Brewers hop to it in Wisconsin’s ‘thumb’ peninsula
Wisconsin’s peninsular “thumb” gives the thumbs-up to craft beer these days. In May, Green Bay hosted its first craft beer week, while up in Door County, Bailey’s Harbor just hosted the fourth annual Door County Beer Festival, and Egg Harbor plans AleFest on Sept. 19. But even if you miss the big events, rest assured that these days there always is great local beer available from Green Bay all the way up through the Door Peninsula.
Green Bay’s first two craft breweries are nothing new; they came one right after the other two decades ago. Hinterland Brewery opened downtown in 1995, and Titletown Brewing followed the next year right across the street.
If you tour Hinterland Brewery, you can see the huge effort it must have taken to
expand and arrange the massive tanks and equipment in this limited space, a former meatpacking plant.
Nevertheless, Hinterland produces 6,000 barrels of beer a year and bottles much of it for distribution in 10 states. The upscale restaurant flies fresh seafood in daily, and there’s a classy lounge upstairs if you are in just for the beer. Its flagship Luna coffee stout is a big hit only to be topped perhaps by the imperial stout version, Lunatic. Watch for limited releases such as barrel-aged beers or the Grand Cru, but its staple Pub Draught on nitro is a fine session ale.
Until recently, Titletown Brewing had been doing quite nicely producing enough beer to keep up with its killer brewpub operating out of a restored train station overlooking the tracks and the Fox River. But in 2014, it made the move to bottling and bigger batches when it opened a much larger brewery with a bright and spacious taproom right across the street in a former vegetable cannery. A rooftop patio is planned for this summer. But the two-story depot, a relaxed space with a fine pub menu and two bar areas, still brews smaller batches and serves up to 14 beers plus a couple of cask ales. Green 19 IPA and Johnny Blood Red are the first mainstays in bottles, but brewer David Oldenburg covers everything from pilsener and pale ales to Bridge Out Stout and the occasional sour beer, and they are abundantly on tap in both locations.
Two more recently opened breweries have solidified Green Bay’s status as a beer destination. The previous success of brewer Brad Stillmank’s delightfully named amber ale, Wisco Disco, under a contract brew arrangement helped him make the jump to brewing it in his own facility not 10 minutes east of Titletown and Hinterland. Stillmank Brewing’s taproom is food-friendly and offers eight on draft and four-pack cans or growlers to go.
Within sight of the stadium lights at Lambeau Field, Badger State Brewing occupies a former warehouse space inside the city’s tailgating zone. Patrons in the bustling taproom spill out onto the grass of the beer garden in summer. With 24 tap lines, the brewery offers up to 16 of its own brews and fills the rest with Wisconsin guest beers. Brett Favre’s steakhouse next door delivers to the taproom. While Green Chop Session IPA is a big seller, Walloon Witbier outpaces it in summer. Pilot batches are common, as are barrel-aged beers.
Almost halfway up the peninsula, Starboard Brewing opened in a storefront in downtown Sturgeon Bay in fall 2014. This is a modest one-barrel operation, so what’s on tap today might be gone by the end of the week. Brewer Patrick Surfus likes to keep things interesting for his regular customers, giving them more reasons to keep coming back just to see what’s new. He even takes beer requests on Facebook.
Farther up the road in Egg Harbor is Door County’s original brewpub, Shipwrecked, which gets packed in summer with folks filling the dining room and the outdoor patio for pub food and house brews. Additionally, it offers eight guest rooms upstairs for those who have no intention of driving that night.
On the Lake Michigan side in Bailey’s Harbor, Door County Brewing is all about local, from the ingredients to the stories of the beer names. Located in what was once a feed mill, the brewery still shows its stone foundation and the bark on original wood beams. Brewer Danny McMahon tends toward Belgian-inspired brews and some sour beers in honor of Door County’s history of Walloon-Belgian immigrants. Door County Brewing’s four seasonal farmhouse ales are named for historic Belgian farms in the area. Little Sister Witbier, named for an island not a sibling, is the most popular of the staples, while Polka King Porter celebrates a small-town character everyone knew. The Door County Trolley connects this brewery with Shipwrecked on one of its tours.
Also on the shores of Lake Michigan, Ahnapee Brewery in Algoma is sister to the Von Stiehl Winery next door, so you have your choice of grain or grapes. The brewery taproom and its patio overlook the Ahnapee River, and eight house beers are on tap, from a light Helles to a dark milk chocolate stout, with some hoppy and malty options in between. A visit there pairs nicely with a winery tour.
So you might want to pack a growler for your next trip to Green Bay and Door County, but don’t worry, all of the brewers have bottles or cans for sale throughout the area as well.
Kevin Revolinski is the author of “Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide: A Travel Companion.”
If you go
Ahnapee Brewery, 105 Navarino St., Algoma; 920-785-0822, https://www.vonstiehl.com
Badger State Brewing Co, 990 Tony Canadeo Run, Green Bay, 920-634-5687, https://www.badgerstatebrewing.com
Door County Brewing Co., 2434 County Highway F, Baileys Harbor, https://www.doorcountybrewingco.com
Door County Trolley, 9197 Wisconsin Highway 42, Fish Creek, 920-868-1100,
Hinterland Brewery, 313 Dousman St., Green Bay, 920-438-8050, https://www.hinterlandbeer.com
Shipwrecked Brew Pub, 7791 Wisconsin Highway 42, Egg Harbor, 920-868-2767, https://www.shipwreckedmicrobrew.com
Starboard Brewing Co., 151 N. Third Ave., Sturgeon Bay, 920-818-1062, https://www.starboardbrewing.com
Stillmank Brewing Co., 215 N. Henry St., Green Bay, 920-785-2337, https://www.stillmankbrewing.com
Titletown Brewing Co., 200 Dousman St., Green Bay, 920-437-2337, https://www.titletownbrewing.com
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