In this south-central Wisconsin town best known for its namesake brewery, I figured there must be a downtown bar dedicated to late-night sipping of the brew that makes this place a must-stop for Midwestern beer lovers.
There wasn't such a place. There were such places. In this town of 2,200, all 12 bars -- from the pizza place to the bowling alley -- serve New Glarus beer.
Such devotion allows New Glarus Brewing, which opened in 1993, to be open from just 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily (1-608-527-5850; newglarusbrewing.com). The rest of the time, the entire town becomes the brewery's pub.
A night in New Glarus isn't long enough to hit all the bars or drink all the beer, but one Friday night, my drinking companion and I did our best.
At Flannery's Wilhelm Tell Club, amid a crowd celebrating the start of the weekend, the bartender gladly poured us a short sample of each of its four New Glarus brews. For the full pint, I chose Fat Squirrel (a nut brown ale) for its hearty, roasted balance; my companion picked Spotted Cow (a farmhouse ale that is the brewery's staple). Both were fresher and livelier than I knew they could be.
Next we were off to Ott Haus, the kind of place where locals raise beers deep into the evening. We eyeballed the eight New Glarus bottles lined up beside the bar. I chose the Black Top black India pale ale and my companion chose Dancing Man, a surprisingly hearty wheat beer.
We headed over to Glarner Stube, which is roundly considered the best restaurant in town. The menu is full of savory Swiss dishes such as Schublig ("mild spiced beef sausage ... sure to please a true sausage lover"). With eight taps, Glarner Stube is home to one of the most comprehensive New Glarus draft lists in town. That night, the offerings included rarities like Chocolate Abbey (a light-bodied beer that walks a deft line between chocolaty and crisp) and Cranbic (a light pink beer that's tart and sweet like the fruit from which it is derived).
Stuffed with beer and Swiss food, we figured a little activity was necessary. In Wisconsin, of course, that means bowling.
We walked to Swiss Lanes, an alley stuck gloriously in the 1950s but updated just enough to offer one New Glarus beer on draft: Spotted Cow. We ordered a pint each, got our shoes, grabbed a lane and clinked glasses. Whether we were toasting New Glarus the beer or New Glarus the town, I'm not sure.