Last Friday’s blog postings about beer and travel came just before the 4th July holiday weekend – so my post is too late for the Session’s round-up posted to Beer by Bart. But since the Best of American Beer & Food contains a virtual travelogue within its covers – the first half of the book is devoted to interviews with chefs and brewers across North America – it seems right to post this brief excerpt about beer dinners, travel and inns of Wisconsin:
Small hotels and inns across the Midwest are tapping new customers with combinations of beer dinners and overnight stays. In Wisconsin, the American Club of Kohler offers a series of beer dinners on Tuesday nights, with special packages to stay overnight after sampling. Given the rich menus and lavish sampling at most beer dinners, staying overnight is a wise choice.
At a beer dinner for the Rogue Brewery, Chef Brett Muellenbach prepared a five-course meal that began with beef carpaccio paired with Dead Guy ale, a salad with a coronet of toasted rye bread paired with the Half-a-Weizen, pan-seared walleye, roasted chicken with American Ale, and topped off with the finale of Rogue 10,000 and a velvety soft chocolate cake, prepared by pastry chef Richard Palm. It was a sumptuous meal, and knowing that the comforts of a down-filled duvet and whirlpool bath awaited made the evening all the more enjoyable.
In New Glarus, Wisconsin, the Chalet Landhaus Inn prides itself on offering a taste of Swiss hospitality. That extends to special beer dinners, such as the one prepared by Chef Mike Nevil for Deb and Dan Carey of the New Glarus Brewing Co. to celebrate the brewhouse expansion. Chef Nevil used beer in several preparations, but one of the favorites was a salad topped with nutty shaved Emmentaler cheese from the Edelweiss Creamery, served with a Raspberry Tart Vinaigrette. “I took the raspberry tart beer and reduced it with some lemon juice, fresh tarragon, minced sweet onion and balsamic vinegar, and then blended that reduction into a creamy base,” says Nevil. “Brewmaster Dan Carey just loved the flavor.”
Some brewers even become innkeepers themselves. Bill and Michelle Tressler of Green Bay’s Hinterland Brewery became the proprietors of the Whistling Swan Inn, Fish Creek, in Door County, WI. Urban flavors, surrounded by intimate comfort, best describes the Whistling Swan. The menu, designed by Hinterland Executive Chef Kelly Qualley and Whistling Swan Executive Chef Adam Schierl explores contemporary American cuisine. Their journey to create bold flavors traverses a diverse selection of locally foraged produce, wild game, freshwater and ocean fish. “It’s been a tremendous adventure,” says Tressler of the decision to become an innkeeper.
And Leah Caplan, a chef turned innkeeper in Wisconsin at the Washington Hotel, relishes the relationships she’s able to nurture with local foragers, farmers, fishermen, and now, the Capital Brewery. She even plans to bring in a guest chef for a beer cooking class each summer. “I’m more of a wine drinker,” Caplan admits, “but my guests all love beer, too.” At the very least, craft beer can be an equal at the table and in the mini-bars of more hotels and inns.