Author's Note: On a recent press trip to Wisconsin hosted by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, I had the pleasure of visiting the small village of New Glarus and going on a tour of the New Glarus Brewery.
Back in 2010, Drinks editor Maggie Hoffman had a chance to chat with Dan Carey, brewmaster and co-owner of New Glarus, a cult-favorite, award-winning craft brewery in Wisconsin. More than a few beer nerds we know have planned road trips around securing the unusual New Glarus fruit beers, and midwesterners tend to sigh nostalgically when you mention their excellent Oktoberfest.
The Swiss chalet-style brewery sits on a hillside above the village of New Glarus. It feels a bit like a temple for beer, with four huge copper kettles and three miles of stainless tubing snaking its way around the facility.
When you meet Deb Carey, president and founder of the brewery (and also Dan Carey's wife), you walk away with the feeling she does more in the first half of her day than most people do all week. Her hard work played a key role in the growth and popularity of New Glarus, as well as the happiness of those who work for the company.
Over the last 20 years New Glarus has gained its cult-favorite status by doing two things: producing delicious and inventive beers inspired by old-world recipes, and playing hard to get. Currently the beer is only available in Wisconsin, and they plan on keeping it that way. "The distribution system for beer is quite volatile" says Deb, who would rather "make great beer and take care of the people who work for us" than make compromises to scale the operation and make beer that's available to everyone everywhere. New Glarus is the second most-consumed beer in Wisconsin, just behind Miller Light. The brewery currently produces 122 to 127 thousand barrels of beer per year, which is a lot considering that it all goes to one state.
Some of the most exciting beers in the New Glarus arsenal are inspired by Belgian styles, like their Raspberry Tart. This beer is left to age in large oak barrels, and winds up tart and sour, like a fresh mouthful of raspberries. A pound of fruit goes into every bottle. I asked Deb a bit about this beer; check out the video clip above for her description of the brew and how it's made.
This mom-and-pop business is going through lots of growth—they opened a new 75,000 square-foot facility in 2009, which is capable of producing around 75,000 barrels per year. They are now planning on several more additions such as a fermentation center and a dedicated lambic brewing facility.
Want to look around the New Glarus brewery? Take a peek in the slideshow above.