During our stay in Milwaukee, my wife had an all day class to attend. So I decided to take the opportunity to head further west and stop in at a few breweries. One of which was New Glarus Brewing Company of New Glarus, Wisconsin. New Glarus is widely known in the brew world, and has very limited distribution. By very limited, I mean nothing out of Wisconsin. So this stop was very important and a must. My journey started late morning and I arrived around lunch time. I figured there may be food at the tasting room, so with my stomach growling I pushed on, deeper into the farming country. Heading south on State Highway 69, I saw an old building resembling something from the Alps on the left side of the road. It had New Glarus Brewing written on the side, yet my GPS told me to keep going.
I would later find out that this was the original location. Currently still producing beer, mainly the fruit varieties, and though there is still an ample parking lot, I was told that beer tours are not possible here anymore. On my way out of the area, I did stop to snap a photo though. As you drive deeper into town, more of the Swiss Alp decorations pop up. Not surprising as the name is from Glarus Switzerland. It is even home to the Swiss Center of America. Fun fact, they make Jack Links beef jerky in the area as well.
Taking a left off of State Highway 69 again, a multi-faceted Wisconsin Thumbprint for New Glarus welcomes you. Once you turn in, a small hop yard is located on the left. The driveway was longer than expected, so best to keep going straight. I got side tracked with excitement and pulled into the first right thinking that was the parking lot. After a few bends there is an opening in the trees, and a Swiss Chalet appears, with a clock tower and decent parking lot. For those coming in to pick up some beer, there is a beer depot adjacent to the parking lot. It even has a convenient loading zone if you end up picking up more than expected. Due to the cooler weather and being the middle of a week day, the tasting room wasn’t open at the moment. So I continued up the stone stairs to the Gift Shop. They have taps inside the Gift Shop and access to the brewery, so you can order a flight and take the self guided tour while sipping. They provided bracelets to keep track of how many samples you ordered, which was something I hadn’t run into at any other brewery. The flights come with a taster glass, a nice memento, and a coupon for a free pint from one of the local bars.
During my first sample, I decided to check out more of the gift shop. It had a lot of Wisconsin related items, such as cow decorations, cheese, kid’s books and toys, snacks, and other items. There was also plenty of beer related items, like the Beermap, New Glarus swag, and a decent amount of clothing. With my second, I headed into the brewery. You first past the Micro Lab and Quality Assurance rooms before the corridor ends in a medal and display room. I’ve seen many other breweries display their medals, but this was one of the nicest set ups I have seen. After the display, there is a door that enters into the brewery. After a brief corridor, you enter a room with four large copper mash tuns. They don’t let you get to close, though it seems a private tour may allow for closer access. Side note, trying to take a good photo while sipping a taster can prove difficult.
The tuns span the width of the building, and at each end are long corridors. The beginning of one corridor starts at the yeast propagation room, and runs down past a pilot/small batch system adjacent to stairs with a sign declaring “The Stairway to Heaven”. Heading up the stairs gives you a great view of stainless steel fermenters, however continuing higher to heaven was roped off. Continuing further down this corridor there are many other smaller rooms to each side, demonstrating various phases and processes integral to brewing. At the end of the corridor, it opens up to the bottling line. This is blocked by glass, but allows for plenty of video opportunities. The corridor begins to loop at this point and head back to the tun room. The corridors are simply decorated, some areas with glass windows, others with painted walls. There is floor tile throughout, and in one area, a cool stone etched with the New Glarus logo. The beauty of these corridors is the amount of stainless steel plumbing you see throughout. These lines are the true veins of the brewery, and it’s amazing to see the vast amount of them.
During the course of the tour, I made sure to head back and move on to the next sample. Figured it would work best that way. However, I still had a couple of samples to finish outside of the brewery itself. The gift shop also has access to the beer garden. There is a large patio area with what look to be castle or church ruins and trellis’ covered in hops. Plenty of picnic style seating and an awesome view of farm land. There are a few other levels, and a lot of room to spread out. They even used an old brewing station to act as a water dispenser and glass cleaning station. It was pretty empty while I was there, however I could see how it would be packed during nicer days. If I visit again, I’ll make sure to bring some snacks to grab a table to hang out for sure.
The weather may not have been delightful, but this was a great visit. The beer is top notch (the Serendipity was phenomenal), and the brewery itself is definitely worth a visit. On my list of favorites for sure out of the many tours/breweries I have visited. For some, being self guided may be tough, but if you understand the process, its nice to be able to wander through at your own pace. I was also surprised at the size of the facility considering the limited distribution, was expecting something much smaller, and more like the original location. I made sure on my way out to head to the beer depot to stock up. The beer depot allows for make your own six packs, and since the samples didn’t cover all of the beers available, I made a few sixers to go. I also picked up a few bombers of the specialty beers, such as the Serendipity, Raspberry Tart, and Belgian Red. Seems I may have gone overboard a bit, as I had to pull up in the loading lane.
Beers Sampled: Totally Naked, Spotted Cow, Two Women Lager, Moon Man, Coffee Stout, Serendipity
New Glarus Brewing
2400 State Highway 69
New Glarus, WI 53574