The Wisconsin Series - Beer, Cheese & Brats

There is nothing that says "Wisconsin" like beer, cheese and brats! OK, maybe the Green Bay Packers so I'll throw in an article on them too! This journal is largely a compilation of tours and places to buy beer, cheese and bratwurst around the state.


Brewery Tour That is Educational AND Fun!

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on November 6, 2012

I've heard a lot about Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery, from locals as well as others who have visited our city. I was glad that I finally made the time to take the tour to see what all the buzz was about. I had high expectations given that to get in on many/most Saturdays, you need to make advanced online reservations. A couple of weeks ago, I was looking on a Tuesday for that coming Saturday and they were sold out for many of the most desirable time slots. Now that I've taken the tour . . . I know why!

Lakefront Brewery is a family owned business, founded in 1987 by brothers Jim & Russ Klisch. Their grandfather had worked for Schlitz Brewery, often bringing home beer to his son (the Klisch's dad). "It was a cool job if you got to bring beer home at night" Russ thought.

Both Russ and Jim were home brewers, often competing with one another. Under law, home brewers are limited 200 gallons annually (per household). With their volume increasing, they decided to go into business forming Lakefront Brewery. When they started their business, the Klisch Brothers bought a closed bakery that was within walking distance of their home. Within 15 years they had outgrown their humble beginnings in their 60' x 60' bakery.

Since that time, they have become known as innovators in the brewing industry, helping to change the government's definition of beer in 2006. Prior to that time, beer was to have at least 25% malted barley. With increased awareness to gluten allergies, they worked to get the definition of beer changed. Today their gluten-free beer New Grist is available to those who suffer from Celiac disease or are gluten intolerant.

When you arrive at Lakefront Brewery you will be greeted at the curb by the Three Stooges. The former horizontal dairy tanks originally used to brew at Lakefront became inefficient and were replaced. The old fermenting tanks were subsequently used as the canvas to replace what had become a Lakefront Brewery icon at the old Riverwest location . . . the Three Stooges.

The "Three Stooges" is a good way to start a tour that is intended to assure that visitors have a good time while visiting the brewery. Once inside, folks are given their sampling cup, plus four wooden tokens and a "same day use" voucher for a pint at one of many local pubs/taverns in the city. Inside at the Palm Garden, you are encouraged to use the first of your four tokens for a sample (6 oz) beverage of your choice. With five on tap, the choice was difficult but I eventually selected the Wheat Monkey Ale.

Taking a seat in the large hall, I enjoyed my beer as I waited for the start of our 3:00pm tour . . . the last of the day Sunday through Thursday. About at 2:55pm, our guide John yelled last call, encouraging folks to drink up and get another pour before heading out on the tour.

Our group was pretty small, probably 15 or 20 people total. We went into an area overlooking the brewhouse. Here John told a bit of the history of German brewing and how the craft came to Milwaukee in the 1800's. We also learned about the history of Lakefront Brewery and how it grew out of a home brewing operation, before micro and craft breweries were legal in Wisconsin. He was very quick to point out how "different" this tour would be from others including the local Miller-Coors. He was right when he said that this would be more fun than would be found there.

After about a ten minute explanation, complete with a very low tech "Power Point" presentation (John's finger doing the power pointing on large laminated photos), it was time for yet another drink. We adjourned the viewing area and headed back into the Palm Garden for another pour. Back in the viewing area, John continued to explain the brewing process used at Lakefront Brewery.

We then got to go down into the brewhouse to see some of the equipment up close. From there we went back into the bottling area. While it was interesting to see and hear the bottles working through the system, getting a photo in this area was less than optimal given the dim lighting. In one of the photos I snapped, an employee seemingly jumped right into my shot. Good to see even the employees are encouraged to have fun.

Today the Lakefront Brewery is still considered a very small brewery, producing just under 25,000 barrels a year. John jokingly quipped "Budweiser wastes that much on the floor every day!"

At the completion of the tour, we were invited back to the Palm Garden for more sampling . . . if you still had a token or two left. Once you are out of tokens, you turn in your plastic cup for a souvenir pint glass to take home.

The tour itself takes about 45 minutes; the sampling? I guess as long as you want it to and still have tokens. I have been told by many locals that this is "the place" to go enjoy a beer (or three) as for the price of a tour admission ($7) you can have 24 oz. of beer plus one more pint on the way home.

