New Glarus, Wisconsin: Little Switzerland & the Brewing Company

Known as “America’s Little Switzerland”, New Glarus is a town of just over 2,000 in Green County, Wisconsin. Fitting that it is in Green County, as the surrounding hills are just that, brilliantly verdant even under dark storm clouds as we arrive in town.

I first visited New Glarus in 1997. A friend and I stopped in town on the way back to Chicago after a camping trip further north in Wisconsin. I remember looking around at the charming chalet-type buildings and the hills beyond and thought, “I really need to come back here when I have more time.”

It took almost twenty years but I finally made it back to New Glarus just a few weeks ago, on the way home from our awesome “camping” trip in Wisconsin Dells. We arrived right around lunchtime so we stopped at Puempel’s Olde Tavern. The lunch menu is simple but solid, and the real star at Puempel’s is the history. The establishment dates back to 1893 and originally operated as a boarding house for railroad workers. Today, it remains “an example of rare authentic taverns in the U.S.” and reminds us of a much simpler time.

Puempel's Olde Tavern | Credit

Puempel’s Olde Tavern | Credit

Along with being known as America’s Little Switzerland, New Glarus is also known for its beer. That’s the real reason we stopped there, to visit New Glarus Brewing Company. We were (kind of) in the neighborhood and New Glarus beers are not available in Illinois, so it was almost mandatory that we pay a visit. Yes, the kids came along but, if you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you already know that The Working Dad and I are not afraid to bring our kids to places like breweries and wineries.

New Glarus Brewing Company

New Glarus Brewing Company

The brewery is just a short drive outside of town, situated atop a hill at the end of a beautifully twisty road. I was shocked when we reached the parking lot, for I was so not expecting the enormity of the grounds and the buildings! We ascended the stone stairway to reach the tasting room but were distracted by the expansive beer garden opposite its entrance. It’s more like a European city square, surrounded by replica buildings characteristic of Old World cities, and dotted with picnic tables and pergolas. There is no question that this is the nicest and coolest beer garden I have ever seen. (When you visit, be sure to walk to the very back of the terrace to enjoy the scenic overlook of the green valley below.) We eventually made it into the tasting room where, for $3.50, guests are able to sample three different New Glarus beers and take home the souvenir glass. Quite a steal, if you ask me. In the order of my preference, I tried Serendipity, Totally Naked, and Dancing Man Wheat. Now, I’m not one for fruit beers, but that Serendipity is out of this world! Described as “a kaleidoscope of Wisconsin fruit”, Serendipity was first made by total accident. I can also rave about New Glarus’s other fruit beers, Raspberry Tart and Wisconsin Belgian Red (made with Door County cherries). To let Lucia in on the beverage-tasting fun, we got her a root beer from the gift shop and she sipped and savored along with us.

Nicest "beer garden" I've ever seen

Nicest “beer garden” I’ve ever seen

Beer garden and tasting room

Beer garden and tasting room

Of course we had to stop at the Beer Depot, the brewery’s on-site retail store, before hitting the road back to Chicago. The Working Dad must really trust my will power, for he sent me in alone so he could get the kids situated in their car seats. I behaved, though, leaving with a box o’ beers retailing at just under $50. Since we’ve been home for more than two weeks, many of the beers we brought home have been consumed. On one hand, this makes me extremely sad; on the other, it gives me hope – hope that we will soon return to New Glarus, to once again hang out in Little Switzerland and also to stock up on our favorite brews.

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11 Responses to New Glarus, Wisconsin: Little Switzerland & the Brewing Company

  1. Mindi August 9, 2014 at 9:59 am #

    I love how you take the kids with you to breweries and wineries. You’re not just a working mom, you’re also a cool mom!
    Mindi recently posted…Volvér – Anniversary Dinner in PhiladelphiaMy Profile

  2. Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds August 9, 2014 at 10:39 am #

    $3.50 for a tasting—what a steal!! I love the idea of you guys buying Lucia a root beer so she could partake. So adorable.
    Jenny | A Thing For Wor(l)ds recently posted…Let’s Talk MalagasyMy Profile

  3. Nick (Nick's Travel Bug) August 10, 2014 at 3:37 pm #

    Beer gardens are my favorite and that looks like an awesome one!
    Nick (Nick’s Travel Bug) recently posted…FotoFriday: Vintage Cameras in HavanaMy Profile

  4. Chanel | Cultural Xplorer August 10, 2014 at 5:35 pm #

    I desperately want to visit Switzerland but I had no idea we had a miniature one right in our own country, it sounds worth checking out! And $3.50 for 3 beer tastings! What? I am clearly living in the wrong part of the country!
    Chanel | Cultural Xplorer recently posted…9 Non-Traditional Places to Visit in SeoulMy Profile

  5. Anne August 10, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    I love armchair traveling to new places in the Midwest through your blog.
    Anne recently posted…My Most Frequently Asked Travel Question: AnsweredMy Profile

  6. Traveling Ted August 11, 2014 at 2:15 pm #

    I have always been a spotted cow fan, but I have not tried any of their other beers. I definitely need to make a trek up here. I have been canoeing on the Sugar River and camped at Yellowstone Lake, but I have never visited the state park here or spent much time in New Glarus itself. Maybe in 20 years, I too will make a stop.
    Traveling Ted recently posted…Wat Pho temples, spires, and moreMy Profile

  7. Lance | Trips By Lance August 12, 2014 at 12:51 pm #

    I’ve had New Glarus once when some relatives brought some down to a family gathering in Springfield, Ill., a couple of years ago. I have a niece who lives in Minneapolis and we’ve thought about taking extra time and making the long drive up from Memphis to spend some time in Wisconsin. If we ever do, I’ll have to make this stop.
    Lance | Trips By Lance recently posted…Scheduling Family Travel Around SchoolMy Profile

  8. Erin at The World Wanderer August 12, 2014 at 1:57 pm #

    What a cool little spot! It looks straight out of Europe. It’s so fun to read about this part of the country, since I’ve never been. Clearly, that needs to change soon! Will you take me here when I visit?
    Erin at The World Wanderer recently posted…15 Inspiring Quotes About Nature.My Profile

  9. Pola (Jetting Around) August 15, 2014 at 12:57 am #

    $3.50 for a tasting?! I’m headed to Wisconsin this weekend and must see if this town is on the way. I’ve had Spotted Cow before and would like to try some of the other beers, esp. Dancing Man Wheat.
    Pola (Jetting Around) recently posted…Coffee and desserts in LjubljanaMy Profile

  10. Lucy August 15, 2014 at 4:19 am #

    That beer garden looks lovely! And the tasting samples sound like a bargain too. I love doing beer and wine tastings on my travels but am always having to fly home so can’t take much back with me unfortunately!
    Lucy recently posted…My top five destinations to return toMy Profile

  11. Leah August 18, 2014 at 11:32 am #

    As a lover of BIG Switzerland, little Switzerland looks like a whole lot of fun. Add beer and I’m sold. Now, just to get to Wisconsin….
    Leah recently posted…Win a Trip to Cartagena, Colombia from @LANAirlinesUSAMy Profile

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