A Great Brewery called Huber

Recently I read: “Give a man a fish and he can eat for a day. Teach a man how to fish… and he will sit in a boat and drink beer all day.” And while I don’t necessarily agree with that philosophy, I certainly do enjoy a cold brew as much as the next guy. So when I found out that a brewery was fairly close by, it was a natural thing to want to visit. Besides, I had received a mailing that offered brewery tours, wine tasting, cheese factory tours and discounted rates along with a “Fun Pass” that got me into the Huber tour for free!

Monroe Courthouse on the town square

Located in Green County in Southwestern Wisconsin, the Joseph Huber Brewing Co. has been making beer since 1895. In fact, I learned that this particular brewing company is the second oldest in the country. Located in Monroe, Wisconsin, the Huber Brewing Company is only about 2½ hours – at the most – from the suburbs of Chicago. We took the scenic route – Route 20 to Route 26 north, out of Freeport, which later turns into Route 69 in Wisconsin – and it was a joy to not deal with the racecar mentality of Interstate 90-94.

We left at about 7:15 A.M. and we were in the rolling hills of Monroe by 9:30. Our tour didn’t start until 11:00, so we had some time to wander around town. It’s a small town of about 11,000 with a town square built around a really picturesque old courthouse, built in 1891. There are lots of cool shops to check out along with a number of bar-type places to eat. My favorite was a place called Baumgartner’s… It’s been there since 1931… more on that later.

Inside the Huber Brewing Co.

We walked over to the brewery at about 10:45. There were only two others inside who were going to take the tour. (I figured that May must be a great time to go on excursions.) After a 15-minute video, we were guided through the smallish brewery by one of the friendliest guys I have met.

He has been working for Huber for about 30-plus years and seems to have loved every minute of it. I won’t bore you here with the tour’s details; you should take the tour yourself. Even without the Fun Pass, it’s only $2. The best part is that at the end of the tour, you get to taste some of the products – including Rhinelander Beer, Berghoff Beer and Blumer’s Root Beer. The root beer is incredibly good.

Baumgartner's Cheese Store & Tavern

We then stopped at Baumgartner’s for a beer and a sandwich – cheese sandwich that is. Or you could get a braunschweiger and cheese, salami and cheese or any of a dozen other varieties of cheese sandwiches. (Well, it IS Wisconsin, ya know!) By the way, since we were not very hungry, we split a cheddar sandwich – it was only $2.00! Great cheese, friendly folks and ice-cold beer. What more could you ask?

The New Glarus Bakery

Since it was still early in the day, we headed north to another small town: New Glarus, but not before making note of the Alp and Dell cheese factory. (We would sample their wares on the way back home.) New Glarus is another quaint, small town in Southwestern Wisconsin. It was an easy drive, only about 20 minutes north of Monroe.

The New Glarus Hotel

Both towns have a distinctly Swiss look, feel and population. There is also a small brewery in New Glarus that makes Spotted Cow Ale, but it was not open for tours on Saturday – at least not in May. We did stop in several shops, including a wonderful bakery, Ruef’s Meat Market, Maple Leaf Cheese and Chocolate and the New Glarus Primrose Winery.

Most offered samples and we gladly accepted the fudge, landjaeggers and Swiss pastry. Had I been headed in the other direction, I would have filled my car with goods and goodies for the ride home.

But we were headed for Madison and a night’s rest. In my next article, I’ll share with you the second half of our weekend excursion and our visit to Cave of the Mounds, Little Norway and lunch in Mt. Horeb before heading back through Monroe and a stop to load up on that delicious Wisconsin cheese!

R. Karl