In addition to the brewery tours, Lakefront Brewery hosts a number of special events as well as their Capt. Rusty's Friday Fish Fry. I'm thinking that a visit for fish and polka some Friday may be in order this winter!

For more information on Lakefront Brewery, including their special events calendar, check them out at www.lakefrontbrewery.com.
Lakefront Brewery
1872 North Commerce Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53212
(414) 372-8800

Great "Leg Stretch" Stop Along the Way

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on May 21, 2010

The drive from Milwaukee to Rice Lake is about five hours, with Chippewa Falls being about an hour from my final destination. Taking the 20 minute detour from Hwy 53N brought me to the Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company. It worked out well, that I arrived there at about 3:45pm just in time for a 4:00pm tour.

Leinenkugel's "Leinie Lodge" is just outside of the downtown area and adjacent to their 140+ year old brewery. The lodge serves as not only a large gift shop selling just about everything imaginable with the locally famous Leinie's logo, but also as the starting point for their hour long walking tour and ending point at the sampling bar.

It was a drizzly cool afternoon, but that did not put much of a damper on our time with our tour guides, Abby and Katie. As we left the lodge, we learned about Jacob Leinenkugel arrived here in Wisconsin in 1845. A German immigrant, he brought with him a passion for beer and brewing. He founded the brewery on this very site, with some original buildings still standing, in 1867. Today it is the fifth generation continuing the Leinenkugel family tradition using the same recipe for their namesake Leinenkugel Original Beer. This is also the seventh oldest active brewery in operation in the United States.

Since that time, they have introduced a number of specialty varieties including seasonal favorites like Oktoberfest and 1888 Bock. There is another that is currently not in production called Big Butt, which gave everyone in our group a hearty chuckle. Some of their more popular flavors, like Berry Weiss are now available year round thanks to purchase agreements for ingredients from farmers around the country.

While the brewery was not in production on a Friday afternoon, we were able to take the full walking tour to see how the grains are mixed with the local spring waters, hops, brewer's yeast; then fermented and strained to make the lager beverage. The walking tour goes through the two original buildings, concluding in the bottling and warehouse area of the second. We got to watch the pasteurization process in progress on Honey Weiss cans (argh . . . cans!). Unfortunately, no photos are allowed inside the brewery tour.

After your tour, enjoy milling around the Leinie Lodge as there are also a number of old antique pieces from the original brewery making it a nice museum type visit as well. They also provide all tour guests with three certificates good for samples. I must say, while I didn’t sample, I was impressed that the sample cups were about 4 ounces each. I thought that was very generous, not just a flavor sampling.

Tours are offered daily every 30 minutes and are free. They limit groups to just 15 people, so they highly recommend reservations. For more information, including tour times may be found at www.leinie.com or call 1-888-534-6437.
Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company
124 E Elm St.
Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, 54729
(888) 534-6437

Great Beer Heritage in a City Known for Beer

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on October 19, 2012

The very first tourist attraction I visited when I came to Milwaukee nearly 20 years ago was the Miller Brewing Company's tour of their historic facility. I remember thinking how impressive and rich Milwaukee's history was. Today, as a proud resident, I remain impressed in all that surrounds us here in this city.

With some free time after an appointment, I thought I would stop by the MillerCoors facility which has changed quite a bit over the past several years. First, their name . . . Miller Brewing Company and Coors merged in 2008 to form this international conglomerate. Well technically, Miller Brewing Company had been purchased by South African Breweries in 2002 and THEY merged with Coors. Personally, they will always be "Miller Brewing Company" to me so that is how I prefer to reference them. Also, Coors had previously merged with Molson to form Molson Coors Brewing Company in 2005. Likewise, they will always be simply "Coors" to me.

But enough of their recent history. The tour here at the original Miller brewery focuses largely on the arrival of German brewer Frederick Miller and the advancement of beer making in Milwaukee. In 1855 he purchased the existing Plank Road Brewery located here in Milwaukee's Menomonee Valley . . . later renamed Miller Valley. Some of the original buildings, including the restored historic "caves" remain on the property.

The tour starts at the visitors center with a 15 minute video telling the history of Miller side of the MillerCoors brand, with an overview of the various brands that make up their total portfolio. From there, guide Alyssa took us out the side building and down the sidewalk to the south packaging building. We learned about how Miller's beer line is bottled and packaged in bottles, cans & kegs.

