Back in June, I learned that I had a few unexpected vacation days that needed to be burned by the end of the month, so, naturally, my thoughts turned to beer. What better way to spend extra days off than by visiting as many breweries as possible? Thus, the Northern WI Brewery Extravaganza scheme was hatched.
Highway 51, which runs straight up the center of WI, is a hotbed of fine breweries, so it’s naturally an ideal route for beer-themed roadtrip. The itinerary for this 3-day excursion included the following establishments:
- Red Eye Brewing Co, Wausau
- South Shore Brewery, Ashland
- Angry Minnow Brewing, Hayward
- Minocqua Brewing Company, Minocqua
- Central Waters Brewing Co, Amherst
- O’so Brewing Co, Plover
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Given the sheer volume of beer to discuss, I’ll break this trip down into easily digestible chunks of prose. This first installment covers day 1 (June 27): Red Eye Brewing Co and South Shore Brewery.
Red Eye Brewing Co.
|Location:||612 Washington St, Wausau, WI |
|Specialties:||Watery, lackluster beers and really tasty food|
|My Take:||Go for the food, not for the beer. Definitely worth a stop if you happen to be in the neighborhood.|
Red Eye’s beers were lackluster all-around – most were either too watery or too sweet for my taste. The brewery/restaurant is a pretty hip place, though, and it’s worth a visit. The interior is industrial, decked out in concrete and stainless, and features bike-themed decor. A sunny patio offers scenic vistas of the gun shop across the street.
Food is where Red Eye really shines. The menu is upscale pub fare that features local ingredients and housemade breads – a rarity in the northern reaches of WI. If you’re into fries, though, you’ll be disappointed; in an effort to promote “healthy options,” Red Eye has no deep fryers.
Here’s a rundown of the beers on the sampler tray:
Bloom Belgian Wheat: Very light and kind of watery; OK if you like witbiers
Thrust American-style IPA: Very sweet with lots of citrus notes, not enough hops for my taste, also thin-bodied and watery
Scarlet 7 Belgian Dubbel: Very sweet, tasted a bit like raisins; not enough carbonation – made for a sticky mouthfeel
Charlatan Imperial Stout: Nice roasty/chocolatey flavors, but, like several of the others, a bit lacking in body
Dyna-Mighty Wheat: A beer for the masses; vaguely wheaty but not much body or flavor at all
Some kind of shandy: Ick.
Mexican Lager: Corona clone
South Shore Brewery
|Location:||808 W Main St, Ashland, WI |
|Specialties:||Beer worth driving 300 miles for|
|My Take:||Rhoades’ Scholar Stout and Northern Lights Cream Ale make are inimitable and not available outside of the greater Ashland metro area. I’m planning to make an annual pilgrimage to South Shore just for these. The food is OK, too, but who cares.|
South Shore was really the centerpiece of this trip. I’ve become acquainted with their beers through several Great Tastes and wholeheartedly believe their Bourbon Barrel Coffee Mint Stout to be the product of some sort of divine intervention. Sadly, it was not on tap when I visited. These beers sufficed nicely, though:
Rhoades’ Scholar Stout: Chocolatey and light-bodied, with a thick, creamy head; a very solid stout
Norther Lights Cream Ale: This stuff is amazing. The base is a pretty standard cream ale, but it’s brewed with lavender, chamomile, and a few other herbs that put it way over the top.