I’m not talking baseball; I’m referring to brewers as in beer. The brewery market overall is growing – in fact, it never really stopped. In 1873, there were 4,100 breweries in America; today there more than 4,200.The market bottomed out during the prohibition years of 1920-1933. That’s when members of my husband’s family tree ran whiskey in northern Wisconsin for Al Capone. Since that time frame, our family history has become a bit more uncertain while breweries have rebounded and the battle for the best beer extends from major players like Budweiser to the small, independent and traditional craft brewer.
In fact, each year the Super Bowl provides the perfect battleground for rivals. Last year, when Peyton Manning held up his favorite ‘big name’ beer after the game, the craft brewers responded by sending him a care package of more than 4,000 small and independent craft beers. Ah, point taken and message received.
In Wisconsin, statistics confirm we have 121 craft breweries in the state and we drink 7.6 gallons per 21+ adult annually. In fact, Wisconsin ranks #8 per capita in the most craft beer produced in the US. Many Wisconsinites take pride in following the Green Bay Packers, cheese and visiting their favorite pub. Some of our home state stoneware favorites.
Stevens Point Brewery
Celebrating 160 years in 2017, this brewery provided beer to Civil War troops. That’s a bit mind boggling and satisfying at the same time. During prohibition, the company produced near-beer products and soft drinks. In 1990, they began distributing their popular Point Special Lager outside of Wisconsin and eventually the brew was available throughout the Midwest.
In 2003, Point Special Lager received national recognition when they won the Gold Medal at the Great American Beer Festival over Miller Genuine Draft and Budweiser. That’s quite an accomplishment for a craft brewer from a city that boasts a population of 26,000.
Along with their brewery line, the Stevens Point Brewery also offers season brews, hard ciders and a line of Gourmet soda brands – and their distribution network has expanded to 25 states. Take time to visit the third-oldest continuously operating privately-owned brewery in the United States – right in Wisconsin.
Central Waters Brewing
Just a short 20-minute drive down the road from Stevens Point is Central Waters Brewing. In 1996, the business began in a historical building that began as a Ford Model-A dealership. Today the brewery has expanded its product line to 18 beer styles and services more than 200 retail locations in Central Wisconsin.
Important to the owners is their environmental footprint – from upstream product sourcing to downstream management. Bottles are sourced from a manufacturer using green initiatives, packaging is post-consumer recycled and, most importantly, they work with local farmers for their hops and barley. Solar technology for heating their water, using T-8 fluorescent light with motion sensing, conserving and reusing brewing chemicals when applicable all play into their strategic plan. Even their sampling room has been created from recycled materials.
All of these combined initiatives gained them recognition as the first brewery to be named in Wisconsin’s Green Tier program. Today they remain the only brewery in Wisconsin’s Green Master’s program. They are simply a model for environmental stewardship – and for producing a great brew.
HopCat – Madison
Located in the heart of the city, close to the State Capital, University of Wisconsin and the popular State Street, HopCat-Madison offers Wisconsin’s largest selection of craft beer on 130 taps. The company is headquartered in Grand Rapids, Michigan and has achieved much recognition since their 2008 start up. In that time, they’ve been named as one of the top 50 bars in the US by Draft Magazine, #3 beer bar in the world by Beer Advocate Magazine, #2 beer bar in the US by Craftbeer.com and #1 brewpub in the US by ratebeer.com.
What’s created all the excitement? HopCat has one mission: To bring you great beer.
They have 11 HopCat locations in six states with more sites in the works. If you’ve gone to one HopCat location – you haven’t gone to them all. The company is adamant to not take a cookie-cutter approach to their business allowing each beer manager to customize the business to their location and local flavors. And each location, offers a full menu including fresh takes on local specialties. In fact, Food Network magazine has named their famous Crack Fries as one of the top 10 French fries in America. Beer and French fries – now that’s a taste of Wisconsin you won’t forget.
Port Huron Brewing Company
Established in 2011, Port Huron is Wisconsin Dell’s newest production brewery producing both kegged and bottled beer. This family-owned business is named after a 1917 Port Huron Steam Traction Engine. The 22,000 pound engine has been part of the family since the 1950’s and still drives and powers antique farm implements.
Tanner Brethorst is the chief brewer. Prior to opening Port Huron Brewing he finished his studies in Madison, Chicago and Munich, Germany while working at a number of other breweries to confirm his career path.
The brewery specializes in four tap beers with many seasonal flavors. Recent claim to fame was Port Huron Brewing Company being the featured beer in the movie ‘Uncle John’.
You’ll find the Engine House Tap Room open Wednesday through Sunday where you can view the brewery floor through windows while you sample. Then you shop for apparel, drinkware and purchase a ½ gallon Growler full of your favorite brew so you can enjoy ‘fresh from the tap’ from your home recliner.
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Co.
This family brewery is celebrating 150 years this year. Founded in Chippewa Falls by Jacob Leinenkugel, his German heritage and work ethic has set the foundation for the next six generations of Leinenkugel’s® legacy. Today, Jacob’s descendants are building on the family’s German brewing traditions working to get more of their beers into more markets.
You may know that beer is 92 percent water. For that fact alone, the company relies on pure water for their Signature brews – it’s why they created Canoes for a Cause. This group effort organizes volunteers to clean up local waterways by removing debris to improve and protect waterways across America.
You can become a Leinie Lodge® member – it’s free! You’ll receive The Legend, a monthly email newsletter giving you access to great offers and special event notifications. And for the full flavor of all things, you can take a tour of Leinenkugel’s historic brewery even requesting a Leinenkugel family member to conduct the tour. In the end, you’ll end up at the Leinie Lodge® where you can find wearables and collectibles to take home.
Those are some stories of Wisconsin Brewers. Let’s hope at the end of the season, the Milwaukee Brewers create their own story.
Keeping watch. Pat