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A Northwoods Brewery Road Trip

Two pilsner glasses on a bar.

Craft beer lovers, explore the Northwoods with your tastebuds on this brewery tour. Grab some friends (including a designated driver), hit the road, and follow this route to seven great local breweries this weekend!

1. Sawmill Brewing Company – Merrill

Before you get deep in the Northwoods, take Highway 51 North to Merrill. Exit 211 will bring you to County K, which you’ll follow for a couple of miles to find your first stop: Sawmill Brewing Company. Merrill’s DNR Headquarters of the 1940s was reimagined as a comfortable gathering space with high ceilings, a conference room, inviting lounge areas, outdoor seating areas, and, oh yeah, 16 taps pouring amazing Wisconsin craft brews. Ten of the 16 are filled with Sawmill’s beers, made with locally sourced ingredients. Make a stop at Sawmill Brewing Company. to enjoy their flagship beers, such as the bold Sawmill River Hog Oatmeal Stout or the crisp, mildly fruity Sawmill Cant Hook Kölsch. Or opt for a seasonal brew, such as the copper-red Oktoberfest. Enjoy Rico’s Fresh Chicken Wings from the food truck on Mondays or a bar snack like the charcuterie board any day—or you’re free to carry in food to pair with your Sawmill brews.

2. Minocqua Brewing Company – Minocqua

Head north on Highway 51 until you hit Minocqua for your second stop: the Minocqua Brewing Company. You better come hungry to MBC so you can enjoy the acclaimed microbrews along with the restaurant’s delicious food. And stick around for the live music in the lounge upstairs. Go for a sure bet, like the balanced Bear Naked Brown American Brown Ale, or try the smooth and full-bodied Pudgy Possum Porter. Staying for eats is a wise choice, as MBC aims to use the freshest locally sourced ingredients in the fine menu selections, which include the impressive beef tip poutine and the coffee-rubbed ribeye. After you finish your pints, get out and enjoy the downtown shops, beautiful Minocqua Lake, and the Bearskin State Trail, mere steps away from the doors of Minocqua Brewing Company.

3. Rocky Reef Brewing Company – Woodruff

Just a five-minute trip north on Highway 51 from our previous stop will bring you to Rocky Reef Brewing Company. This BYOF (bring-your-own-food) brewery boasts a 10-barrel brewing system and is proud of its status as a small-batch brewery in small-town Woodruff. Rocky Reef is constantly evolving its beers to provide you with the exciting opportunity to try something new at each visit. One of Rocky Reef’s interesting seasonal brews is the Stupid Sticky Fingers, an Imperial S’mores Stout, made with actual graham crackers, roasted marshmallows, and cocoa nibs.

4. Some Nerve Brewing Company – Manitowish Waters

After some R&R in the Minocqua/Woodruff area, start out fresh and take Highway 51 North to Manitowish Waters, where you’ll find Some Nerve Brewing Company. This cozy brewery and taproom are located three-quarters of a mile south of the famous Little Bohemia Lodge. Some Nerve Brewing Company’s relaxing atmosphere will entice you to stay for another round. While popcorn is available at this small mom-and-pop brewery, you’re encouraged to bring outside food as well.

5. Tribute Brewing Company – Eagle River

A scenic half-hour drive on Highways J and 70 will bring you to Tribute Brewing Company. Carrying in food or having it delivered is encouraged at the taphouse, where the brews are as interesting as the local folklore that the brewmasters can tell you. As a tribute to the mysterious ghost lights that appear in nearby Paulding, Michigan, the Ghost Lights Amber Lager’s delicate malt aroma, slightly toasted malt notes, and mild hoppy finish will have you wondering if you there is really such a thing as a lager this good.

6. Rhinelander Brewing Company – Rhinelander

From Eagle River, hop onto Highway 17 and head south into Rhinelander, where you’ll find the next stop on your journey.  Rhinelander Brewing Company dates back to 1882 and was among the most prominent local breweries in the nation at its peak! The newest incarnation of this company just opened in 2018, but you can count on a promising future ahead. If you’re in for an adventure, show up at 1 or 3 p.m. any day for a guided tasting, brewery history, a visit to the brew room, and a take-home pack—all for $12 per person. Rhinelander Brewing Company has something for all tastebuds, from the rich and sweet Chocolate Bunny Stout to the powerfully hoppy Thirsty Miner Double IPA.

7. Red Eye Brewing Company – Wausau

Head back down south on Highway 51 to round out your trip with the award-winning brews and eats at Red Eye Brewing Company in Wausau. What’s on tap changes frequently, but it’s always impressive. Current offerings include the Lakefront Pumpkin Lager and the aptly named Scrum Dilly Yum, a delicious session IPA.







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