With Appleton (in)famously being the second-drunkest city in the nation and with the countless bars and taphouses on College Avenue alone, it’s no secret that drinking is our thing. But while much of the best is minutes away, there are some amazing breweries and taphouses from out of town that outshine the competition and provide craft beer experiences you can’t get anywhere else.
3 Sheeps Brewing, Sheboygan
When you’re in the mood for something new and unusual, flock to 3 Sheeps to sample the beers you never knew you needed until now. Experimenting with ingredients such as toasted wood and ghost peppers, Brewmaster Grant Pauly says the goal is to blend every brew with flavors you wouldn’t expect. “People are willing to try anything,” Pauly says. “As much as we want to experiment with fun ingredients and fun flavors, there are people who want to drink those sorts of things.” This month, try “The Wolf,” a dangerously flavorful imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels with a hint of caramel and chocolate for taste. And if you visit in mid-July, Pauly recommends “Mangos on My Mind,” an imperial Belgian golden ale with mangoes aged in white wine barrels. Also consider the “Cashmere Hammer,” a creamy, almost milkshake-like nitrogenated stout, which makes for a solid year-round classic. Even though certain selections might seem strange, Pauly says there’s a method to the madness as every beer is meticulously tested for quality and flavor. “We vowed never to put anything in the taproom unless it’s something we’re really proud of. It can take a long time, but it’s all part of the fun,” Pauly says. For details on the menu and taproom hours, visit 3sheepsbrewing.com.
Pigeon River Brewing Company
Some days, you might want to set out and find the best Wisconsin craft breweries have to offer, but with familiar-feeling beers that excel without reinventing the wheel. On those days, go to Pigeon River Brewing Company for its excellent craft beers along with tasty, affordable dinner selections. Try the brew pub’s go-to drink the “Townie” first, a light, refreshing cream ale that goes well with the Pigeon River Original Wrap and cod on the food menu. The “Big Drop” is a shandy with strong citrus flavors, and the “Hop Offer” is Pigeon River’s take on the now-popular IPA. On Wednesday, look out for the $6.50 boneless wing special. On Thursdays, you can score drumsticks for $1 a piece and get $2 off pizza. To find Pigeon River’s hours and contact info, visit pigeonriverbrewing.com.
Central Waters Brewing Co., Junction City
Brewing can be a very high-resource, energy-intensive process, but despite the multitude of breweries and taprooms in the state, comparatively few have conservation efforts as robust as Central Waters Brewing Co. in Junction City, making it a must-go for any environmentally conscious beer lover. Combining a 1,000-square-foot solar thermal array that heats the brewhouse’s water, a 20,000-watt photovoltaic array that provides electricity, and motion-detected lighting, Central Waters is able to meet one-fifth of its annual energy needs with green energy alone. Because of the brewery’s efforts, Central Waters was the first brewery to be recognized in Wisconsin’s Green Tier program. “We feel responsible to be the best that we can be and really reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible,” says co-owner Paul Graham. “It’s a pretty cool thing when you can produce that much energy.” Not only is the brewery a state forerunner in environmental conservation, but it also delivers a delectable lineup of craft beers. Watch out for this month’s seasonal selection including “Caffeine Sunset,” a barrel-aged stout with vanilla beans, cinnamon, and coffee, the “Summerillo,” a light India Pale Lager, and “Caught in the Rain,” a piña colada-inspired IPA which is Graham’s favorite of the summer season. The taproom also features local performers throughout the month, so be sure to schedule your trip accordingly to augment the experience with live music. Visit centralwaters.com for more details about taproom hours and performance times.
O’so Brewing Co., Plover
The contentious sour beer is not for the faint of heart. Some love it, and others hate it, but for those prepared for the complex and acidic flavor profile, O’so’s diverse lineup of barrel-aged sour beers makes it worth the drive. Because of the unpredictable brewing process, sours are much more difficult to consistently produce than your average beer, but O’so offers up to 12 varieties of sours in its lineup. “Project Lo” is inspired by the Belgian Lambic drinks commonly associated with sours, but adds lemon zest. “Scarlet Letter,” meanwhile, turns the sour up to 11 the Wisconsin way, aptly infusing the tartness of cranberries to make one powerful brew. Worry not if the sour isn’t for you – O’so’s selection of tamer craft beers is accessible and tasty for just about any beer lover. For more information, visit osobrewing.com.
Courthouse Pub, Manitowoc
When the jury’s out on whether your squad wants to go to dinner or the taphouse, skip the verdict and go to Courthouse Pub, a legal-themed restaurant and microbrewery, for both craft beers and fine dining. “We try to find that nice balance where people can be comfortable if they just want a beer, or if they weren’t interested in the beer, they could look at our … higher-end food [options],” says co-owner Ryan Morris.” If you’re hungry for dinner, the pub offers a wide variety of pub burgers, sandwiches and steaks. On the drink side, start with the “Testimonial Evidence,” a sampler tray of the best the pub’s microbrewery has to offer, to find out your favorite. This month, Morris plans to release “The Executioner,” a popular seasonal Imperial Stout along with a shandy and double IPA. Located in historic downtown Manitowoc, Morris says visitors can take in the appealing scenery, including the city courthouse across the street which inspired the pub’s courthouse theme. To ensure getting a seat and avoiding the long wait, Morris recommends making reservations about a week in advance. The pub is open from Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m.-8:30 p.m. and on Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m.