New Glarus Brewing Company
Can it be that this happened in the Fall of 2019 PC? (That’s Pre-COVID) It may as well have been a decade ago. This “small” craft brewer is anything but, and the day we visited this Midwestern brewery, let’s just say it was hopping! Or is that hoppy? Either way, let’s take a look at one of the most popular craft beer cults in the Midwest – New Glarus Brewing Company.
The owners of New Glarus Brewing Company are husband and wife, Dan and Deborah Carey. While Dan was an experienced brewer, the concept for their own brewery began as a gift he received from Deborah. Work soon began in 1993 on renovating an abandoned warehouse with used equipment.
In 1997, the search for copper brew kettles took them to Germany to a brewery about to be demolished. When the retiring brewmaster discovered his kettles would be repurposed, he graciously offered the $1 million kettles to Dan and Deborah for their scrap value – a mere $24,000.
The first batch of New Glarus beer was brewed in October 1997, with sales beginning later that year. By 2006, as sales continued to grow, the business had outgrown the cramped warehouse. Today, the New Glarus Brewing Company – designed to look like a Bavarian village - sits atop a hill on the south edge of town. Over 150,000 visitors come to the site annually to enjoy a tour, shop the gift shop and store, and enjoy beer and food in the lush outdoor beer garden.
Brands include Moon Man (a session beer made from 5 hops), Two Women (a classic country lager), Wisconsin Belgian Red (made with a pound of Door County cherries in every bottle), Raspberry Tart (a fruity ale), and their flagship brand – Spotted Cow. Seasonal brews include Cabin Fever (made with clover honey), Dancing Man Wheat, Totally Naked (Wisconsin Lager), Kid Kolsch, several fruit-inspired beers, and a deliciously German-style Staghorn just in time for Octoberfest.
The flagship brand – Spotted Cow – is a cask-conditioned farmhouse ale. The beer is unfiltered, meaning that the brewer’s yeast is still present and occasionally displays as particulates in the bottom of the bottle. Each year, New Glass produces nearly 200,000 barrels of beer – 40% of which is the Spotted Cow variety. In addition to being the best-selling draft beer in Wisconsin, Spotted Cow has carried the brand into national prominence. While the New Glarus brands are exclusively sold in Wisconsin, sales at this micro-brewery have propelled it to the 15th largest craft brewer and into the top 25 overall brewing companies in the United States.
The Tour & Tastings
Both a hardhat guided tour and a free self-guided tour is offered. Since we attended on the weekend, we opted for the self-guided tour. It was great to see the facility up close and personal. Placards along the way share what’s going on at that location, including the sensory lab, mashing, brewing, fermenting, aging and packaging. After a quick walkthrough, it was time for tastings.
The beers on tap for the day included Spotted Cow, Totally Naked, Kid Kolsch, Two Women, Moon Man, and Belgian Red. You can sample 3 beers for $8 and leave with a commemorative New Glarus tasting glass. Pints are available for $8 (with $5.50 refills) and come with a souvenir glass, as well. Going in a group is nice, as you can take advantage of shared tastings (which we took full advantage of).
Here’s a quick rundown of the Spotted Cow flagship brand. Bottled at 4.8% ABV, it contains a blend of Pilsner, white wheat, and caramel malt. Hops used are the noble Saaz variety and a German ale yeast is used. Spotted Cow follows the purity laws from Germany – the law of the land for the past 500 years – indicating that the brew can be made with only four ingredients: barley, hops, water and yeast.
Eye: Honey-drenched straw. The unfiltered nature gives it some depth and character.
Nose: Sweet and malty, with bread and honey, orange and citrus.
Palate: Wheat and yeasty, with layers of pale malt and cream. A light lemon zest and herbal notes appear, as well.
Finish: Medium, soft and creamy.
Overall: This is absolutely delicious! If you haven’t tried it, this is well worth a pilgrimage to Southern Wisconsin. Spotted Cow carries fruity and malted grain notes that are well-balanced with sweetness and a creamy mouthfeel.
We loved the tour of the facility and the opportunity to snag some beers that aren’t available in our home state. Be sure to check out the quaint village of New Glarus – the little Switzerland of the Midwest. You’ll find an abundance of shops, restaurants, and the incredible New Glarus Bakery. Cheers!