Friday, October 9, 2009

Oktoberfest & Other Fun in WI

Touring the Tavern's
& Drinking Joint's of America

-La Crosse, Wisconsin (Labor day '09-with food too)

Its my second favorite month of the year and that means October is here. In fact I've been waiting for October since this past Labor Day. Oh and in case you were wondering, July is the best month in the year and also my favorite. However October is a close second in my book and part of it has to do with the weather and beautiful scenery and change in colors but most of it is because of the beer. Since I am a big beer connoisseur and have no desire to drink Bud Light, Bud Wheat or any of that garbage, I enjoy October and the festivals that come with it. So with October also comes the peak season for beer drinkers like myself. As you already know Oktoberfest is a 16 day festival held in late September into early October every year in Munich with other parties being held throughout the globe. So with this also comes Oktoberfestbier from 100's and 1000's of international breweries. I was reminded why I love Oktoberfest beer so much on a recent trip to La Crosse, Wisconsin over Labor Day weekend.

G. Heileman Brewing Company (La Crosse, WI)

Anybody from the Midwest especially Chicago has heard The "G. Heileman Brewing Company, La Crosse, Wisconsin" guy before. After every Old Style commercial from every Bears and Cubs game back in the day it is and always will be etched into my memory. The city of La Crosse has about 100,000 plus when you include the entire county and over 50,000 within city limits. Its also the home to UW-La Crosse which has over 9,000 students. The area is in the beautiful Mississippi River valley nestled between the River and a ridge of majestic bluffs. When we arrived in La Crosse from Chicago we hopped onto the Great River Road Byway for a scenic drive through the area we were staying in and we were immediately greeted by a wonderful smell and then BOOM! outta nowhere it appeared. It was as magical a feeling as I remember. The same type of ecstatic chills raced through my body like when the first time I saw Mt. Rushmore as a kid on a road trip through the Dakota's.

The World's largest Six Pack

"Motorists driving past the Heileman's facility in LaCrosse were greeted by a billboard reading, "Shhh...slow down...Heileman's aging here." For many years, the large storage tanks on the street side of the brewery were painted in the can design of "Old Style," the flagship brand of the brewery. With the rebirth of the brewery as The City Brewery (a tip of the hat to the original name used by Heileman's), banners were wrapped over the tanks in the style of La Crosse Lager beer." From Wikipedia.


La Crosse lager...How I wish it was still Old Style

The G. Heileman Brewing company was an independent brew firm that existed in La Crosse from 1858 to 1996 which was the year it was bought out by Stroh's Brewery. How the whole thing plays out is really interesting and quite complicated. As of today G. Heileman's Brewery names and intellectual properties are owned by Pabst Brewing Company. However the brewery where Old Style was once brewed is now owned by City Brewing Company. It was founded in 1999 and they brew La Crosse lager which is brewed to the exact specifications as the original recipe for Old Style lager. Now get this, City Brewery company agreed to purchase Latrobe Brewery in Latrobe, PA and later signed a deal with Boston Beer Company to produce Sam Adam's. So Old Style and its name and trademarks are still around however the real recipe for it which includes Fully Kraeusening, whatever that is, is no longer used by Old Style. But if you want to drink the original recipe for what was Old Style then you need to try La Crosse lager. I told you it was interesting.

The Old tanks have made a return (Pic from

"Old Style was first brewed in 1902 by the G. Heileman Brewing Company in La Crosse Wisconsin under the name Old Style Lager; it was popular in Wisconsin, the Chicago metro area, Minnesota, eastern Iowa, Lincoln, Nebraska, and southwestern Michigan. The original Heileman's Old Style brewery in La Crosse is now owned by the City Brewing Company. It brews La Crosse Lager, which is based upon the original Old Style recipe and is krausened for 30 days. This beer may also be the basis for the brewery's nationally-distributed DB Hobbs brand. Old Style also is a long-time sponsor of the Chicago Cubs." From Wikipedia.

The Original building where Old Style was brewed

The City Brewery and whoever its current owners are have done a very nice job in keeping everything intact and its a fun place to visit for 15 minutes or so if your ever in the area. Its worth a trip to this area during the summer for all the great state parks and scenic drives and outdoor activities it has to offer. The fall would also be a great time to make the trip out there and see the change in colors and explore all the river towns of Wisconsin. Here are a few pictures which you can enlarge by clicking on that tell the brewery's story and take you back to when it was a power in the beer game.

