Craft brewery tour of Southwest Wisconsin
- This article is an itinerary.
This is an itinerary for a tour of craft breweries in and around the Southwest Wisconsin region.
Southwest Wisconsin, originally home to large German and Swiss immigrant groups, has a rich history of beer brewing. As a result, a number of breweries have developed in the region representing a number of types and styles. A quality beer tour could let you sample a number of types or explore the many variations of a single style, and Wisconsin breweries can readily meet the wants of both casual drinkers and seasoned beer aficionados.
Whenever taking a brewery tour, the most important thing is to be sure that you can travel safely. Pick a designated driver, spread the tour over a few days or plan ahead to include time for everyone to sober up before driving.
Of course, be sure to carry photographic identification to prove your age such as a driver's license, passport or non-driver ID when buying alcohol.
Highlighted Breweries and Styles
- Minhas Craft Brewery: Based near downtown Monroe, Minhas is the 10th largest craft brewer in the United States (often white-labeling for nationally distributed brands). In addition to its white-labeled beer, Minhas produces a number of its own beers including a farmhouse ale, bock, Oktoberfest, India Pale Ale (IPA) and amber lager (a full list of beers can be found on their website). Tours are held daily at specific times for $10 (including all you can drink in their sampling room). Despite its significantly larger operation, the brewery is unique in that many original brewing tanks and other equipment is still used. It also has a lot of small, interesting touches such as hop plants growing right outside the gift shop. The brewery is also located immediately adjacent to the Minhas Craft Distillery.
- New Glarus Brewery: Often hailed as the best brewery in Wisconsin, New Glarus is located in the city of New Glarus, roughly 15 miles north of Monroe on WI 69. Like Minhas, New Glarus offers a variety of award-winning beers including Spotted Cow (Ale), Fat Squirrel (Brown Ale) and Uff-da (Bock). It's also renowned for its fruit beers, most notably Wisconsin Belgian Red, a cherry beer flavored with cherries from Door County, Wisconsin. The cherry crop failed in 2012, and a variety of other fruit beers have also been created to fill the void until the crops are productive again. During the week, guided tours are available for free. On weekends, all tours are self-guided. Samples and full pints are available for purchase in the tasting room (typically $6 for samples up to $9 for specialty pints). The brewery also has a beer depot where beer bottles and cases can be purchased directly. Be sure to take the coupon booklet you get at the brewery into town. The downtown of New Glarus is full of Old-World charm and unique eateries and shops. More information is available on their website.
- Ale Asylum: Located on Madison's east side, Ale Asylum features a wide variety of beers, an independent kind of vibe and a full restaurant in addition to a sampling room. While many of their beers are favorites with locals, they're most famous in the area for their IPAs (Ballistic and Bedlam). Guided tours are $5 and include a pint. A full list of beers is available on their website. Downtown Madison is a ten-minute drive from there if you want more activities from there.
- Tyranena Brewery: Located in Lake Mills and not too far off of I-94, Tyranena is a local favorite for both Madison and Milwaukee natives. Like Ale Asylum, it features a number of beer styles and varieties, but the Three Beaches Honey Blonde Ale, available year round, and seasonal specials, like Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale (winter), are particular favorites. Tyranena offers free tours on Saturdays, and the sample room stays open past the tours, featuring live entertainment in their Beer Garden on Friday and Saturday evenings in the summer. See their website for details.
- Hydro Street Brewery: Something of a secret located in Columbus, Hydro Street Brewery is located in downtown Columbus and offer 45 styles and types of beer. Local brews Columbus Cream and Seven Sisters Scotch Ale are the definite favorites here, and the Campfire Porter, their original beer, is also available year-round. Like Ale Asylum, they have a restaurant attached. However, they are a standout in that they also feature craft soda. See their website for details.
As with most of the Southwest Wisconsin region, car is the best way to get around to each of the breweries. The following is a suggested route, but the order of visiting can be changed depending on your needs:
- Starting at Minhas, take 12th Street east to 18th Avenue. Turn left and follow until it becomes WI 69.
- Take WI 69 north to New Glarus. The brewery is right before the town and has a signed main entrance.
- From New Glarus, take WI 69 north until it meets US 151 near Verona.
- Take 151 through downtown Madison to Route 30 and head north to Ale Asylum (it's on the right hand side - may be hard to see from the Street).
- From Ale Aslyum, get back on 30 and take it east until it becomes I-94. Follow to Lake Mills.
- From Tyranena, take WI 89 north to Columbus and Hydro Street.
- Driving Conditions: When going through this itinerary, keep in mind that portions of this area are located in rural portions of the Driftless Area and can be difficult to travel in bad weather. Generally, the areas near Madison and east are easier to travel.
- Drinking: If you plan on drinking, please pace yourself and, if necessary, choose a designated driver.
- Southeast Wisconsin: Milwaukee is a famous beer city and offers a variety of breweries, beer gardens and other drinking establishments.
- Northwest Wisconsin: See the iconic Leinenkugel's brewery in Chippewa Falls.