This installment of Trips on a Tank takes us to the "Legend of the Northwoods". We traveled 90 miles west to Chippewa Falls to see what's brewing at Leinenkugel's.
It's the sound so many look forward to every summer, cracking open a refreshing Summer Shandy. Chances are good you have a few bottles in your own refrigerator, or you know someone who does. But did you ever stop and think about what it takes to get there? For the answer, you have to travel back in time about 145 years.
It started with Jacob Leinenkugel. His family, his parents and four brothers came over here from Germany. His father was a brewmaster there and continued that when they came to Wisconsin. When those brothers grew up, they scattered all over the state, starting their own breweries. Jacob landed in Chippewa Falls, starting a rather small operation out of his house, pumping out just 200 barrels of beer a year. Then he built the brewery you see today, where he upped that to 400 a year.
These days they're at about a quarter million barrels a year. It's about 1000 cases an hour as far as the bottling line is concerned; about 460 bottles a minute.
Thousands make the trip to Chippewa Falls every year to get a behind-the-scenes look at the Leine's legend for themselves. You'll see the whole complicated process, from the very first ingredients getting mixed in to cooking them all together to the brew kettle room. The brew kettle phase is where they'll mix in the hops, break down the hops pellets, mix everything together.
Even after all that though, it's still not beer as you know it yet, and it won't be that way for another few weeks; darker beers usually take longer.
Leine's is as proud of their fermenting process as they are of the family behind it, and the bloodline runs deep here in Chippewa Falls. The 5th generation operates the brewery while the 6th generation is poised to take over.
When the tour is over, your last stop is the Leine Lodge, then it's time for some free samples.
Perhaps one of the best parts about the tour is that it's free! It can get pretty busy up there in the summer though, so they suggest you call ahead and make reservations at (715) 723-5557.