There was also a short 10 minute video shown on overhead screens explain more of the bottling process. After that we headed down another block to the shipping building. The size of five side-by-side football fields, here the inventory is turned over at least once every 48 hours, shipping primarily throughout the Midwest.

Typically the next stop on the tour would have been the brewhouse, but unfortunate for us they were hosting a large private group who had access to that building for the better part of the day making it inaccessible to other tour groups. Our guide told us a bit of the brewing process as we walked further down the street to the historic caves.

The caves were where Frederick Miller stored his product, approximately 60 feet below the surface in order to keep it appropriately chilled before refrigeration was invented for the beer manufacturing industry. Next door is the Miller Inn, an old style Bavarian beer hall where tour guests are provided three 6 oz samples. For our tour, we sampled Miller Lite, Miller High Life and Leinenkugel's Lemon Berry Shandy. All three were nice although the Leinenkugel's was a bit too sweet for my tastes. While visiting the Miller Inn, be sure to take a stroll through the various historic artifacts including several very old steins from the Old Country.

For anyone visiting Milwaukee, I think this is a "must see" given the historic importance of beer to our city and the fact that the other old-world beer companies no longer produce here. There are other historic locations around Milwaukee where visitors can learn about companies with well known names such as Pabst and Schlitz. For anyone interesting reading more about why Milwaukee became known as the "Beer Capital of the World" here is a link to a short article: http://www.beerhistory.com/library/holdings/milwaukee.shtml . This article has some pretty cool old photos from breweries that were here in Milwaukee: http://sudswineandspirits.com/milwaukeehistorytour.htm .

Be sure to spend some time in the "Girl in the Moon Brewery Shop" if you need something for your home bar or perhaps a branded shirt, jacket or hat. There is no shortage of Miller and MillerCoors logoed items. As a title sponsor of our Major League baseball stadium Miller Park home of the Milwaukee Brewers, as well as major named sponsor of Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers and the BMO Harris Bradley Center (home of the Milwaukee Bucks), you will also find team specific Miller apparel available in the gift shop.

For more specific information on this free tour, check out their website: http://www.millercoors.com/Brewery-Tours/Milwaukee-Brewery-Tour/Tour-Information.aspx noting that their schedule and tour site availability are subject to change due to private events such as what was happening on the morning of my tour visit.
MillerCoors/Miller Brewery Tour
4251 West State Street
Milwaukee, Wisconsin
(414) 931-2337

Nice Small Local Brewery

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on June 12, 2012

As a resident of Wisconsin, I've heard of their Spotted Cow ale, which is very popular throughout the state. Since I was going to be in the general area, I thought carving out some time to visit their brewery would be well worth the time and effort. I was not disappointed.

They are open to the general public for free self guided, walking tours daily 10:00am to 4:00pm, which are also the hours for their on-site gift shop and sampling lounge. It was nice to arrive and take a leisurely stroll through their production facility, which I believe is relatively new having moved from downtown to an outlying area to the south on Hwy 69. The view from their new location atop the rolling hills is lovely as their biergarten overlooks much of Green County's farmland.

As guests walk through the brewery, each of the major production areas are visible through large glass viewing windows. Because I was visiting on Sunday, there was not much activity happening, although there was a young lady posting some info on a whiteboard in the QC (quality control) room. For those who may not have ever toured a brewery, you may benefit from asking if there is someone available to give you a brief explanation of the process. (I did see a couple of employees walking with two small groups, but I don't know if they were friends or family members being shown around.)

For those who want a more intimate and historical lesson at New Glarus Brewing Company, there is the once-a-week "hard hat" tour which is $20 per person and limited to just 15 people. Offered on Fridays at 1:00pm, guests meet up at the original Riverside Brewery in town. Led by a "brewery ambassador" you'll learn about their history. From there, you'll drive up to the Hilltop location, for a private behind the scenes tour of the actual production process. Afterwards, enjoy a special sampling featuring six to eight beers coupled with several locally produced cheeses. Note: this tour is for adults only and requires advance reservations and payment via their web site portal. Be forewarned, however. This is a very popular tour and is currently sold out through the summer! The next available tour date is September 7th, with two of the four Fridays that month already booked.

