Tuesday, May 15, 2007


What follows is a book proposal that has been sitting with a publisher for a very long time now. Last time I heard from the publisher, in the fall, he said, "If I didn't like it, I would have sent it back already." All I can say is, I'm relieved I haven't had to work on it lately.

Water, grains, hops and yeast…it’s almost hard to believe empires were built – and are being built still – using those four simple ingredients. But it’s true, and Wisconsin has seen more empires rise – and fall – around those four ingredients than just about any other place in America.
The story of beer and brewing in Wisconsin is a story of assimilation and acculturation. The Northern European beer culture brought to this land by immigrants two centuries ago has become as much a part of what Wisconsin is as the pitiful cheesehead, the ignoble bratwurst and the evergreen Green Bay Packers.
When we think of the birth of beer culture in Wisconsin, we think of Germans, people such as Valentin Blatz, Joseph Schlitz and Frederick Miller, but the first brewers in the territory that was to become Wisconsin were Welshmen. The first documented brewery was opened in Mineral Point in 1835 among the community of Welsh miners.
Another Welshman, Richard G. Owens, is credited with opening the first Milwaukee brewery in 1840. By the end of that decade, 22 breweries were in operation in the new state, and 10 years later 166 more had opened.
German immigrants did play a huge part in the explosion of breweries and the demand for beer in Wisconsin. Most early brewers’ roots were there, but the odd Englishman or Bohemian was among them.
That’s what we’re here for, the history of beer and brewing in Wisconsin, but we’ll also take a look at what’s brewing in the 21st century, from megabrewer Miller to a mom-and-pop operation like Rowland’s Calumet Brewery in beautiful downtown Chilton.
We’ve got road trips, festivals and unique watering holes where you can find some of Wisconsin’s finest and freshest on tap.
So, pour a glass of your favorite beverage and dig in.

In which we explain the importance of beer to the people who settled this land, and how it came to be a major industry that has given Wisconsin an identity far beyond its borders.
In which we restore the title of first brewers in Wisconsin to these hard-working, beer-loving immigrants. We’ll look at the first documented brewery at Mineral Point (1835) and the Welsh community that developed there for the mine work. Also look into the beginnings of Milwaukee’s first brewery, opened by a Welshman in 1840.
Through the 1960s Milwaukee was the beer capital of these United States. We look at how it all began in the mid-1800s with the men who built the American Brewing industry in Cream City – Jacob Best, Val Blatz, Frederick Miller, Capt. Frederick Pabst and Joseph Schlitz. Includes details on what happened to each brewery.
A look at the beer empires that grew in other parts of the state – Jacob Leinenkugel in Chippewa Falls, Gottleib Heilemann in La Crosse, Frank Wahle and George Ruder in Stevens Point, and the Walter brothers, who spread their brewing empire across the state, John in eau Claire, George in Appleton, Martin and Christian in Menasha (and later Colorado).
Many breweries could not survive the dark years of Prohibition. We’ll look at those that bit the dust, and learn how survivors made it by producing soft drinks and malt extract for the growing – and illegal – homebrew market.
In 1970, People’s Brewery of Oshkosh was sold to a consortium of black businessmen from Milwaukee (they had previously bid on the Blatz operation in Milwaukee, but were outbid), making it the first black-owned brewery in the country. We look at the problems encountered trying make headway in the steel-toed, blue-collar town. By 1974, the brewery was finished, the victim of racism, pinning hopes on government contracts and the times…regionally breweries were dropping like flies in the mid-70s.
A look at the successful regional breweries that survived Prohibition, acquisitions and changing tastes – Joseph Huber Brewing in Monroe, City Brewery in LaCrosse, Stevens Point Brewery and Leinenkugel in Chippewa Falls.
A short history of microbrewing revolution – what sparked it, who started it here, and a look at some of the industry standouts such as Sprecher in Milwaukee, Capital in Madison and New Glarus in New Glarus.
Briess Malting in the city of Chilton (pop. 3,000) is a major player in the microbrewing revolution, producing specialty malts for brewers across the country and malt extracts for homebrewers.
We suggest a few major thoroughfare road trips in each region of the state, taking in as much brewing history and lore with as little effort as possible. For example, in the case of Milwaukee, it will be a river trip aboard the City Queen brewery boat tour. Includes both breweries and standout beer bars.
APPENDIX I: The Breweries
An alphabetical listing of every brewery in the state – both operating and closed. Operating brewery information will include websites, tour info and whatever else seems pertinent as I’m compiling.
APPENDIX II: The Festivals
A comprehensive listing of every established beer festival in the state, with dates, websites, contact info.
VALUE ADDED STORIES: Concise sidebars sprinkled throughout the text.
-- John Gund Brewing of La Crosse had an international reputation for its Peerless brand beer in the early 1900s.
-- Effinger Brewery, producers of Bader Brew and Brite. Is now the office of the Circus World Museum in Baraboo.
-- Museum of Beer and Brewing, a group of mostly Milwaukee-are a people either in the beer industry or retired from it, who are hoping to find a home to tell the story of brewing in Wisconsin.
-- Electric City Brewing of Kaukauna, which ran at full production during World War II, supplying its Mellow Brew and Pilsner Club beers to camps where U.S. soldiers were preparing for the D-Day invasion.
-- Gipfel Union Brewery, Milwaukee, is believed to be the oldest standing brewery in Wisconsin. It opened in 1843 and today is home to a restaurant supply business.
-- Kingsbury Brewery of Manitowoc actually created the famous Old Style beer that was made famous when the brewery merged with Heilemann of La Crosse in 1963. They also made a Prohibition near beer that was so popular it was brewed into the 1960s.
-- The Put-A-Little-Pepper-In-There Boys, a group of 70-somethings who frequent a Menasha tavern to drink beer and shoot the bull. The bartender knows to add a shot of black pepper to their glasses. They claim it’s good for head retention.
-- And any other significant trivia and/or short stories that might pop up in my continuing research.

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