Pearl Street has long been a center of activity in La Crosse, and La Crosse has long been a major beer town. The Pearl Street Brewery combined the two to offer residents, visitors, and many UW-La Crosse students (21 and over) several craft beers in the heart of downtown “LAX”.
Pearl Street Brewery opened up in 1999, the same year monster brewer G. Heileman shut its doors just to the south (today, it’s City Brewery.) While still serving beer on Pearl Street (and 3rd Street, famous for being packed with bars), the brewery and Tasting Room have moved north of downtown a bit to a 100-year old former Rubber Mills boot factory just east of Highway 35 that offers plenty of room for both brewing and tasting. The Tasting Room is open every day but Sunday and Monday, and you can take a tour (a “Brewery Tourery” as they call it) on Saturdays from noon to 5pm.
Popular Pearl Street brews include their D.T.B. Brown Ale, which won a Gold medal at the World Beer Championships; Rubber Mills Pils, in salute of the factory in which they now operate; Pearl Street Pale Ale; El Hefe Bavarian Hefeweizen; Java Lava Coffee Stout; and the – get ready – “That’s What I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout Organic Rolled Oat Stout.”
Pearl Street’s Tasting Room is a few blocks off Highway 35, north of U.S. 14/61 and Highways 16 and 33 by a few miles. U.S. 53 is just to the west and I-90 crosses just two miles to the north.
1401 Saint Andrew Street
La Crosse, WI 54603
(608) 784-4832 Website
City Brewery in La Crosse grew out of the former G. Heileman Brewing, a longtime La Crosse legacy that brewed Old Style, Colt .45, and many other national brands. Heileman started in La Crosse back in 1858 and in the 1980s was the third largest brewer in the U.S. after acquiring regional brands around the country like Olympia, Rainier, Grain Belt, Blatz, and Black Label. The collapse of a holding company that acquired Heileman hastened its demise, before its late 1990s shutdown.
In 1999, City Brewery started in the former Heileman facilities; “City Brewery” was Heileman’s original name and so the legacy lives on. While Old Style is now brewed elsewhere, City Brewery produces a variety of beers and other beverages, including Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice, Angry Orchard, and Arizona Iced Tea in La Crosse as well as Iron City Beer and Sam Adams in a brewery in Latrobe, Pennsylvania that they bought in 2007.
For local La Crosse brews, City Brewery produces La Crosse Lager, which is “krausened” like Old Style was. It is the flagship brand that adorns the popular “World’s Largest Six Pack”, a set of six metal beer storage tanks formerly labeled as Old Style cans and now decorated as La Crosse Lager cans. You’ll find them just south of downtown La Crosse one block east of the Mississippi River along U.S. 14/61, close to where U.S. 53 and Highway 33 begin and where Highway 16 comes in from Minnesota. Highway 35 is just a few blocks to the east.
The brewery itself does not currently offer tours, but the World’s Largest Six Pack is a must-see and a prime State Trunk Tour photo-op. Just north of City Brewery, downtown La Crosse offers plenty of things to see and do, and the Pearl Street Brewery is also available on the north side of town.
925 S. 3rd Street
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 785-4200 Website
Delafield Brewhaus is perched above I-94 just east of Highway 83 in Delafield, serving up a variety of craft beers including three medal winners in the 2014 World Beer Championships.
In-house brews include the “always on tap” Dockside Ale, Delafield Amber, Pewaukee Porter, Naga-Wicked Pale Ale (named somewhat for nearby Lake Nagawicka), and Sommerzeit Hefe Weizen. Seasonals include a Strawberry Lager, Golden Promise (featuring a specialty Scottish malt), Green Bullet IPA (with unique hops from New Zealand), Einhorn Bock, a Belgian Quadrupel (10.5 ABV… whoa!), and the Oats and Barley Stout. Additional specialty beers, including some aged in whiskey barrels, are available from time to time.
The bar area and restaurant are adorned with plenty of Brewerania collectibles and old-school signs, and some of the shiny copper kettles used in brewing are smack dab in the middle of the place.
Easy to spot but tricky sometimes to get to, Delafield Brewhaus is along I-94’s frontage road on the south side about one mile west of Highway 83 (Exit 287 off I-94). From Highway 83, turn east on Hillside Road, weave your way past some big-box stores, and it will be on your right just past the big “Hotsy” sign familiar with I-94 drivers. From the east/Milwaukee direction, exit Highway SS (Exit 290) and head west on the north side frontage road before cutting over to the south frontage road via Elmhurst Road or County E/Maple Avenue and heading west.
3832 Hillside Drive
Delafield, WI 53018
(262) 646-7821 Website