Chasing the Beer Scene in Eastern Wisconsin

Stone Cellar Brewpub // Appleton

Wisconsin’s Fox Valley offers several options to make the beer trek memorable. The Appleton Beer Factory and Fox River Brewing Company and Brewpub are popular stops in town, but the Stone Cellar Brewpub and Stone Arch Brewery—which are really one in the same, merely distinguishing the brewpub from the production brewery—is a trip back in brewing time. The building that houses them dates back to the 1850s when it was part of the Anton Fischer Brewery. In the early 1900s it became part of the George Walter Brewing Company and remained so until 1974 when the brewery closed. Parts of this large, strong building have been used through the years by other businesses including a casket showroom on the third floor leading to speculation that the structure is haunted today. It’s even been explored by three paranormal investigators, two of which came up with evidence of strange phenomenons they attributed to spiritual inhabitants.

Steve Lonsway and his father Tom took over the Adler Brau Brewery and Restaurant in 2004 and renamed the brewpub Stone Cellar and Stone Arch Brewery. The best sellers include a Scottish ale, the English Six Grain Ale, Stone Arch Stout, and Houdini Honey Wheat. The brewpub is open every day of the week. On Friday and Saturday evenings part of the brewery is opened up and turned into a taproom to allow visitors to have a beer in the brewhouse.
For those really intrigued by the legend of Harry Houdini (one of Appleton’s most famous sons and namesake of Stone Arch’s Houdini Honey Wheat), the Appleton History Museum at the Castle displays articles and artifacts depicting the life of the famous illusionist and escape artist. Here you’ll find a hands-on exhibit that lets you try some of Houdini’s tricks. The History Museum building itself was constructed in 1854 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s also a great stop to learn about Wisconsin’s Fox River Valley. Appleton also offers a great many opportunities for winter hiking and snowshoeing. Just a few minutes south and east of Appleton is High Cliff State Park with limestone bluffs that overlook Lake Winnebago, Wisconsin’s largest inland lake.

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3 Sheeps Brewery // Sheboygan

This brewery is one of the best reasons for a beer trip to eastern Wisconsin. Brewery owner and brewmaster Grant Pauly describes his approach to brewing as “one-off from normal.” Pauly and his 3 Sheeps team are up-and-coming rock stars in Wisconsin’s brewing world. Pauly’s relatives helped establish Wisconsin’s Kingsbury Brewery that was headquartered in nearby Manitowoc until 1963. His great-grandfather, grandfather, and two uncles were former owners of Kingsbury. 3 Sheeps has released beers throughout the state that have captured a great deal of attention by homebrewers and beer enthusiasts not just in Sheboygan but also Madison and Milwaukee. The brewery opened in March 2012 near downtown Sheboygan in a building that shares space with the taphouse Hops Haven, making it one of the best beer venues in the city. 3 Sheeps’ regular brews include Baaad Boy Black Wheat, an amber ale called Rebel Kent the First, the American IPA Really Cool Waterslides, and the Witbier Cirque Du Wit. This fall 3 Sheeps introduced Autumnal Hoppiness, an American strong ale made with all Wisconsin grown hops. 3 Sheeps also periodically releases specialty beers in 22-ounce bottles that it labels as its Nimble Lips Noble Tongue Series. The black IPA made with squid ink is one of the more unique bombers beers that show off Pauly’s creative flair.

Sheboygan County is home to two other breweries. In Sheboygan the 8th Street Ale House is a small establishment with only a few of its own beers on tap, alongside more than 30 other micros. The Ale House is in the process of expanding and in 2015 it’s expected to offer its own beers on a more regular basis. Plymouth Brewing Company is a small nano-brewery in downtown Plymouth, about 20 minutes west of Sheboygan. For most visits you’ll find a handful of house-made beers and an assortment of local Wisconsin craft beers. However, when planning a trip call ahead because taproom hours are limited.

Sheboygan’s Riverfront Artwalk is a free self-guided walking tour that celebrates the work of local artists. It’s a fun way to explore the city’s shops, culture, and scenery. One of the more eclectic stops, at least for model train collectors and railroad history buffs, is the Railroad Museum. Outdoor enthusiasts might want to sign-up with Wolf Pack Adventures for classes in winter birding, snowshoeing, wall climbing, or the high ropes course. For those into regional food, Sheboygan goes by the title “Bratwurst Capital of the World.” There are no shortages of places to find a good sausage in Sheboygan, just make sure you try the distinctive “white” Sheboygan brat!

Silver Creek Brewing Company // Cedarburg

This has to be one of the most interesting homes for a brewery—in a 150-year-old gristmill. Silver Creek Brewing emerged in 1999 from a local brew club and three friends who wanted to take their hobby to another level. Steve Venturini, Steve Roensch, and Todd Schneeberger went from sharing recipes to sharing brewing dreams. When they found the space in the old Cedarburg Mill those dreams became reality. Today the brewery is found in the ground floor of the old building, which still diverts part of Cedar Creek into the building where it once powered the grinding wheel. As you enter you actually walk across the bridge that spans the former mill’s trail race. The name Silver Creek is a reference to the stream that cuts across Venturini’s farm where the three friends used to meet and brew beer. For most visits to Silver Creek Brewing you’ll find more than a half-dozen house beers and several Wisconsin micros. Among the Silver Creek signature brews is the Baltic-style Porter and the wintertime favorite Vintage Ale (English Strong). Silver Creek also makes its own Blonde Root Beer. The brewery opens at 3:00pm Tuesday–Friday, noon on Friday–Sunday, and it is closed on Mondays.

Cedarburg is located about twenty minutes north of Milwaukee and calls itself the Antiques Capital of Wisconsin. At the heart of the local Historic District is the Cedar Creek Settlement that encompasses about 30 different shopping and eating establishments. You might also take in a movie at the recently renovated and historic Rivoli Movie Theatre. Cedarburg is a great place to experience the holiday shopping season with its stone buildings and seasonal lighting.


Robin Shepard is the author of Minnesota’s Best Breweries and Brewpubs (2012, University of Wisconsin Press). He’s also written beer travel guides for Wisconsin and Illinois. His Best Breweries and Brewpubs of Wisconsin was given the top book prize in 2001 by the North American Guild of Beer Writers. He also is a Senior Contributor to Madison’s Isthmus Newspaper and The Daily Page where he regularly reviews Wisconsin beers and follows the industry. When he’s not searching for a perfect pint, Robin is an Associate Professor in the Department of Life Sciences Communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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