One step into this old-fashioned soda fountain and ice cream parlor, and you’re whisked back to an earlier, sweeter era. Everything from home-mixed ice cream in waffle cones made right in the store to scratch-made flavored soads and rich, tasty malts from the old-school Hamilton Beach mixer and the metal cup delights the senses. A wall of candies, chocolates, nuts, and other treats make this one of the more complete confectioneries you’ll find anywhere – it could be the 1930s in here!
The Pearl is located right on (surprise!) Pearl Street in downtown La Crosse, right near the La Crosse Center. U.S. 53 begins just to the east; U.S 14/61 and Highways 16 and 33 are just a few blocks to the south; and Highway 35 is about a mile to the east. Basically, if you heard towards downtown La Crosse where all the bars, restaurants, shops, and nightlife are, you’re practically within eyeshot of The Pearl. It’s definitely a great, sweet stop.
Want a fresh waffle cone? They don’t get any fresher than this!
I stocked up on candy cigs; you don’t find them around very often. Don’t worry, I paid for them.
207 Pearl Street
La Crosse, WI 54601
(608) 782-6655 Website
Named for the vast, 1/4-acre pond (often used for skinny dipping by residents back in the day) upon which this microbrewery abuts, Lake Louie Brewing sprouted up back in 2000 in the tiny town of Arena just off U.S. 14. Their beers are available all over the state, but their brewery is of course where you get the freshest and experimental styles.
Lake Louie’s major beers include the Warped Speed Scotch Ale, Golden Booty Cream Ale, Kiss the Lips IPA, Tommy’s Porter, and their Arena Premium Pale Ale. Some limited releases are also available here and there; a brewery tour gives you the best access, and they conduct them on “select” Saturdays at noon and 1:15pm. Contact them for details. Arena is close to Spring Green, and a tour of Taliesin or House of the Rock nearby along with a stop at Lake Louie makes for a fun roadtripping afternoon!
7556 Pine Road
Arena, WI 53503
(608) 753-2675 Website
Gray Brewing Company – originally Gray’s Brewing – dates back 1856 and is in its fifth generation of family ownership. Through the years (centuries, really), Gray Brewing has both brewed specialty beers and created gourmet sodas; beer production ceased in 1912 but came back in 1994 and today Gray offers a variety of year ’round and seasonal brews. They include a Honey Ale, the state’s original honey beer; a hearty Rathskeller Amber Ale; Rock Hard REd; the “56” Oatmeal Stout, named for the year of Gray’s founding (1856); Rock Hard Red, a berry-flavored beer named in part for Rock County); the unfiltered Wisco Wheat; the Tap Joclkey Irish Stout; and the colorfully-named Irish-style Busted Knuckle.
Gray’s Janesville brewery is located along historic Highway 11/Court Street on the west side of Janesville. Their Janesville Tasting Room re-opened in 2015. Hours are Friday from 4:30 to 9:00pm and Saturday from 2:00 to 7:00pm. The Growler Hour is on Saturday before tours, starting at 2pm. The “Owners Brewery Tours” take place every second Saturday of each month at 3:00pm.
Tour Prices are $5 for the regular tour, and $20 for the VIP Tour, which includes the Owners Brewery Tour, unlimited samples until 4:00pm that day, and a souvenir pint glass.
All ages are welcome into the Gray Brewing Tasting Room and on the Owners Brewery Tour, but you must be 21+ with a photo I.D. to enjoy alcoholic beverages. Group tours (12+) are available for reservation on non-regular Owners Brewery Tour Saturdays. Call their office at 608-754-5150 or email them for more information.
In 2016, Gray Brewing expanded into the restaurant business in booming Verona just off U.S. 18/151 near Highway 69 with Gray’s Tied House, where you can try all of their beers and gourmet sodas before checking out their full menu of food… because you can’t eat on an empty stomach.
Gray Brewing Company Addresses:
Gray’s Brewery, Tasting Room, Tours
Gray’s Tied House
2424 W. Court Street (“City” Highway 11)
Janesville, WI 53548
(608) 754-5150 Website
950 Kimball Lane
Verona, WI 53593
(608) 845-2337 Website
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
Capital Brewery is just outside the state’s capital, in Madison’s highly-touted suburb of Middleton. Also highly touted are Capital’s beers: they’ve won over 200 awards including a Gold at the Great American Beer Fest.
Capital’s offerings include their flagship Wisconsin Amber, a very Sconnie lager called Supper Club, the Mutiny IPA, Capital Special Pilsner, a Munich Dark for dunkel lovers, a black ale called Dark Voyage, the patriotic U.S. Pale Ale, the unfiltered Ghost Ship (with spice and citrus including grapefruit), and Island Wheat, made with wheat brought down from Washington Island off the tip of Door County. In 2015, they debuted “Grateful Red,” a red IPA saluting the student section at Badger basketball games.
The brewery offers tours for $7 which include a 30-45 minutes tour of the facility (they call it a “BREW-VENTURE”), a commemorative glass and 4 samples or one pint of beer. Self-guided “tasting tours” can be done anytime at their Bier Garten or Stube, where you can load up on six samples for $8. During the warmer months, plenty of outdoor events take place at their Bier Garten. Accordions may be involved.
Capital Brewery is on the western edge of Middleton’s historic downtown, visible from the Beltline (U.S. 12/U.S. 14) and easily reached via Greenway Blvd (Exit 252) or University Avenue (Exit 251) exits. The National Mustard Museum is mere blocks away, too!
Capital Brewery Address:
7734 Terrace Avenue
Middleton, WI 53562
(608) 836-7100 Website