Stevens Point, WI Monday July 21
We are staying at A Victorian Swan on Water B & B in Stevens Point, WI close to the Wisconsin River. We will be here for two nights on our way to Appleton WI. As usual, we broke up this driving day with a few side journeys.
Leinie’s, that is, Jacob Leinenkugel’s Brewing Company, is in Chippewa Falls, WI. It is about a 90 minute drive from St. Paul. Despite the fact that neither one of us drinks beer, we stopped in here for a tour. The tour lasts about an hour. It is free but we paid one dollar each for a souvenir shot glass and 5 tastings of various Leinenkugel beers. We got our wrist bands and a black X marked on our hands and we were off on the tour.
We have been on other brewery tours. This one is a little lighter on the details but you received the essence of the beer making process and the history of the Leinenkugels; another German family with lots of boys, most of whom entered the brewery business. They survived Prohibition making pop, instead of beer. 60% of their output is distributed in bottles, 30% in kegs, and 10% in cans. They have about 23 fermenting tanks. One tank holds enough beer to satisfy a beer drinker who consumes a six pack of beer every day for 55 years. Distributors have to pre-order their beer 60 days in advance to allow enough time for the brewery to order supplies and allow the beer to ferment.
They have a multitude of beer flavors. Back at the Leinie Lodge, the tasting room and gift store, we tried three of the beers. Summer Shandy and Honey Weiss were bearable but still not something I would order and expect to drink the whole bottle or glass.
Before we switched to root beer, we tried Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout. Yes, a beer named after me. But, it tasted lousy to this non-beer drinker. Very heavy and bitter. So, while I do not intend to buy it, I wish them well in order to keep the brand going. I did buy a “Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout” tee-shirt. How could I not?
We had packed sandwiches for lunch and ate them at Irvine Park in Chippewa Falls. The breeze was strong enough to keep the bugs at bay. However, I slapped my wrist several times before realizing that what I thought were flies or large mosquitoes was simply the black mark put on my hand at the brewery tour.
We had contemplated driving to Stevens Point via Wausau WI but while it may be a lovely city, nothing there seemed worth visiting. Instead, we dropped down to Marshfield and paid a visit to the “World’s Largest Round Barn”. It is part of the Central Wisconsin State Fair grounds. Chris went up to the office and one of the staff, a young woman named Cassie, was gracious enough to give us a tour (the building had been locked) and relate the barn’s history.
The barn was constructed in 1915-16 as a show barn and arena and is still in use today. The round shape was selected due to: more wind resistant, more efficient to arrange stanchions to show animals, and stays cooler in warmer weather. Now, aren’t you glad you read this blog for its wealth of information?
Our final stop prior to Stevens Point was Rudolph WI; a small town home to Wisconsin Dairy State Cheese Company and the Rudolph Grotto. Of course, this is Wisconsin, most towns are home to some cheese making facility. WI ranks 1st in the nation for cheese production and makes more cheddar cheese than any other state. WI cheesemakers make 2.4 billion, yes billion, pounds of cheese each year. And, it takes ten pounds of milk to make one pound of cheese.
At Dairy State, family owned for generations, we had some ice cream ($1.75 for a healthy single scoop) and then bought our dinner. Crackers and a mixed bag of WI sausage and cubes of various kinds of cheese. The bag of cheese curds will wait for Tuesday.
Then we drove a few blocks to the Rudolph Grotto. The parishioners of St. Phillip’s Church now maintain this grotto built by an early pastor, Father Phillip Wagner. Rev. Wagner promised to build a shrine in Mary’s honor after going to Lourdes, France in 1912 and having his poor health restored.
The grotto is a series of gardens, statues, and rock formations arranged to form shrines remembering the stations of the cross, seven sorrows of Mary, Our Lady of Fatima, or just general feel good representations of flowers, planters, etc. The rock used is unusual, it is a rare lava rock in the area. Other materials include Carrera marble from Italy, shells, colored glass, and tiles.
When we crossed the Wisconsin River into Stevens Point, we were greeted by a mural of loggers. Much of this area of Wisconsin dates back to old logging operations, producing lumber for the rest of the country and later for paper making. We expect to see other paper making facilities over the next several days. Our B and B is in the shadow of one such paper factory.
Over the last 18 months we have visited numerous small towns. The small communities of the Midwest compare very well. They come across as taking good care of their homes and public infrastructure-at least the infrastructure that is visible. The use of murals on downtown walls is becoming prevalent and we do not get tired of these visual representations of a community’s history.
Ed Heimel and Chris Klejbuk July 21 9:15 pm