aka – the stairway to heaven) and then to the bottling line. (Don’t miss the little 30 gallon brewing station – that’s where Dan Carey, the master brewer and co-owner cooks up his little experiments.)
Although the new brewery is a very slick operation, New Glarus hasn’t lost any of their soul. Their devotion to quality ingredients, patience in the brewing process and considerable amount of brewing knowledge keep us supplied with our favorite beers. They brew 6 beers year round and 10 seasonal beers. Our personal faves (the best of the best if you will) are their Moon Man Pale Ale, Two Women Lager, Snowshoe Red Ale and Staghorn Octoberfest. Seriously, it is worth a trip to Wisconsin for these beers alone. (And you’ll have to make the trip, because you can’t find their beer out of state!)
New Glarus operates 2 breweries: the old Riverside Brewery, and the the new Hilltop Brewery. The new one is the one you can tour for free and has a gift shop, beer garden and beer depot. Tours are self-guided, though often you can find a friendly employee who will show you around. Afterwards head to the tasting room and get three 3 oz samples for $3.50 and keep the glass. For those who thirst for more, pints are available. If you find yourself with a Friday afternoon free, consider signing up for the Hard Hat Tour. This behind-the-scenes tour is led by a “Brewery Ambassador” and starts at Riverside and ends at Hilltop. The $20 gets you beer and cheese and an insider’s look at the brewing process.
Brewery is open daily from 10-4 and is free of charge. Beer can be purchased for consumption now in the tasting room or later in the beer depot. The Hard Hat Tour is very popular, so you will have to reserve your spot months in advance.
The best beer. Period.