I especially liked how they market their sampling program. They charge $3.50 for three samples from their current production . . . and you get to keep the commemorative logo glass. For those who know what they like and don't necessarily want to sample, they offer pints for purchase that include the glass for the first one, with a lower discounted price for all subsequent pint purchases. Prices range from $6.00 to $9.00 for that first pour.

New Glarus Brewing Company currently produces six beers year round, with another four or five that are seasonal. For a full description of each of their beers, recommended food pairings and production schedule, check out their web site (www..newglarusbrewing.com).

Beyond producing world class beers, this is also the story of a successful entrepreneurial spirit in that they were founded in 1993 by a woman who they say "does everything except brew the beer". For that she has her husband who has a rich history in brewing including time spent in Munich, Germany. He has been recognized numerous times for his contributions to the art of craft brewing.
New Glarus Brewery
2400 State Hwy 69
New Glarus, 53574
(608) 527-5850

Milwaukee's First Microbrewery

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on November 4, 2010

Randy Sprecher brought his love for German beers home to Milwaukee and in 1985 started Sprecher Brewing Company. To be honest, they are better known in these parts for their nationally acclaimed root beer but they also have a great line up of adult beverages and other sodas.

The brewery is a small and very unassuming building located in the middle of a middle class neighborhood on the north side of the city in the Village of Glendale. The brick building is gorgeous, with parking on either side as well as street parking. You enter through their large gift shop area where you can buy tee-shirts, hoodies, caps and other apparel as well as beverages by the singles, 4 pack or case (24 bottles).

Tours are offered on a very limited and on a "by reservation" basis. Generally there are tours daily at 4:00pm with some afternoons including a 3:00pm. On the weekends, guests can take in a "beer & cheese" pairing event that includes the tour and sampling. (Check out their website to see what is offered on the day you're interested in visiting them: www.sprecherbrewery.com .)

Our tour actually started with a sample which we were encouraged to bring along out in the brew house area. The first stop was where the fermentation process starts, with an explanation of mixture involved in making beer: yeast, water, hops and grain. We were not able to go into the "clean room" area where the large stainless steel drums contained the yummy liquid that would soon be bottled as yummy beverages.

It was interesting to see the bottling area even though it has stopped for the evening. They have one bottling line, with the majority of time spent with root beer as they sell more of that beverage than all of the others (beer and sodas) combined.

After the bottling area, we were invited back to the beer garden area to sample additional choices. At the time that guests pay for the tour ($5) they receive a row of tickets good for four adult beverage samples . . . soda samples are unlimited.

I was surprised at the number of choices they had. For me, I did try their cherry cola before the tour, and a couple of beers afterwards including the Generation Porter and Hefe Weiss. David went for the hardcore stuff including Black Bavarian, Dobble Bock and Irish Ale which he liked the best. Overall, I think I counted around 20 beer options and eight sodas. After you're done with your sampling(s), you get to keep your Sprecher Brewery etched glass.

They were getting ready for an evening event being held in their bar area, complete with hard alcohol and food. If you're interested in hosting a small intimate party (probably 100 people or less) this would be a nice location to share some good times and beverages with friends or co-workers.
Sprecher Brewing Company Inc.
701 W Glendale Ave.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, 53209
(414) 964-7837

A Wonderful Museum of Cheesemaking Artifacts

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on October 30, 2012

I was happy that I was able to make it to Monroe this month before the National Historic Cheesemaking Center closes for the winter. With tourism dropping off November through March, the Monroe Welcome Depot Center and this historical museum go on hiatus until spring thaw. When in season, they are open Monday through Saturday 9:00am - 4:00pm and Sunday 11:00am - 4:00pm.

The historic train depot was built in 1888 and moved to this new location in 1993 thanks to the commitment and financial support from members of the community. While a majority of the building houses the National Historic Cheesemaking Center, It is so home of the Green County Visitor Center and the Milk House Gift Shop.

Visitors enter the museum for a volunteer led tour tracing the history of cheesemaking in Wisconsin from the early beginnings of the 1850's. At the turn of the 20th century there were approximately 200 cheese factory farms scattered across the state and by 1920 there were nearly 2,800! With the explosion of European immigration to Wisconsin bringing old world cheese recipes coupled with the need to transport milk a short distance to get it to the cheesemakers, cheese factories were found at most every intersection of country roads lacing the countryside.. Today, however, with transport being faster over greater distances, a large number of the old cheese factories have simply disappeared. It is documented that there are just 129 cheese factories in production throughout Wisconsin. Our total production is roughly 2.6 billion pounds of cheese - 25% of all cheese made in America.

