Discovering Wisconsin’s Little Switzerland

New Glarus Brewery
The gleaming copper vats of New Glarus Brewery

A Week-end in New Glarus, Wisconsin

By Frank Hosek

While sitting in our warm car upon its heated seats, I reflected upon the fact that early spring in southern Wisconsin can bring quite the variety of weather with it while my wife, Kathy, was braving the snow-showers to take a picture of a cow standing atop of a 2-story brick building.

An early spring snow settles on the Chalet Landhaus Inn, a Swiss-themed hotel
An early spring snow settles on the Chalet Landhaus Inn, a Swiss-themed hotel

Not quite like jumping over the moon, but distinctive and a bit unusual. It is just 1 of 14 “Cows on Parade”. Okay, it was a fiberglass cow, but it certainly added to the local flavor.

Chalet-styled buildings with sloping roofs and balconies, with old-world names decorating the colorful sign boards hanging from the businesses. A blanket of new fallen snow and the occasional cow, albeit man-made, all added up to a small visage of Switzerland.

A Swiss-Style Village in Wisconsin

It was appropriate as New Glarus, Wisconsin has earned a reputation for being the “Little Switzerland” of Wisconsin, and the affectionate nickname has its roots and origins in Switzerland.

Originally settled in 1845 by 108 Swiss pioneers who fled the Canton of Glarus in Switzerland during an economic crisis; today the town of approximately 2,000 continues to embrace its Swiss heritage.

Our arrival came on a distinctly dissimilar day as the sun shone brightly under a cloudless sky, warming the countryside.  After checking into the Chalet Landhaus Inn, a Swiss-themed hotel decorated with rich scroll-work, painted balconies and cuckoo clocks, our first stop was New Glarus Brewery, home to another bovine, Spotted Cow beer.

1 of 14 “Cows on Parade” in New Glarus
1 of 14 “Cows on Parade” in New Glarus

A Cow Put This Brewery on the Map

Located at the top of a hill overlooking the edge of town, the brewery was founded by Deb & Dan Carey in 1993. Today, New Glarus and its best seller, Spotted Cow, has grown into the country’s 12th-largest craft brewery in the US and its beer is only available in Wisconsin.

The brewery currently offers free self-guided tours Monday-Friday where you can learn their incredible story and the leap-of-faith that was their beginnings. We moved past vast, gleaming copper vats with wort, through mazes of stainless steel piping filled with bubbly brew into the packaging area where endless bottles on conveyors were filled and made ready for shipping.

Wisconsin, New Glarus
The compact downtown district of New Glarus with old-world names decorating the colorful sign boards hanging from the businesses.

At the end of the tour, we browsed through their gift shop and retired to the tasting room where we indulged in a few of their current brews like Moon Man, Two Women and Wisconsin Belgian Red.

A Picturesque Downtown

Puempels’s tavern where we enjoyed an array of delicious cheeses. The genial atmosphere was a throwback to a simpler time.
Puempels’s tavern where we enjoyed an array of delicious cheeses. The genial atmosphere was a throwback to a simpler time.

Seeking some nourishment, we headed down-town and stepped into Puempel’s Olde Tavern and into a different time. The rustic historic confines have been beckoning visitors since 1893 when Joseph Puempel founded it as a boarding house and tavern. Their son Otto continued the tradition until he retired in 1992.

As we admired the ancient murals on the walls, painted by a traveling painter 1913 by an itinerant Swiss man who traded his art for room and board, Chuck Bigler, Puempels’ 3rd owner, discussed the origins and subtleties of the array of delicious cheeses on our artisan cheese plate which included almonds, pecans, and dried cranberries. The genial atmosphere was a throwback to a simpler time.

Gothic Style Church

Afterwards, we strolled past the Gothic-style, 122-year-old Swiss United Church of Christ which looms over the downtown area. The compact downtown district comprises a small group of Swiss restaurants, food and coffee shops and European-styled gift stores.

Such as The Bramble Patch, home of a huge, colorful collection of Polish pottery and the various flavors of the family’s homemade honey and maple syrup. Hutch and Hide has its eclectic array of home goods, baby clothes and cowhide rugs.

Then there’s Brenda’s Blumenladen, a magical garden center that covers an entire city block and is so much more than a garden center with its selection of clothing, candles and holiday arrangements.

Local Sausage, Wine & New Friends

Next I received an education on the surrounding area during a chance encounter while in search of some landjaeger. We met Lillian Hoesly, who along with her husband Dennis, established Hoesly Meats some 40 years ago. Located just off State highway 69 which cuts through town, they specialize in custom processing of meats.

Lillian Hoesly, who along with her husband Dennis, established Hoesly Meats some 40 years ago.
Lillian Hoesly, who along with her husband Dennis, established Hoesly Meats some 40 years ago.

