on June 12, 2012
The Minhas Craft Brewery in Monroe is the second oldest brewery operation in the United States. Originally founded in 1845 as the Monroe Brewing Company by Swiss immigrants, it has been owned by numerous individuals and families leading up to the 2006 purchase by a Canadian family, the Minhas. This seemed to be a natural progression for this small craft beer company in that by that time, 85% of all Monroe production was for export to Alberta, Canada. Today they produce more than 25 beverages including ales, craft brews, seasonal offerings, flavored malts and soft drinks.The tour started in the Lazy Dog Lounge, their reception area where guests are welcomed to bottomless samples of their products in your own personal "take home" glass. For the kids, there are several offerings, which include root beer, orange cream soda and black cherry soda. During the sampling, there is also freshly made popcorn to help keep your thirst up. At 90 degrees outside, however, it didn't take much for folks to have an appropriate thirst.It was disappointing that they oversold our 1:00p tour slot as by the time they were done letting folks in, the lounge was standing room only, butts to elbows. It did not make for a very enjoyable sampling experience. So much so that everyone at our four person table decided to opt out of the actual tour to enjoy the museum which is billed as "the largest beer memorabilia museum in the USA."The three rooms that make up the museum contains items dating back to the mid 1800's and includes printed advertising, glass and neon signage, and replica toy items like trucks and rail cars. Of particular interest to me were the shelves of beer mugs and growlers from around the world.There is no charge to tour the museum, which takes between one and two hours to explore. You can plan your time there either before or after your brewery tour.As for the brewery tour itself, the cost is $10 per person, with kids under the age of 13 being free with a paying adult. In addition to the unlimited sampling in your personal to keep glass, guests are given a "thank you gift" which includes four bottles/cans of beer produced by Minhas plus a bottle of their Blumers Root Beer. I thought this was a pretty ingenious way to sell their product and if you enjoy them, it's a decent value. Minors under the age of 21 plus anyone else wishing so, are given a soft drink sampler gift pack.In the gift shop, they offer for sale four (or six) packs to take home to stock your home bar . . . as well as a fair assortment of bar ware and apparel items. During my visit, they were also offering a special on their Minhas Oktoberfest beer, at $.99/bottle or $10.00/12 pack. Personally, I enjoyed by Lazy Dog Farmhouse Ale sample although I didn't make a purchase to take home, although a can of it was in my sample gift pack.Minhas Craft Brewery provides tours on a limited schedule basis: Monday 11:00AM, Tuesday through Thursday 1:00PM and Friday through Sunday 1:00 & 3:00PM.If you are planning a trip to Monroe for one of their festivals or just a day trip from Milwaukee or Madison, I would encourage you to check out the Minhas brewery and museum. I know I am looking forward to returning another day with my hubby, when hopefully they are less crowded.
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