The evolution of cheesemaking thanks to innovation and automation is traced through a number of educational exhibits, largely made possible by donations from local families with ancestors who came to Wisconsin to farm her fertile lands perfect for raising dairy cows. One of the early inventions (c-1890) was the Babcock milkfat testing device, which is still used today to determine which cows produce the richest milk most desirable for cheesemaking.

Visitors can walk through how cheese was manually made, from the heating of the milk over wood fires, stirring as the curds form to the point of having to be skimmed out of huge copper kettles. Photos depict the use of cheesecloth as the cheesemaker physically leaned over and across the hot kettle. The cheesecloth filled with curds would be emptied into the wooden wheels which were pressed to remove excess liquids and forming the cheese. After aging, the large two hundred pound wheels would be prepared for delivery to the purchaser of the cheese . . . or cut into smaller pieces more suitable for retail sales.

I loved how the story was told through a blend of antiques and old photos. I also thoroughly enjoyed having Sue as my volunteer guide, walking me through the entire process, to include some local stories of what life on a dairy farm was like back in the old days.

For anyone interested in seeing cheese made as they did it more than 100 years ago, you owe it to yourself to come to Monroe the second Saturday of June each year when they reenact the cheesemaker's manual efforts to make a 90 pound wheel of Swiss cheese. It all takes place at the Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory which is located on the property adjacent to the Monroe Welcome Depot.

A little about the Imobersteg Farmstead Cheese Factory. The small wooden 20' x 20' building was donated to the National Historic Cheesemaking Center back in 2010 when the 92 year old Arnold Imobersteg decided to "share the wealth" of his family's heritage from their cheesemaking legacy. The cheese factory remained essentially as it was when in production in the early 1900's with many original items in tact and unused since 1917. The cheesemaking equipment found in the building included the copper kettle, press table, intake wheel and the wheel press. This equipment is used today by master cheesemakers as part of the annual demonstration each June.

The National Historic Cheesemaking Center has a $5 per person admission fee which goes to support their mission of preservation.

National Historic Cheesemaking Center
2108 6th Avenue
Monroe, Wisconsin
(608) 325-4636

Third Generation Cheese Factory

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on October 31, 2012

Wisconsin is not only the largest cheese producing state in the United States, it is where two varieties were invented back in the 1870's . . . Wisconsin Brick and Colby. Since 1922, Widmer's Cheese Cellars has been producing award winning, handcrafted cheese, including brick, cheddar and colby. John Widmer emigrated from Switzerland to America in 1905. After serving as a cheesemaker's apprentice for several years, he settled in Theresa, Wisconsin in 1922 and founded Widmer's Cheese Cellars. Today Joe Widmer is the owner and master cheesemaker at the same location found by his grandfather.

From the street Widmer's looks like any neighborhood house with an adjoining tavern or corner market. It is a small building with an equally small entry area where their retail sales are offered. During my midweek visit, there were a number of locals who stopped in to buy cheese. Amazingly, not 20 feet from the sales area were the cheese vats and production area. It is from this area that you are welcomed to observe the magic that creates cheese from milk.

Production starts daily at around 4:30am, with visitors welcomed from 6:30am until 5:00pm. Folks are encouraged to arrive early, however, if they are interested in watching cheese being made. They do offer a daily (free) guided tour at 9:30am, but be sure to call ahead to reserve your spot. My suggestion would be to arrive a bit earlier than that in order to watch the process of turning milk into curds and whey. While they do cover these steps in the video they'll show you later, there is nothing like watching as the cheesemaker continually stirs as the milk thickens and curds form.

One of the ladies from the back area came to get our small group of four to take us back to the packaging & shipping area. It was here that we watched a short 10 minute video that provided an overview of the Widmer family, the cheesemaking process to include aging, and the differences in the varieties of cheese produced here.

