What is Wisconsin Beer?
Wisconsin is known for far more than its herds of four-footed milk makers, but its rich beer-brewing legacy. Wisconsin beer is a much-celebrated not just by generations of Wisconsinites either. Scores of beer lovers worldwide consume millions of barrels produced yearly in the state — 10 million+ alone by MillerCoors — and, that's not even counting all of the home brewing state-wide.
In revolutionizing its industry, Wisconsin beer influenced numerous countries both economically and culturally. From the earliest Wisconsin craft beer brewing to the mass-produced, the unmatched influence of the Wisconsin beer biz is truly legendary.
Whether poured from a tap or bottle, Wisconsin beer has a reputation for remarkable consistency. It's demonstrated by the largest produced by Miller-Coors, LaCrosse, and Leinenkugel on down to the tiniest of craft beer makers. These brewers take great pride in relentlessly meeting the demanding expectations of their products and brands both in quality, convenience, and value.
Where does Wisconsin Beer come from?
Ever since some intensely, industrious German immigrants brought their beer-making recipes and talents to Wisconsin, the state hasn't been the same nor has the entire industry it transformed. Even by the Civil War, roughly 160 breweries were making the beer that made Milwaukee famous, decades before Schlitz and others did.
Legendary brands like Pabst, Miller, Blatz, Leinenkugel, and Schlitz are now synonymous with Wisconsin beer, not to mention as classic American-style pale lagers.
Just north of Chicago, Milwaukee became known already by 1900 as The Beer Capital of the World; though, it wasn't because of the city's water supply, affordable labor, or access to grains and other brewing supplies. More likely, it was the talent, vision, and ambition of its predominantly German-American brewers. The railway cars of nearby Chicago further 'greased the tracks' by efficiently distributing these Milwaukee beers to the entire country.
Nearly all of the state's beer products are sold outside of its borders. Some popular Wisconsin beers are only sold within its state lines, such as Spotted Cow from New Glarus Brewery ,which grabbed up and savored by its many brand-loyal aficionados. Many of these locals-only breweries are thriving at alarming rates, producing 200,00+ barrels annually. In 2018, more than a million barrels of craft beer alone was produced in Wisconsin.
If ever visiting Wisconsin, the average beer talk heard may likely feature lingo few other Americans know — such as 'faro' which beckons back to Belgium, or 'Gotlandsdricka' and 'meerts,' rooted in from the 'Old Country' traditions of Wisconsin's non-German settlers like the Swedes.
How is Wisconsin Beer made?
Most of the Wisconsin beer exported from the state is still mass-produced in Milwaukee by MillerCoors, which also owns Pabst Brewery, Hamm's (founded in Minnesota), and others. It's the last of the state's original behemoth breweries, but the Wisconsin craft-beer movement resurged in 2009, with 32 breweries founded and operated in Milwaukee alone by 2019.
Now, based in Glendale, Wisconsin, Sprecher Brewery gets full credit for being Milwaukee's first craft beer brewery since Prohibition. Although best known for its Black Bavarian dark beer, it also produces malt beverages and sodas in a range of flavors, including another popular American brew: root beer whose production at Sprecher exceeds even its alcoholic beers. The brewery also produces a line of well-respected beers under its Chameleon Brewing Company label.
Wisconsin is known for its American-style light beer making methods as much as its more recent artisan craft brewing. There's also been a significant resurgence of German-style beer-making in Wisconsin in recent years on tap, bottled and kegged.
From the likes of Wisconsin Brewing Company to Appleton's Stone Arch Brewpub, craft brewers are passionately dedicated to preserving Wisconsin's German beer heritage, satisfying the diverse palates of traditionalists — with the less hoppy Kölsch (Cologne, Germany-styled) lagers, malty-sweet pilsners, and sudsy dark stouts — to a range of popular weiss (white wheat) beers.
What are popular brands of Wisconsin Beer?
Ever-popular brands from mass-produced Wisconsin breweries include Miller High Life, Schlitz, Pabst Blue Ribbon, and seasonal hits like Leinenkugel's Snow Drift Vanilla Porter. If wondering, Schlitz beer is still made at Pabst Brewery, now a MillerCoors property. Legacy craft breweries that produce a range of Wisconsin beers include Sprecher, Wisconsin Dells, Lakefront, Water Street, Milwaukee Brewing, Rebellion Brewery, and Delafield Brewhaus amongst others.
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