On our trek to Madison, we detoured through rural northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin so that we could hit up Minhas Brewery. Located in Monroe, WI, we didn’t have detailed plans other than to arrive by 12pm so that we could be a part of the 1pm tour. Thankfully, Monroe was just a couple hour drive from our apartment, so we set out around 9a and arrived around 11:30a. We purchased tickets for the tour and explored the town square of Monroe. Unbeknownst to us at the time, Monroe is a Swiss town (and has the architecture to prove it!), and is the Swiss cheese capital of the U.S.!
Yelp told us that we had to check out Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern–it is, after all, Wisconsin’s oldest cheese store. Let’s just put it out there (and I think Rebekah will agree with me), that we’re never going to turn down visiting a “Cheese Store”. Baumgartner’s faces the town square and is a charming restaurant that seats about 50 people. The front of the establishment is the “store” with refrigerator cases of cheese and sausage with just a couple tables and chairs. The back of the store serves as the restaurant. Pulling up chairs to the counter, we perused the menu overhead and ordered. Now, if you’re in Wisconsin, it really should go without saying, but at every opportunity, you really should order a cheese plate. HELLO, YOU’RE IN WISCONSIN! So, what did I have for lunch? A sausage, cheese, and cracker plate with a cup of chili. #noshame Matt unsurprisingly ordered a Reuben. We were SO glad we visited–conversation among customers was easy, the food was delicious, and we loved the casual atmosphere.
Minhas Brewery was the primary reason we came to Monroe, and we left happy travelers. The tour was promised to be at least 45 minutes, would include a walking tour through the buildings and production lines, and would include samples of their beers. The tour started with a short video explaining the history of the brewery’s 160 years of operation and various ownership. We were given samples during the video and our guide offered to “fill us up” prior to the walking tour. The walking tour took us through their brewing process all the way to packaging as we learned about the history of the buildings and evolution of the brewing strategies that have employed. We also learned that Minhas makes their own sodas under the label Blumer’s Soda and were educated on that process as well. At the end of the tour, each participant was given a 6 pack to take home–in the beer pack there were 4 different beers, 1 soda, and a commemorative glass; in the soda pack, there were 5 different sodas and a commemorative glass. For $10, this was a great value and such a fun tour: the guide was knowledgeable, the other tour participants were enjoyable to be around, and the beers and sodas were on point. Also to note, you have to check out “The Herb and Helen Haydock World of Beer Memorabilia Museum’ located in the Minhas Brewery gift shop!
I am going to just provide you with a snapshot of our brewery rubric, I think the highlights are captured above to give you a sense of what you’re getting into should you visit Minhas. Check out our Brewery Grading Rubric post for more info on the specific categories.
Disclaimer: for the Texans reading this, soda is synonymous with “pop” or “coke”; I know the exact terminology is debateable, but since we were in the North and it is associated with a label, we’re going to go with the local opinion on the matter.