On a tour of the oldest breweries in Wisconsin, we made our way down to Monroe, Wisconsin to visit the historic Joseph Huber Brewing Company (the OLDEST brewery in Wisconsin by three years, I believe?)- which is now home to Minhas Craft Brewery!
Monroe, WI in Green Co.
Monroe, Wisconsin was about as far away from where I live as Bayfield was (4+ hours), just a hair north of the Illinois border, just north of Rockford and not far west from Janesville. Monroe is about an hour south of Madison.
Founded in 1845, The Blumer Brewery started in Monroe, Wisconsin. Through a difficult first few decades, the brand managed to survive. The brewery weathered the Prohibition Era by producing ice cream, non alcoholic beer, soda, and oddly enough – tractor and agricultural machinery. In 1947, the name changed to Joseph Huber Brewing Company. The company is well known for their Huber and Rhinelander brands of beer, as well as their Blumer Brewing Co. sodas. Huber Brewing Co. actually rescued brands like Rhinelander and Potosi from defunct breweries. Unfortunately, Huber Brewing Co. itself is now defunct, unlike most of the othervhistoric breweries we’ve visited so far on this blog (Leinenkugel, Pabst), but the facilities are still used and the popular brewery lines are still being produced under different ownership.
In 2006, Mountain Crest Brewing Co. of Calgary, Alberta, Canada acquired the former Huber Brewing Co. and purchased rights and trademarks to all of their brew recipes, rescuing some of the brands that had been rescued under Huber Brewing Co. The logic behind the acquisition was built on a strong contract brewing relationship. By 2005, 85% of brewery operations in Monroe were being exported to Alberta. It made sense for Mountain Crest to move toward 100% ownership of the Monroe brewery. In 2006, the name changed from Mountain Crest to Minhas Craft Brewery.
Canadian owners of Mountain Crest / now Minhas Craft Brewery
Minhas produces a wide variety of products at their Monroe brewery – everything from premium beers to gluten free options, malt liquor drinks and the Blumer Brewing Co. sodas. Tours of the brewery are available 362 days a year and cost $10 per person. This cost includes about an hour of free sampling in the Lazy Mutt Lounge AND a takehome gift pack with four beers, one soda and a brewery glass. If you don’t want to take home beers, they can also give you a five pack of soda and a glass. (I do a lot of brewery tours and this is seriously a steal of a deal). Minhas also operates a distillery just a block from the brewery, but we did not have an opportunity to take a tour of that facility. You can learn more about the distillery here.
Sampling in the Lazy Mutt Lounge, via Travel Wisconsin
Minhas also has an impressive gift shop where you can buy accessories, brand wear, and limited run and their regular beers at deeply discounted bulk prices. This is another thing I haven’t seen on many brewery tours – the ability to purchase a wide selection of their beers on site. This was great, though, as a lot of their beers are not available throughout the entire state. I’m sure they’re available more widely in Southern Wisconsin, but where we are, you can only find some at select stores.
Minhas doesn’t allow photos outside of the gift shop and Lazy Mutt Lounge so many of these were found online. The tour was enjoyable, and Monroe was charming. En route to Monroe, you’ll pass New Glarus Brewing Company, a highly popular Wisconsin microbrewery brand. Unfortunately the weekend we were there, New Glarus was closed unexpectedly! We’re planning a return trip in the future… But we’ll cover more Monroe sights and sounds another day.
Yours truly, enjoying a “Damn Good Beer”
Learn more about Minhas Craft Brewery here.
Malt display in the gift shop
Samples at Lazy Mutt Lounge
A sketch of the historic brewery in Monroe
Hops display in the gift shop
The new brewery logo
Blumers sodas, still produced