Little history lesson for ya (click pic to enlarge)

The original mansion built by the Heileman family

Little history lesson for ya (click pic to enlarge)

The original brewhouse is a beautiful building

Little history lesson for ya (click pic to enlarge)

The King of Beers statue

I don't what that means but it sounds good to me and it better to you too

Bodega Brewpub (La Crosse, WI)

That's enough to get me in anytime, anyday

When we arrived in La Crosse it was just about happy hour time and the people I was traveling with were getting cranky and needed some food and to get out of the vehicle. So we did a little drive around downtown and came across the Bodega Beer Bar and it was an immediate no brainer as to where our 1st stop of the day would be at. It was a quiet Saturday afternoon when we walked in but there was still a nice crowd of people enjoying the many, many selections of beer. I took a seat at the bar and took a look at one hell of a menu. This thing was categorized from ABC order to country of origin to style of beer. I was very impressed to say the least. So I decided to start off with one of my favorite Oktoberfest brews the "Staghorn Octoberfest" from New Glarus Brewing company (available exclusively in WI) which they also happened to have on tap.

The beer selection reminded me October was around the corner

The bar was very chill and all of the dudes with me agreed that it was a really dope bar that we would frequent often if we lived in the area. Its a large space and I guess they've been around since June of '96 and they do a really good job with creating a top notch beer bar atmosphere with a great selection of beers in house. Its a chill spot with drink specials along with lots of seats and plenty of games for you too play with your friends. A real nice bar for some daytime drinking.

I was told by the bartender that different brews arrive almost daily

Check out the selection of 'toberfest beers and this was just over Labor Day wkd

I wanted to try as many beers as possible that I hadn't tried before and also ones that I might not be able to find around Chicago. I also made sure to keep it to independent American Craft Breweries since we were in a hotbed area for great beer from our country. I asked about the Minnesota breweries I saw on the menu and the very helpful bartender suggested I try a Summit which iss brewed in Minnesota which is just across the Mississippi river from Wisconsin in this part of the state. As soon as I saw the bottle and the label I knew I had tried many of beers from Summit and didn't remember not liking them so I was happy to try their Oktoberfest. I thought it was pretty damn good just like every other beer of that style.

Summit Brew's (St. Paul, MN) Oktoberfest from Bodega Brew Pub

We all know a few of a! I'm talking to you Blondebeard! argh!

Although I don't know what you would want to waste stomach space for on food when your at this beer bar, they do have it. I decided to stick to beer for my lunch but my buddy ordered a turkey sandwich from the sandwich bar in the back. It seemed like a nice little spot with a variation of many different sandwiches for you to eat alongside your beer. Since I didn't try it I cant tell you how they are but my friend who ordered it said that it was pretty good and he didn't have any complaints.

Turkey Paninni with soup

Check out the Bodega if your ever in La Crosse, WI

Aside from drinking and eating, and yes in that order, our plan for the weekend trip was to check out Perrot State Park. Located about 30 minutes up the river from La Crosse in Trempealeau, Wisconsin I had read that it along with Devil's Lake are two of Wisconsin's better state parks. Since I know how great Devil's Lake is having hung out there when I was in Madison for five years in school, I knew that Perrot would be pretty panoramic and a great place to spend a summers day exploring, grilling and enjoying some brews. So after a nice lunch and a relaxing hour or two at the Bodega we took off and headed up river to check out the scene and see what we would be doing the next day.

I've always loved the scenic drives Wisconsin has to offer

The Great River Road byway along the Misssissippi River is one of the best

I plan on doing the whole thing next summer. It was really cool going through all the little towns and seeing what they have to offer all while the mighty Mississippi is always at your side. On top of all this its one hell of a scenic area with a great state park and quite a few things to do on the 250 mile drive along the Wisconsin west border.

