Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Beer. Bacon. Cheese. Festival!

This past June some friends and I  hit the road for a dynamic day trip: Beer, Bacon and Cheese Festival in New Glarus. Since we live in Madison, which is only about 30 miles outside of New Glarus, we decided to bike. Why bike? 1) It’s good for you. 2) If we drank one or two too many beers, no one would know. 3) Biking in southern Wisconsin is fantastic—more to come on that point in later posts.




For $25, we got unlimited beer from local microbreweries, and endless cheese and bacon from regional producers. Beer, Bacon and Cheese fest was part of Polka Fest—a larger and annual event. New Glarus is the perfect setting for this type of event. A little about the town: Nestled at the bottom of immense forested hills, along the Sugar River, it's easy to see why the Swiss decided to stay. The scenery is beautiful, and since settled, this region of Wisconsin has produced some of the best brewers and cheese makers in the state with its sunny days, fertile soil and abundant pastures. The sign below explains the history pretty well.



The town is a mix of corny, quaint and cool. Timbered buildings and ancient trees really do make you think of a German-speaking village in Europe. The number of Swiss flags and presence of yodelers may feel a little touristy, but it doesn’t detract from the vibe. Instead, it convinces you that this pocket of people is genuinely proud of their heritage. Americans can’t be passive about connecting to their ancestors’ foreign roots—we have to celebrate boldly, because we really are so far from these places.
But  most importantly, and why we biked 60 miles--there were many gastronomical highlights of the day. Some of my favorites are listed below:

Wilhelm Tell Bier--brewed by Minhas Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin
Rich, malty and slightly sweet—historical without being kitschy. Surprisingly enjoyable on a warm day. I'll be traveling back to the annual Wilhelm Tell play and festival in New Glarus just for this brew.

This gentleman is wearing the tradition Wilhelm Tell costume--a historical Swiss figure devotedly celebrated in New Glarus.



Liederkranz and Limburger Spread
For those of you who have never tried Limburger (stinky) cheese, TRY IT. It's only made by one cheese maker in the country, here in Wisconsin--Myron Olson and his team at Chalet Cheese Coop. It's an experience that you might not hate. If you're feeling timid--try out this Limburger spread as a baby step. The spread is strong and true to the flavor of the classic, but softened and less challenging. I highly recommend this snack for those of you looking for a bold cheese that you can share with your more mild friends.


Bacon and maple syrup topped vanilla ice cream
This treat was provided by a local organization--one word YUM. This savory and sweet combo is classic and unexpected at the same time. This is something that would be so easy to recreate at home.


BBQ pork belly and shoulder by Vintage brewing company
Too good for words. Not on the their normal menu, but it should be. This was the best thing I ate all day. No exaggeration, this bite of meat was worth the $25. I ate it too quickly to snap a picture.

Some old friends of Greg started this bacon business. Their marketing and spirit is so representative of  modern Wisconsinites. From their "reggae-cured" pork to their big laughs—yes I’ll buy their bacon!

Beer, Bacon and Cheese Festival offered a fantastic view of Wisconsin past and present culture. In Wisconsin--past and present is not easily separated. The culinary craftsmen and innovative business owners at this event  and others like it throughout Wisconsin continue to build upon traditions in creative ways that provide unique and rich forms of entertainment for thrifty young people like myself and my co-bloggers!

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