After the video, licensed cheesemaker Lenny came out to tell us a bit more about cheesemaking and to answer any questions that we may have. We learned that Widmer produces roughly 2,000 pounds of cheese a day, Monday through Friday. The 20,000 pounds of milk required arrives daily from just four local farms. Lenny explained that the milk fat content varies throughout the year based on the type of feed the cows are getting but that generally it ranges from 9:1 (milk to cheese) to 11:1 with the 10:1 being the rough average throughout the year.

After spending some time with Lenny, he offered the opportunity to sample three cheeses plus a nice white brick cheese spread. Of course, everyone was invited to make personal purchases in the retail store.

When we returned back to the retail store, the curds were being scooped out of the vat, filling the cheese "hoops" or forms in approximately five pound rectangular blocks. Each form would have a brick placed on the top to help compress the cheese curds. The hoops are turned three times throughout the day in order to help provide a consistent and solid cheese. The next morning the cheeses are placed in a brine wash for 12 hours.

From the brine tank, the cheese is then placed in the curing room, which has a steady temperature of 70F. The cheese cures for approximately a week, during which time it is washed and turned daily. The cheese i then packaged in either foil or vacuum packaging. Aging would then take place, depending on the variety of cheese. The brick cheese we saw being packaged for shipping was about six weeks old.

Widmer's offers an up close and personal view of how cheese is made, holding true to the traditions of the old country brought to America during the 19th century. Today there are fewer than 100 of these small craft cheese factories still in operation here in Wisconsin. It would appear to be a dying profession in this day of high tech mass production.

Theresa, Wisconsin is about an hour from the Milwaukee. Located just ten minutes off I41, it is quite accessible for travelers heading north to Fond du Lac, Appleton or Green Bay. For any visitor coming to SE Wisconsin, Widmer Cheese Cellars is well worth your time.
Widmer's Cheese Cellars
214 W. Henni Street
Theresa, Wisconsin
920-488-2503

You Cannot Talk Wisconsin Without Mentioning Brats

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by MilwVon on October 20, 2012

Brats is the short for "bratwurst" . . . the German sausage that literally translates from "brat" that means "finely chopped meat" and "wurst" which is sausage. Brats is what locally everyone in Wisconsin calls this grilled mainstay at picnics and tailgate parties throughout the state. You will find them in every pub or corner bar in every town, as well as many diners and family restaurants.

Wisconsin has the largest number of people who can trace their heritage back to Germany and their immigration to America back in the mid 1800's. It is little wonder that it was here that bratwurst factories flourished as they fine-tuned recipes over the past two centuries.

Sheboygan is credited for the increase in popularity when a local butcher shop starting making bratwurst to order for daily pick-up by local residents back in the 1920's. Later in 1953 bratwurst sandwiches went national when the Major League Baseball stadium in Milwaukee began serving brats at their snack bars. (Fun fact . . . Milwaukee's baseball team in 1953 was the Milwaukee Braves. They later moved to Atlanta in 1966.)

Today you can buy brats at any supermarket as well as specialty butcher and meat shops. In planning for this particular journal, I was hoping to find a brat factory that provided public tours. Unfortunately, my contact with the three best known companies here in SE Wisconsin was a bust in terms of finding a tour to take.

If you are interested in buying locally made, authentic bratwurst as well as the many flavor variations that have been developed over the years, there are three well known companies that offer both retail and online sales.

Klement's Sausage Company (www.klements.com) was originally the Badger Sausage Company, founded in 1927. In 1956 the "Klements Brothers" (Ronald, George and John) purchased the Badger Sausage Company in order to produce their family's recipe received from "Grandpa Frank". If you have attended a sporting event at Miller Park or the BMO Harris Bradley Center, you have probably had a Klement's product.

They are also the sponsor of the world famous "Sausage Races" that take place nightly at all Milwaukee Brewers' home games! In 2003 ESPN fans around the world saw the Italian Sausage take one for the team when a Pittsburgh Pirates' player struck her with a baseball bat, knocking her and another sausage racer to the ground. Awww what great baseball history as been made here in Brew City.

Back to Klement's . . . while they do not offer factory tours, they do have a well stocked outlet store onsite at 2751 S. Chase Avenue, Milwaukee. I recently paid them a visit and purchased more than 24 lbs of meat products (brats, summer sausage and ham) for $41. Anyone considering a visit and purchase, be sure to check online for discount coupons. I was able to score a $10 off a purchase of $50 or more from the folks who publish the Entertainment Books found throughout the USA.

