Saturday, March 01, 2008

On Wisconsin.

I took a vacation last week to Southern Wisconsin. The reason I went north to Wisconsin at the end of February, instead of someplace warmer, is because I like beer, and New Glarus Brewery isn't someplace warmer. Plus, I had to take my vacation now, or I wouldn't have the opportunity again until after the first weekend in June. Surplus, it is really nice coming home from a vacation and having nicer weather, opposed to having worse weather at home after your vacation.


I stayed Sunday night at my Uncle Dennis' home in Minnetonka. I really enjoyed my time with Ceri on Monday morning, seeing her apartment and eating at the Bad Waitress. Barb and Steve were interesting bed and breakfast hosts, and their dog Libby was very nice too.

Tuesday I met Bruno, owner of the Alp and Dell store, which is connected to the Roth Kase cheese factory. He looked a bit like Bruno Kirby, but had a mustache and fun German accent that made "graze" sound like a legitimate pronunciation of "grass," very Chicago Bearse SuperFan. Later in Monroe, I was trying to get directions from a city crossing guard, and he pointed with his left hand to the left and said "take a right turn." I clarified if he meant left or right, and he said, "You have to understand the Swiss." I'm not sure what it is I have to understand about the Swiss, but it was funny enough anyhow.

My tour of New Glarus Brewery was highlighted by a comfortable chat with Brewmaster Dan Carey. I was taking their audio tour and went into their room with two large copper kettles, and he was in the process of replacing the insulation around the bottom of one of them. As I walked in, he said, "The things I do for beer." In the five minutes I spent there, he managed to cover topics as diverse as the climate shift that slowly moved hops cultivation in North America from Upstate NY in the mid-1600s to Eastern Washington and now north to BC to the anxiety of executing the fermentation and brewing of his Wisconsin Belgian Red (adding over a pound of cherries to each bottle complicates matters) to the joy he had in running around like Charlie Chaplin in his brewhouse before he had a big computer that automated the process for him.

My waitress at the New Glarus Hotel Restaurant was Courtney, and she enjoyed her "Swiss Barmaid" uniform, and it showed in her service. Roy owned the Bville Mini Mart in Blanchardville, which at one point made more Limburger cheese than anywhere in the world, making Blanchardville the Limburger capitol of the world.

Joe was my server at The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. He was very nice and even gave me a free sampler instead of adding an additional taster to my tab. "Shirley" was the older tour guide at the Capital Building. I added myself to the tour she was giving to a Fourth Grade class. Her technique was interesting. She was trying to be educational, but didn't really have the patience if they weren't quickly educated. She was talking about all the different countries that the various stone came from and would give them a hint by providing the first one or two letters of the country. When more than one student said Germany, after she had provided G and R, she kinda snapped at them.


UPDATE: I had a scramble with red pepper, gouda and something else with hashbrowns and a chocolate malted shake at Bad Waitress.

My first meal in Wisconsin was a liverwurst sandwich at Puempel's Tavern in New Glarus. Tuesday started with a big breakfast of muesli, ham, 4 yr. aged cheddar cheese (exclusively from Brown Swiss milk), Deppeler's Baby Swiss (made from whole milk, while normal Swiss is made from skim), croissants, scrambled eggs, OJ, and coffee. Lunch was a Limburger and onion sandwich on rye at Baumgartner's. Supper was at New Glarus Hotel and was three different sausages (Kalberwurst, veal, and smoked) with sauerkraut, roesti, and spaetzli.

Wednesday was granola, French toast, and bacon, with OJ and coffee. Lunch at Marigold Kitchen in Madison was a grilled salmon BLT. Supper, just some baked goods from New Glarus Bakery. Thursday's breakfast was muesli, frittata, cantaloupe, and toast.


Sunday I went to the Huskers' last regular season wrestling match in Ames, IA against Iowa State. The Huskers won 4 of 10 matches, but it was a great wrestling environment with passionate fans. I was happy to catch up with my aunt and uncle, and we watched the Oscars together. He has decided to be the Vikings chiropractor for another year.

While I was not very pleased with the quality of the roads WI provided, they were kinda fun to drive on, what with the hills and curves. I can only imagine what it's like to ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle on its native roads. I was sort of paranoid though because no one followed the speed limit, not that I really saw any patrol cars while there.

I enjoyed my tour of New Glarus Brewery, and I recommend that you tour the source of some food product that interests you some time. While I didn't learn a lot about the process I hadn't already known, it was really neat to meet the man responsible for such a high level of craft.

As for the Capitol Building, it might not have had as much art as Nebraska's, but it made up for it in execution of materials and size (Its outer dome is the fourth largest in the world.). Plus, I love that the gold statue on top of the dome, "Wisconsin," is a woman with a miner's helmet with a badger on top of it. Wisconsinites are Badgers because the miners that partook in the lead mining rush didn't build homes and just lived in their mines in the sides of hills like badgers.

The Jasper Johns print exhibit at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art was everything I'd hoped it to be. My favorites were Fool's House, Periscope 1, Good Time Charley, and Ventriloquist (bonus for the whale, as I'm almost done with Moby Dick). His black and white 0-9, and Alphabet were nice classic Johns prints too. I liked how he would sometimes hold off printing something until he found the right paper. There were as many types of paper as there were prints. It was interesting to me how he started by taking everyday objects/symbols and manipulating their presentation to challenge the meaning we've assigned to them, and he has moved toward using stock images from his own art, to do the same thing.


I had two pints of Fat Squirrel, my favorite New Glarus brew. One of Spotted Cow, their most popular. A tasting that included Spotted Cow, Uff-da! Bock (another favored brew), and Snowshoe Red Ale (not a fave). I had a solid Badger Porter with my Limburger sandwich, and chased it with Blumer's root beer. My grilled salmon BLT was accompanied by Capital Brewery's Wisconsin Amber, which was nicely balanced with hops and malt flavors.

My tasting at The Great Dane (in the top five brew pubs in the nation with over 3000 barrels a year) included Oktoppelbock, Peck's Pilsner, Stone of Scone Scotch Ale, Emerald Isle Stout, which I enjoyed each of, and Black Earth Porter and Crop Circle Wheat, which I didn't.

On my way back home, I stopped in Omaha for a tasting at Nebraska Brewing Company. I previously enjoyed their Scotch Ale, and liked their Belgian Wit, American Pale Ale, and Chermaca Porter (cherry and some maca type aphrodisiac for Valentine's Day) this time around. I wasn't impressed with their hefeweizen, nut brown ale, or IPA.

I got a couple bottles of New Glarus' Wisconsin Belgian Red, one of which I opened last night. I wish I'd gotten more than two. It was really great, but don't take my word for it.

All told. I traveled 1372 miles.

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At March 01, 2008 3:44 PM, Blogger CëRïSë said...

You didn't mention what you ate at the Bad Waitress! Was the company too overwhelming? ;)

At March 01, 2008 8:01 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I guess it wasn't about the food but the company, so said company must have been a bit overwhelming.

At March 03, 2008 10:59 AM, Blogger Katie said...

I really enjoyed this post!

At March 12, 2008 4:58 PM, Blogger Curly Sue said...

I'm a big fan of New Glarus. I don't like their Uff-da very much, but I think I liked one of their pale ales. It's been awhile.

Sounds like a great trip, though. I'd love to go to the New Glarus brewery.


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