I was recently in Wisconsin, where the main purpose of the trip was to participate in the “Trivia Unplugged” trivia contest. Each April, the University of Wisconsin Stevens Point holds an annual radio trivia contest in which I’ve participated since 1985. This is the second edition of Unplugged, an old-school, no reference, top-of-the-head you know it or you don’t and you guess contest. I could have flown into Wausau, the closest airport, but decided to fly into/out of Minneapolis.
I’ve wanted to visit the Leinie Lodge as soon as I heard of it. Also, there was another brewery to visit. In 25 years of traveling to Point, Wisconsin, I had never toured the brewery!
Clearly the Point Brewery is a major tourist attraction as there is good signage. (Much easier to find than, say, the Boston Beer Company facility.) Friday and Saturday tours sell out, and reservations are a must, and there is a $3.00 charge for the 45 minute tour. This was one of the most accessible tours; guests can take pictures, look into tanks, even spend a few minutes walking around the warehouse. The guide was very enthusiastic, which always adds to the fun.
After viewing all aspects of production and bottling, guests are lead to the “Friendship Room” for a short (maybe 15 minute) time to sample beer and soda. There is a sign limiting people to three beer samples. There were nine beers on tap, plus several of the Whole Hog series in bottles. I had the Pumpkin Ale which was good but a little disappointing. I didn’t catch any of the spices or pumpkin hints. The Burly Brown was better.
Some fun facts: Point is America’s fourth oldest brewery in continuous operation; during Prohibition, Orange Crush was produced. The mascot, Nicholas C. Point, is based on an employee from the 19th century. No, his head did not originally look like that! The gift shop is located in the original building, dating to 1857. The Point Brewery is one year older than the City of Stevens Point. The brewery is “located” at the corner of Beer and Water Streets, though Mapquest doesn’t show one of these…
The Leinie Lodge has a very inviting “northwoods” concept, a place for buddies to share beers and stories by the fireplace after a day outdoors in the wild skiing, hiking, or snowmobiling. This is also a 45 minute tour. Guests are given a handstamp and three drink tickets when checking in. Tours are offered quite frequently, but do get filled. The brewery is in a park-like setting, there’s a bridge and bike trail that separates the lodge from the brewery, and the complex is one of the most beautiful I’ve ever toured, with the barn, painted sign, and historic buildings.
It’s also one of the few with an elevator, which is located in the building constructed in the most recent expansion. In most breweries, guests climb one to three sets of stairs to see everything. No indoors photos are permitted, which is a sabotage. During the tour, the knowledgeable guide mentioned that Leinie is the fourth largest craft brewery in the U.S.
She said she had a prize for the person who could name the largest. Immediately I said, “The Boston Beer Company/Sam Adams,” for which I got a Honey Weiss 15th anniversary button. Cool!
Ten beers were on tap in the Lodge. The beer pictured is the Berry Weiss or “Barry White” as I call it; I am 3/4 German. It’s one of the few fruit-flavored beers I actually like. Most are way too sweet. The guide and bartenders recommend mixed drinks such as the Honey Bear, the Honey Weiss and Berry Weiss. I’m a beer purist and rarely mix beers, but did have the Black Bear, the Berry Weiss and Creamy Dark.
Leinie Fun Facts: this is America’s seventh oldest brewery. The biggest year round seller is Honey Weiss; the Summer Shandy, however, is their best selling summer variety. The current owner is never mentioned on the tour, and the fact that the brewery is “family owned” is mentioned several times.
Enjoy the rest of the pictures in the photo gallery!
By Lee Salawitch