Brewery Review: New Glarus

Most Minnesotan’s are very familiar with the New Glarus name. It’s a Wisconsin craft beer company that is only available in Wisconsin. It’s a part of their identity, and for many years people would flock over the border to get New Glarus, in particular their Spotted Cow ale. Personally, I’ve always been a fan of their fruit beers, especially their Strawberry Rubarb beer that tastes just like pie.

This past weekend, when I was near New Glarus for my 100K race, we stopped by the brewery to check it out. Well, to be fair, my friend Mike and I stopped by, while my wife was running her 50K race. We were only about 10 minutes away from the brewery and so getting there was nice and easy. It’s laid out as a campus, similar to old school breweries like Schell’s and Leinenkugel’s. You drive in along a winding road, and when we arrived we already had to park in lot a little further away.

The way that New Glarus works is that you go up to the beer garden, and you buy tickets for your beer. You can get either a sample glass for $8 and 3 pours, or a full pint, and then purchase tickets for each pour you want. I opted for the sample glass and got my wristband with three pull off tickets on it. The cool thing about this is that you get to keep the sample glass as a souvenir. This does really emphasize the “destination” aspect of New Glarus though, and not that it would be a place you’d swing by for a pint after work.

img_4884I got my tickets and glass and went over to the service station. I was hoping to find something unique on tap, but unfortunately, it was mostly all their standard beers. There was only one beer on the list that I hadn’t had before, so I decided to get that, along with two other pours of beers I know I enjoy. The beer garden environment was fun, but there weren’t a lot of tables, so we mostly just stood off in the shade while we drank our sample. Then we had to go over to the rinsing station to clean out our glass and get back in line for our next sample. Overall, it wasn’t a slow experience, but it wasn’t at all like a traditional taproom.

Once we had finished the beer we decided to hit the shop downstairs. I was hoping for some unique bombers, but unfortunately all of the ones I had been looking forward to were sold out. I ended up getting a special small batch bottle (for $15 yikes!) and a four pack of beers that I don’t believe that I have had before.

I had one of the beers tonight, their juicy IPA, and frankly, I found it a bit weird. Unlike the typical hazy IPA, New Glarus actually infused juice into this IPA. It wasn’t a bad taste, but it wasn’t at all what I expected. I was expecting something with more hop forwardness, and that’s not at all what this is. Despite that, I’m still looking forward to the other beers in the pack I picked up.

Overall, visiting New Glarus was interesting, but it’s not like simple taproom tourism. It’s meant to be a destination that feels like a bit of an adventure. What that means is that I don’t feel a strong need to visit again in the future, and will just stick to keeping a closer eye our for their specialty stuff when I’m over the boarder.

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