Saturday, October 2, 2010

Wisconsin's Best Beer Guide

A month or so ago, Dave Bylsma, my friend-since-college who still lives in Wisconsin and is a rabid, avid, almost fanatic trout fisherman, told me about a silent auction fund raiser being held by the River Alliance of Wisconsin. The River Alliance's core principles are:

Our priorities and where we focus our efforts change from time to time, mimicking the ever-changing rivers we work to protect. But like a river’s steady current, the River Alliance adheres to some core principles that do not change with the times.

* We advocate respectively but assertively for rivers.

* We bring people to rivers so they experience their beauty and understand their threats.

* We partner with, when appropriate, and challenge, when necessary, the government agencies entrusted with protecting rivers.

* We develop the ability of ordinary citizens and grassroots groups to organize their passion for rivers

Sounds like my kind of organization so it was easy to put in a bid for some items donated to them to help promote their purposes.

I received word last week that I was the successful bidder on both items that I chose. One of them, a signed copy of Wisconsin' Best Beer Guide arrived by mail from the great white north yesterday. This 254 page gem, written by Wisconsin travel writer Kevin Revolinski (I'll bet he's Swedish, right?) is packed with all sorts of historically important information about beer in the great Badger state. It helps you understand an ale from a lager from bock, and it explains the brewing process. Most importantly it provides detailed information on each of the 74 breweries and brew pubs active in Wisconsin today.

When I was a kid it seemed like every little town in Wisconsin had at least one brewery and some times more. Like Rice Lake with its famous (locally at least) Breunigs Lager Beer or down the road in Eau Claire sat the Walter's Beer Brewery both brands now, sadly, are gone. Still the 74 breweries and brew pubs mentioned in this book mean that, on average, there is at least one brewery for each of Wisconsin's 72 counties. Some things never change.

Each of the 74 breweries has the following information. I'll use the now-bankrupt "Viking Brewing Company" from Barron County, my home county, as an example. Note: I realize the brewery is named after my Norse ancestors but at first brush it seems like they named it after that bunch of purple bastards in tights who play football with a traitorous quarterback across the river in that state whose name I refuse to utter. But I digress.

For each brewery you learn:

Year Founded
Phone Number
Annual Production (in barrels)
Number of Beers produced
Staple Beers
Rotating Beers
Most Popular Brew
Samples provided?(on tours)
Brewmaster's Favorite Beer
Best Time to Go
Where Can You Buy Their Beers?
Food at the Brewery?
Special Offers
The Beer Buzz
Stumbling Distance (what activities are nearby)

All of this information make this little gem of a book nearly priceless - and to think I got it for a $22 bid to aid rivers. The only things the author could have added to the book would have been information on the location of any regular drunk driving checkpoints near the breweries, and maybe some information on the average fine for public drunkenness in each county. Other than that, almost every important thing about Wisconsin beer is in this book.

The inside front page of the book shows a map of the great Badger state with all of the breweries plotted out against a backdrop of major State and Federal highways across Wisconsin. Thus with this book and the map you could plan an extended vacation driving around Wisconsin (it has a brewery checklist -like a bird checklist-in the back) getting a buzz on and seeing my great home state.

Existence of the map brings up the second item I purchased in this silent auction.

For $31.00, just one dollar over their face value, I purchased four tickets to a Wisconsin Timber Rattlers baseball game of my choice next summer. The tickets can be used any day except opening day, Tuesdays or Saturdays. The Rattlers are the Low A affiliate of the nearby Milwaukee Brewers just up the road from beer city in Appleton. Wisconsin's Best Beer Guide shows that there are breweries in Shawno, Green Bay, Ashwaubenon, DePere, Manitowoc, Chilton, Oshkosh, Appleton and Sheboygan (home of the world's greatest bratwurst festival), all within crawling distance of the ballpark in Appleton.

Maybe next summer I'll pack this handy little book in my day pack, hop on a flight to Beer City and then spend a few days quaffing beers and watching baseball in the relative bliss of the greatest state in the Union.

If you are a resident of Wisconsin you need to immediately purchase this handy essential book and keep it in your glove compartment at all times. You can order a copy from right here. If you are an expatriated Badger like me, get a copy and plan a trip back home to enjoy these native nectars. If you are from any of 48 other states, get the book, plan a trip, and be prepared for near nirvana in the great north woods. However if you are from Minnesota, just stay there. Please. Drink your own damned beer watch your own loser football and baseball teams and stay away from our lakes. Thank you


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