Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern

Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern is located in Monroe, Wisconsin.

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Baumgartner’s is clearly an institution in this area.  We were told by multiple sources that we had to visit the shop and try their chili and cheese sandwiches after our brewery tours.  The chili was certainly worth mentioning.  I had to laugh at their tagline stating that they were the second best chili, right after your mother’s.  They topped it with cheese or raw onions.

The list of cheeses available for the cheese sandwiches would only be found in good ol’ Wisconsin.  I wanted to try something different.  When in Rome philosophy.  I noticed one type of cheese was brick cheese.  I assumed that this was so named because it was a large brick of cheese and the type rotated based on the local selection, similar to how farm-to-table restaurants rotate their fresh selections.  So I inquired with the waitress about what type of cheese the brick cheese was currently on the menu.  Some of you may already know the punch line to this riddle.  There is a mild, white cheese that is actually called brick cheese.  I went for it.

In my mind, the cheese sandwich was going to be a grilled cheese sandwich, so I was a little put back when they dropped a slice of cheese between two slices of white bread on our table.  I felt like a child.  In my opinion, it would have been infinitely better if they had slapped some butter on it and grilled it up a bit, but who am I to judge the preparation of a cheese sandwich in Wisconsin. Clearly they know more about cheese than this Iowa girl!

My biggest piece of advice would be not to try the limburger cheese! My brother bravely ordered one for the table so we could all sample a little bit of it.  I hesitated and decided that it would be best to let the boys try it first and if they could handle it, then I would consider.  They are big fishermen and likened the smell to stink bait.  I quickly decided that the accolades of eating limburger cheese were not worth it.

I would love to return to this quaint establishment.  My brother bought a few types of cheese to put on sandwiches for future lunches and said it was the best colby-jack cheese he has ever tasted.  They definitely sell high quality cheese in their store and I would love to purchase more of it on the way out than I did on that particular trip.

If you are ever in the area, do not miss Baumgartner’s Cheese Store and Tavern.  You will not be sorry!

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Minhas Distillery

Minhas Distillery is located in Monroe, Wisconsin.  After touring their brewery, we went across the street to check out the distillery.  The two college aged gentlemen working the tasting room gave us information about their products and suggested some combinations for their liquor, all of which involved the sodas produced and sold by the company.  I must say they had some fabulous homemade root beer.

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Although we had had our fill of tours for the day, we still “officially” did the tour so that we could partake in the opportunity to try all of the liquor they had to offer and go home with a gift pack that included a bottle of their vodka and a glass.

The tour was filled with some interesting information about the industry.  One of the original owners of the facility was thought to have been kidnapped by Al Capone.  I love finding out little pieces of history like that!  Especially since Al Capone has historical ties to our area as well.

The owner of the distillery is the father of the brother/sister duo that own the brewery.  The family is based in Canada, but purchased so much product from this facility that they eventually bought it outright. From the distillery tasting room, you can see the house that they bought across the street for their once a month visits.

It is interesting to me to learn more about how challenging it can be to be able to sell alcohol in different states and countries.  They had gorgeous empty bottles of the tequila they produce in Canada on display as a chandelier, but they are unable to sell in in the United States for legal reasons.  The same was the case for their Irish Cream.  I was disappointed because I wanted to try both of these products.

Minhas Brewery

Minhas Brewery is located in Monroe, Wisconsin.  It was a short drive south of New Glarus, which we had just visited the same day.  My brother, his friend and I walked in just in time for their 1:00 tour of the facilities. We started by having a few of the bottomless samples they offered on the tour.  I began with the Lazy Mutt, which was a wheat beer. I will be writing specific tasting notes in the future.

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Minhas was recently purchased by a brother and sister from Canada.  According to the video we watched at the beginning of the tour, they are focused on production and packaging a high volume of beer from their facilities.  They produce 550 cans of beer per minute.  They move the beer from the brewery to the other plant for bottling underground.  Growing up in a small farming community in Iowa, I associated the smells in the brewhouse with the room on a dairy farm where the bulk tank is housed and where they stored the kegs smelled like the local feed store.

They also keep a library of the beers they brew, keeping a case of each brew.  Each batch is tested 85 times throughout the process.  I had never thought of the concept of a brewery keeping a library of their beers, but I’m sure a lot of companies have this practice.  It makes perfect sense to be able to go back to a particular production if the need arises.  This plant dates their beer by the month, date and year to be able to locate specific ingredients of batches.

Not only do they produce their own brews, they also produce and package beer and other alcoholic beverages for other companies.  Some of the labels we saw along the tour included Crunk limeade drink, Jaguar, and Blackeyed Voodoo.  Blackeyed Voodoo was originally based in New Orleans, but was outsourced to this plant after Hurricane Katrina.

Some of their beer appeared to be intended for the craft brew lover, but the majority of the beer was similar to domestic beer.  They even commented that college kids love the Boxer beer (presumably because it is inexpensive and easy to drink).

The conclusion of our visit at the Minhas Brewery was a little soured for me because I was having issues with my debit card.  Turns out, someone in Kansas had tried to charge a hotel room on my card and there was a hold put on my account.  I was truly grateful for the hold, but it was still embarrassing to be declined in front of a group of people I had just toured the brewery with that afternoon.  My mind was also racing with worst case scenario thoughts about what could have happened to my account, which the beer I had drank throughout the day did not help.  I hope to return again and be able to fully enjoy the experience!