Usinger's Famous Sausage Company (www.usinger.com) was founded by Fred Usinger when the young German immigrant arrived in Milwaukee with just $400 in his pocket. As a "wurstmacher" (sausage maker) apprentice from Frankfort, he brought with him recipes for his favorite sausages. Working at an established downtown butcher shop, Usinger began producing products for the store that he later purchased, establishing Usinger's in 1880 as one of the premier sausage companies in the United States.

Today visitors to Milwaukee's Old World Third Street can stop into the original storefront where Usinger's Sausages began. The recipes used today remain true to Fred Usinger's original German heritage. They do operate a deli and store at their downtown Milwaukee location, as well as mail order by phone or internet.

Johnsonville Sausage, LLC (www.johnsonville.com) was founded in 1945 and is located about an hour north of Milwaukee in Sheboygan Falls. This company grew from a small butcher shop that brought their family's Austrian recipe to America in the 19th century. From all that I've been able to research on Johnsonville, they offer mail order from their website, but do not have an onsite store, nor do they offer tours. They are a popular grocery store and bulk foods (i.e., Sam's Club) brand. They have also partnered with McDonald's to offer their products on the fast food giant's breakfast menu. Thanks to placement in such outlets, Johnsonville generates the greatest sausage sales in the United States in terms of total volume.

Maybe it is all for the better than these large sausage makers do not provide factory tours, as I have heard it said "Do you really want to know what goes into sausage or how it is made??"

That said, there is nothing like a grilled bratwurst sandwich! If you are visiting or traveling through Wisconsin, you owe it to yourself to at least sample this wonderful German delight.

Wonderful Historical Overview of the Packers' Legacy

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by MilwVon on October 22, 2011

My friend Alice got tickets for us to attend the Green Bay Packers' home game against the Denver Broncos this month. I was very excited to be going to the game with her . . . and almost as excited to finally get to go see the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame, located inside the Atrium of Lambeau Field. I had bought the tickets back in March when my soccer organization held some meetings there, but never found the time to actually go see the Hall of Fame. This was the perfect opportunity to do so.

We arrived at the field as the parking lots opened at 11:15a (it was a 3:15p game time). We parked and opted for lunch first at Curly's Pub. Afterwards we returned to the first floor to take in the Hall of Fame, which is also a bit of a museum chronicling the history of the most storied franchise in the NFL.

There were several side rooms with exhibits and stories dating back to the times of Acme Meat Packing. (If you saw the Packers play on Sunday 10/17/11 you saw their throwback era jerseys from the Meat Packers' era.) I really enjoyed the exhibit that told Vince Lombardi's story, to include a small bit about his time as the head coach of the Washington Redskins. I'm old enough to remember Vince coming to DC and trying to make a go out of the hapless Redskins. His legacy and culture remains in Titletown even today!

Of course, no hall of fame would be complete without tributes to the team's stars over the years. Today there are 147 individuals in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame. Most are players, but some are administrators and other key people from the Packers' organization. Each player enshrined into the hall has a personal exhibit featuring personal items from their playing days with the Packers. I couldn't help but to shed a tear or two for Reggie White #92 who was inducted posthumously in 2006. RIP Reggie!

With the Packers' winning Super Bowl XLV in February 2011, there has been a lot of hubbub over their bringing HOME the Vince Lombardi Trophy. The trophy room where all four of their Super Bowl trophies reside is also open to those visiting the Hall of Fame. There was a short line, maybe 15-20 minutes, to get into the trophy room, but it was well worth the wait. We had our photo taken in front of them . . . very cool!

If you are planning for a visit to the Green Bay Packers' Hall of Fame before a game, allow yourself at least 90 minutes for the self guided walking tour. If you're a diehard Packers' fan, you may want to give yourself a couple of hours. For those unable to make the trip to Wisconsin, you can check out the Packers' Hall of Fame through their digital Hall of Fame, online: http://packershalloffame.com/hall-of-famers/ .

Because of special events, you should check out their website for daily hours of operations. Also, if you are planning a visit on a home game date, you will have to have a game ticket to enter Lambeau Field and purchase an admission ticket to the Hall of Fame.

Tickets are $10 (adults 12-62), seniors (over 62) are $8 and kids under 12 are $5.
Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame
Lambeau Field
Green Bay, Wisconsin
920-965-6984

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