Four Breweries and a Distillery



, ,

Vacation Drinking

What better time to drink than on vacation? On a recent trip to Illinois and Wisconsin, we found time for some beer and spirits. Between seeing sights and exploring museums, we did some tasting and took a couple alcohol-related tours. I thought I’d share a little about our beverage experiences.

First stop – Galena, Illinois

Galena is a little town in northwest Illinois, not far across the Mississippi River from Dubuque, Iowa. Touting its connection to General Ulysses S. Grant and aggressively preserving its 19th century buildings, the town has turned itself into a tourist destination. At least in September, it seemed most suited for romantic couples or groups of ladies. We encountered quite a few packs of women shopping and laughing their way through the town. We also saw many couples, of all ages, enjoying the history, bed and breakfasts, the fine dining, and some fine beverages.

Galena Brewing Company

We stopped in for beer and snacks at the Galena Brewing Company. The building is one of the few newer ones on Galena’s Main Street. Back in the 1800s, Galena was thriving due to its lead mining industry and had nine breweries to support the thirst of the miners. But, as the city declined and prohibition came and went, the breweries disappeared. We heard on our trolley tour that a couple came to Galena in 2003 and, as they were renovating their house, they learned that it had originally housed a brewery. That piqued their interest in Galena’s brewing history, and in 2010 they were able to open the brewery and bring local beer back to Galena. Like most of Galena, they play up the Civil War history theme by giving their beer names like Major Daviess™ American Wheat Ale and Uly’s Dark™ Oatmeal Stout. We tasted the twelve beers they had on tap. Those beers covered all the bases from IPA to Ale, to sours, to stout. For the most part, we enjoyed all of the beers. The Roasted Cheese Curds were delicious as well. The wait staff was fun. I particularly liked when the waiter picked on my husband for looking at his phone instead of his date. This brewery is in the middle of a tourist town, in historic downtown Galena, so we can probably excuse them for seeming a little commercial. I’d guess they get a lot of people who stop in who aren’t normally craft beer enthusiasts, so they have to cater to the novices too, so I guess we can’t fault them too much for the touristy and overpriced gift shop. Our time at the Galena Brewing Company was enjoyable and well worth the couple hours we spent relaxing there.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co.

Galena has a craft distillery too. Before our trip, I’d booked us a tour. That Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. tour was one of the highlights of our vacation. We were encouraged to get a a cocktail before the tour, so with drink in hand, we followed Richard, the tour guide, into the distillery to learn about the process. He showed us the equipment, shared some history and quirks of the brothers who gave up lucrative careers to own and run the place, and explained how they make the spirits with local grains. The tour was interesting and entertaining from start to finish. After a stop in the barrel-storage room, we were each given three small samples to taste. We loved the bourbon and gin, but were not strong enough to handle the Hellfyre Vodka. Those who love Bloody Mary’s may enjoy that vodka infused with jalapeno, but we were wimps and started sweating with the first drop on the tongue. After the tour, we lounged around on their comfortable couches and then stopped in the gift shop to get bottles of gin and bourbon to take home with us. We would definitely recommend visiting Blaum Bros. and taking the tour!

Next stop – Potosi, Wisconsin

Potosi Brewing Company

Leaving Galena, our route took us up the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi River. While planning a trip and looking for anywhere interesting stop along the way, Potosi Brewing Company showed up as a possibility. We weren’t expecting much, but like beer and planned to make it our lunch stop. As we drove down the seemingly endless Main Street of Potosi, we started wondering if we’d ever find the place and really were skeptical about what we would find once we arrived. Wow! Jaw drops! Wow! The Polosi Brewing complex was not at all what we expected. Like an oasis in a desert perhaps? Literally, in the middle of nowhere, we found a bustling brewery, museums, and brew pub. We started in the American Breweriana Association (ABA) National Brewery Museum. We found it to be a unique museum concept. A volunteer guide and exhibit contributor explained to us that the exhibits changed every six months or so. Beer memorabilia collectors, who are part of the ABA, temporarily loan their collections (or portions of their collections) to the museum. A particular collection is on display for a while and then the collector retrieves their stuff and someone else provides a replacement exhibit. So, you could go back again and again and see different things displayed. There were many different types of collections displayed, everything from cans and bottles, to advertising materials, to a model train comprised of all beer company boxcars, to a collection of foam scrapers. I was not previously aware of the historic (and unsanitary) use of foam scrapers to remove the head from a mug of beer. We then walked through the Potosi Brewing Co. Transportation Museum and learned specifically about the history of brewing in Potosi. We loved the view into the natural cave that was used for cold storage and the window down into the natural spring that provides water for brewing.

Then it was time for beer and lunch. The food menu was fairly extensive with small bites, big bites, soups, salads, sides, sandwiches, wraps, chicken and burgers. I had Potosi Beer Cheese soup. How can you resist beer cheese soup when you are in a brewery in Wisconsin? The beer menu was equally impressive. It was really hard to choose a flight from all the delicious-sounding choices. We really liked their beer! They aren’t messing around just being a tourist stop. They make fantastic beer! We especially like barrel-aged beer and were able to get three different barrel-aged on tap the day we visited. Again, wow! Even the non-barrel-aged beer was so good that we bought a growler and got it filled.

We made a point to hit the gift shop on our way out and picked up several bottles of Potosi beer to take home with us. If you get a chance, make a stop in Potosi. You won’t be disappointed!

Last stop – La Crosse, Wisconsin

Turtle Stack Brewery

When we got to our hotel in La Crosse, Wisconsin, we found that there was a brewery right across the street. So, of course, we had to walk over and give it a try. Turtle Stack Brewery is a small venue in a historic area near the beautiful park and paths along the Mississippi River. When we were there they had nine beers on tap. We skipped the IPAs since we are not fans, but tried the others, a couple German style lagers, a hefeweizen, a Belgian Blonde, a black lager, and a weizenbock (German wheat beer). The choices will vary with the seasons, so being there just a week ahead of La Crosse’s famous Oktoberfest, there was German theme going on. The beer was fine, but not necessarily memorable.

Pearl Street Brewery

On a recommendation from our son, we made time to head across town to the Pearl Street Brewery. We are so glad we went. The place was a little difficult to find (and be careful where you park), but once there, we were lucky enough to get on a tour that was just about to start. We hadn’t made advance reservations, so really lucked out on our timing. With the price of the tour came a pint glass and a free fill of that glass. So, we got a couple free tastes and then filled our glasses to take along on the tour. Our tour guide, Angi, was funny and informative. Besides seeing how they make beer, we learned the history of the brewery and its owner, and saw evidence of his collecting (hoarding problem?) throughout the tour. We also learned a bit about the factory that previously occupied the space. Originally a rubber horse shoe factory and later a boot factory, the building was cool and a unique place to have a brewery. Even though we have been on many brewery tours, we found this one interesting and would recommend it to people even if they too have been on many brewery tours. After the tour, we stayed for a taco that was being sold from a taco cart in the tasting room. With cool beer names like Gosecopia, Smokin’ Hemp Porter, Java Lava Coffee Stout, Funkadelicacy, Shitty Lyte Beer, and Westconsin Coast Skank IPA, you can tell this is a fun place. Our visit to Pear Street Brewery was another highlight to our vacation along the Mississippi.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !! Please contact us to discuss getting copies of the material.