It was a beautiful Saturday morning with no plans for either of the two families. Katie suggested a few local places to spend the day, one of which included visiting in New Glarus, Wisconsin. New Glarus is a small town about 45 minutes southwest of Madison, located in the beautiful country with rolling hills and celebrated for its Swiss heritage.
Most famously, it is known for the New Glarus Brewing Company which was founded in 1993 and moved to its current location in 2006, built to resemble a Bavarian village. Spotted Cow is the best-selling beer out of New Glarus (which is actually illegal to be sold outside of Wisconsin, making it and the other brews even more of a novelty). We chose to start our day here since it was starting to sprinkle and we could move indoors if needed.
We opted not to take the self-guided brewery tour since we had done it at a previous visit and knew the kids would have rather stayed outside than be forced to walk around a (boring to them) tour. When you purchase your first beer at the brewery, you’ll receive a souvenir glass and a ticket for your first pour. In addition, you’ll receive a token which can be redeemed for a free pint at any of the downtown New Glarus bars and restaurants. There is also a sampler glass, which allows you to sample your favorite beers (and has the cutest glass rinsing & washing station to clean out your glass between samples). New Glarus Brewing Company has five year-round beers plus some seasonals. Always a sucker for anything fall-related, Katie chose the Staghorn Octoberfest seasonal beer which had been recently released for the season.
The outdoor beer garden is a well-designed and interesting multi-level space overlooking the countryside, with many seating areas tucked throughout and trails winding into the woods. Our kids enjoyed a game of Hide & Seek and was nice to sit back with a beer and watch them play without feeling like they were bothering anyone too much. A small gift shop inside has all the New Glarus memorabilia and local goodies, plus a retail shop to purchase all of the New Glarus Brewing Company beers – it’s always funny to see people stocking up when visiting here. An indoor tasting room allows the brewery to operate year-round.
Tips for your visit:
- The brewery does not serve food so take advantage of the nearby restaurants before or after your visit. No outside food or drink is allowed.
- There is ample parking in various lots, but it can be a bit of a hike from some of the overflow parking lots. There is usually someone helping directing vehicles so ask if handicapped or closer parking is available if needed.
- Dogs are allowed on leashes within the outdoor beer garden.
After leaving the brewery, we jumped in the car for a short 5-minute drive into downtown New Glarus and found easy parking. The boys found a local bar with an outdoor patio (and redeemed their free pints from the Brewery tokens) while the girls went off to check out some of the downtown shops. A small variety of antique shops, bakeries, garden and gift shops are within a couple of blocks. Our favorite shop that day was called Hutch + Hide – “a family store” and it was the cute sandwich-board sign out front that drew us in. The shop was full of unique home decor items, some furniture, books, and showcased their custom barnwood bars and cabinetry. A bonus was when the owner noticed our two 6-year olds and said, “we’ve got a children’s play area in the back!”. Music to these moms’ ears! We left the shop with a bag full of goodies – several books to keep as gifts for teachers, family members and friends expecting new babies.
At this point, everyone was getting hungry and we landed on Sugar River Pizza. They had a cute outdoor patio (with string lights!) and offered us a large firepit table, but it wasn’t underneath the awning and rain was coming so we sat inside. Scrabble blocks in mason jars on the tables kept the kids entertained while we browsed the menus (80+ craft beers!). It was a large menu, which can sometimes be a turnoff, but everything sounded good. The boys ordered some wings and waffle fries, the girls had small salads, and everyone shared some pizzas — 1 sausage and 1 Concord Chicken Bacon. So so so good! Best part – each kid ordered their own meals for $4 and came with good portions plus a cookie and package of fruit snacks. This felt like a steal compared to the $10 kids meals in Steamboat Springs! Service was great, everyone left happy and full with lots of leftovers and one request by Travis to “get home to elastic pants”.
(Side note: still a sensitive subject at the time of posting this, but one of the husband’s ate one of the wife’s leftover pizza the next morning and will never live down her fury.)
It was about 4:30pm by this time and everyone was ready to get back home. Had we left more time, we would’ve liked to stop in Paoli, a tiny town between New Glarus and Verona. During previous visits years ago, we ate at the Paoli Bread & Brat Haus – an adorable (tiny!) bakery and meat shop. We then grabbed beers from the adjacent Hop Garden tap room, which features their own craft brews and other local beers and sometimes live music. The Hop Garden is located next to the Paoli Mill Terrace & Park, a large open area for kids to run with the Sugar River running through it where we enjoyed our picnic-style dinner and beers.
Some of the other stops that caught our eye while driving through Paoli were the Paoli Road Mercantile shop, Paoli Schoolhouse Shops & Cafe, the Landmark Creamery, and Lily’s Mercantile & Makery. We plan to make another trip someday since Paoli offers something for everyone (aka, the girls will shop while the boys relax at the brewery!).