Many little towns to stop in and get a change of pace from the city hustle

An impressive sunset in Onalaska, Wisconsin

Beedle's Bar & Restaurant (Centerville, WI)

Just as you would expect I found a great little food/drink stop in between La Crosse and the Perrot state park. It was in Centerville, Wisconsin that I spotted a cool looking authentic Wisconsin tavern. In the land of the taverns it looked like a must visit in my book and so we pulled into the parking lot and decided to do dinner at Beedle's Bar & Restaurant.

a good stop along the River Road byway (Centerville, WI)

I love the houses turned bars through the state

Don't drink and drive

The outside of the tavern made for a good feeling that it would be a nice place to stop in and eat and drink before the sunset and we headed back to the hotel. It was immediately upon entry that I also got the feeling it was authentic. It felt like a classic Northwoods tavern and we grabbed a table from our waitress who also happened to be a beautiful Sconnie. Beedle's is a family owned and operated joint who's hosts and owners, Anne and Brad, have only a few goals-to make amazing food and drinks that will keep you coming back again and again.

Old School Wisconsin tavern

Even though the Bears and Packers have played each other more than any other two teams the hatred is also there between the Packers and Vikings. So as we already know the hatred is at an all time high with #4 going from green and yellow to purple and white. Considering that Minnesota is right across the river you can imagine the heat runs deep around these parts. This little painting below was right next to our table where we ordered some drinks and checked out the menu to see what kind of food they had to offer.

Round 1 goes to Favre and the Vikings...haha, now that's funny

When in Rome...KingT takes a City Light for the 1st round

I checked over the menu and I at first considered getting the Prime Rib but didn't want that much food and also wanted to try a few of their specialty's which were labeled so on the menu. I also knew prime rib was one of those specialty's. I decided to skip on the classic Wisconsin supper club style salad bar followed by prime rib but my buddies on the trip with me all went for it and loaded their plates with a little bit of everything.

Salad Bar Plate

I knew that I would be starting with a Coulee Combo. It consisted of a half order of each of their cheese curds, onion rings and mushrooms. The menu bragged the fried curds were "better than the state fair" and that everything was hand dipped the old fashioned way. It didn't take much for me to know that I would be starting with a coulee combo and I decided on a Reuben sandwich with housemade corned beef as my entree. The sandwich was good and a fine example of what a Reuben should be, but oh those curds. Let me tell you something. I spent five years living in Madison during my college days and I traveled the state and tried so many cheese curds from so many places that I've had more than some Sconnies. Well these were the best cheese curds I have ever had the pleasure of consuming and I would drive back tomorrow for more if I could.

Beedle's Reuben Sandwich

The Coulee Combo (fresh dipped cheese curds, mushrooms & onion rings)

Fried Heaven Perfection: Curd (L) Shroom (M) Ring (R)

After the very satisfying meal we headed back into town and spent the night out and about around La Crosse hanging with the University kids and enjoying some drinks and talking to the blondes. Pretty much every girl I talked too had said that Perrot state park was beautiful and a great place to spend the day. So the next day we got up early and headed to to the park for a day of summer before it was over.

Perrot State Park (Trempealeau, Wisconsin)

"Native American tribes have lived here for centuries: Archaic, Early Woodland, Hopewellian, and Effigy Mound cultures were some of the earliest residents. Burial mounds can be seen throughout the park and displays in the Nature Center present information about these early cultures." From the Parks website.

Where two rivers meet

"Perrot State Park, where the Trempealeau River meets the Mississippi River, has 1,270 acres of diverse ecosystems. The river bank and surrounding wetlands provide wonderful habitat for the many migratory birds that travel through this area twice a year. Hardwood forests with mature black walnut, oak, and hickory are home to many animals, birds, and woodland wildflowers. Unique to southwestern Wisconsin and Perrot are the goat prairies perched high on the bluffs." From the Parks website.

View along one of the easy hiking trails

I was very impressed with the parks beauty and was disappointed we only had one day to spend there. I thought it was a spectacular place to camp for a weekend or spend a day if your driving through the area. Along with camping there is also hiking, kayaking, fishing, cross country skiing and snow mobiling and all sorts of other outdoor activities to do there. I already plan on returning next summer for a longer period of time so I can see everything the park has to offer.

Cave along the trails

View from the grill we set up shop at

City Brewery Tour Center
1111 3rd St
La Crosse, WI 54601-4412
(608) 785-4283

Bodega Brew Pub
122 4th Street
LaCrosse, WI 54601
(608) 782-0677

Bodega Brew Pub on Urbanspoon

Beedle's Bar & Restaurant
W24966 State Rd 54/93
Galesville, WI 54630-8242
(608) 539-2251

Beedle's Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Perrot State Park
W26247 Sullivan Rd Off Rte 1
Trempealeau, WI 54661
(608) 534-6409‎

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