Breweries & Vineyards

  • Quaffing with a crowd

    Twenty years ago, most beer drinkers thought porters work on the railroad, blondes have more fun and a craft requires popsicle sticks and yarn. My, how things have changed. In the United States, craft beer still claims only 11 percent of sales. But each year, more and more drinkers cross over from the lite side, and hundreds of new craft breweries spring up to serve them.

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  • Road trip: Breweries of southern Wisconsin

    Fat Squirrel. Spotted Cow. Lazy Mutt. Uff-da. Uff-da? In Wisconsin, say that and you get a great glass of beer. Anywhere else you get . . . a funny look. Wisconsin may be full of cheeseheads. It may be a party state. But boy, are they drinking a lot of good beer there.

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  • A German Mardi Gras

    Oh, the joy of being German. There's no question that Germans know how to have a good time. After all, they've given the world Oktoberfest, half-gallon steins and "The Little Chicken Dance.'' Hopfen und Malz, Gott erhalts'' roughly translates as "Malt and hops, to God, are tops.''

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  • Best brew fests

    At last, Americans are realizing that life is too short to drink cheap beer. The tasteless factory lagers of our youth look awfully pathetic next to the beers now being turned out by craft brewers: sweet cream stouts, lip-smacking India pale ales, chocolatey porters, Belgian wheats flavored by coriander and orange. In fact, it's getting hard to keep up with all the new brews, some of them wildly creative. That's where brew festivals come in.

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  • True brew in the Twin Cities

    It used to be that rebellious young men started garage bands. Now, they start garage breweries. Bud, Coors and Miller may rule the beer world, but craft brewers are its rock stars. At first, they made their own, getting supplies from St. Paul's Northern Brewer ("good beer is your right''). Then, they started real breweries with names like Surly ("the anger fueled by the inability to find good beers'') and Flat Earth ("join the movement against the reign of watered-down domestics'').

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  • On the wine trail

    As fall winds down on forest trails, the season is just gearing up on wine trails, where groups of wineries invite folks to take a little drive, sample the wares and maybe take home a few bottles. Since wineries tend to be in very scenic areas, that’s not such a bad idea. And in late autumn, many offer special events to put buyers in the holiday spirit. Here are the 2021 events on wine trails in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

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  • Great grape stomps

    During harvest time in a vineyard, turning purple has nothing to do with the Minnesota Vikings. Vineyards don't get their juice that way anymore, but many still offer a grape stomp, and there's nothing goofier to do on an autumn day.

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  • Chilling at an ice bar

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  • Mad about brew

    For people who love beer, there’s no better place to drink it than in a brewery. In 1880s, beer-loving Milwaukee had more than 80 of them. Three became national giants, giving Milwaukee the nicknames Beer Town and Suds City, but only one survived. That’s Miller, acquired in 1969 by Philip Morris and now part of Molson Coors. Schlitz closed in 1981, and Pabst in 1997.

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  • Hopping onto the ale trail

    These days, it seems as if all the world wants to go on a pub crawl.  West Loop and sometimes other  neighborhoods. Tickets don't include drinks. Chicago History Museum offers trolley tours of British pubs as well as Chicago's "greatest dives'' and Prohibition-era  Chicago.

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  • Following a wine trail

    Across the Upper Midwest, vineyards are being planted and wine trails formed. Vineyards tend to be in very scenic areas, and wine trails allow buyers to meander along pretty country roads, stopping here and there to quaff a glass of wine or have a picnic. Of all the states, Michigan has been most active in forming winery trails. And why not? There have always been a lot of orchards in Michigan.

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  • Wine walks on the Wisconsin

    je ne sais quoi  to the grapes during blending, fermentation and aging.

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  • A vintage vineyard

    In the wooded bluffs across the Wisconsin River from Prairie du Sac, the Saturday before Thanksgiving is a red-letter day for wine drinkers. That's when Wollersheim Winery releases its Ruby Nouveau and throws open its doors for a tasting party that always draws hordes of loyal fans.

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