Its compact retail showroom offers an eye-popping selection, including old-fashioned wieners, a large selection of Swiss-style sausage and brats, along with two kinds of bologna, landjaeger (a Bavarian-style jerky), summer sausage, and an unimaginable array of fresh meats.

Lillian is the Find

However, the great find was Lillian herself. She did not hesitate to share her love of the area. Discussing the area, its history, and also pointed to the attractions and local businesses that we needed to visit. When we inquired of dinner suggestions, she made a few recommendations and highlighted the specialties of each one.

Before leaving, she proposed a pre-dinner stop at Bailey’s Run Vineyard just a few minutes west of town. We promised to stop back before leaving town.

The entry to New Glarus Brewery
The entry to New Glarus Brewery

With a 132-foot porch, Bailey’s Run Vineyard overlooks the dormant vineyards and it was easy to imagine the beauty of spring in the rolling hills of southwest Wisconsin. Established on 12 acres of land, they serve over 2 dozen different wines in an upscale “barn”. Kathy joined in on a tasting of a half-dozen selections. The aptly named “Loopy” seemed to please her palette.

The Glarner Stube hosts a Friday night fish fry
The Glarner Stube hosts a Friday night fish fry

If someone in your party isn’t a wine drinker (like me), they offer a selection of soft-drinks & beers, including, of course, a few from New Glarus Brewing Co.

The winery is open year-round and hosts live music on the weekends. As we were leaving for dinner, an acoustic duo were setting up in the corner. If you wish to stay on through the evening, there is a wood-fired pizza oven on the premises and the pies coming out of the kitchen looked wonderful.

A Swiss Living Room

The century-old Glarner Stube which is Swiss for The Living Room of New Glarus
The century-old Glarner Stube which is Swiss for The Living Room of New Glarus

I’m told that Glarner Stube is Swiss for “The Living Room of New Glarus.” If that’s true, the quaint dining room of the Glarner Stube restaurant fits the bill.

The warm paneled interior, rows of beer steins, aged copper fondue sets and various accents provide a homey Swiss feel. We entered the century-old brick building seeking their Friday night fish fry.

Based on the surrounding conversations, it was obvious that this was a local’s hang-out which bode well.

Swiss Roesti Potatoes

We settled on cod with roesti potatoes, a classic Swiss dish of shredded potatoes and Swiss cheese that resembles a giant hash brown. Delicious!

The following morning, waking to nature’s little joke, we braved the wet flurries to visit the New Glarus Bakery for some little tidbit to share with our morning coffee.

The New Glarus Bakery was established in 1910 by Albert Wolfe. Today, this little bakery continues creating flavorful homemade breads, cookies and pastries just as it did back in 1912. Walking in from the raw cold, snowy morning, the warmth and yeasty smells embraced us.

The New Glarus Bakery was established in 1910 by Albert Wolfe. It specializes in Swiss baked goods
The New Glarus Bakery was established in 1910 by Albert Wolfe. It specializes in Swiss baked goods

While Kathy discussed the nuances of Swiss baking with the young lady behind the counter, I stuck my face against the glass cases of confectionary delights that beckoned us. We were soon heading back out into the elements with an arm full of breads, cookies and fry-cakes, a Swiss donut that proved a perfect companion to my coffee.

The interior of Puempel's Olde Tavern which has slaked visitor's thirsts since 1893
The interior of Puempel’s Olde Tavern which has slaked visitor’s thirsts since 1893

On the way out of town, we made a last stop at Hoesly meats. While her son and granddaughter catered to the busy week-end morning crowd, Lillian boxed our selection of sausages and meats. We bid her thank you and exchanged warm goodbyes before heading down the road.

The rolling hills of south central Wisconsin may not be the Alps, but we discovered a town of warm, friendly faces and a little slice of Switzerland in New Glarus.

If you go to New Glarus:

New Glarus, WI is approximately a 30 minute drive south of Madison, WI on Wisconsin Route 69.

Chamber of Commerce https://www.swisstown.com/

Chalet Landhaus Inn   https://www.chaletlandhaus.com/

New Glarus Brewery https://newglarusbrewing.com/

Hoesly Meats   https://hoeslysmeats.com/

Glarner Stube  https://www.facebook.com/glarnerstube

Puemple’s Olde Tavern    https://www.puempels.com/

New Glarus Bakery    https://newglarusbakery.com/

Frank Hosek

 

Frank Hosek is an Illinois-based Director of Human Resources who revels in traveling with his wife, Kathy.  He enjoys discovering new experiences, meeting the people that make those experiences enjoyable, and sharing their adventures. He is a freelance writer for newspapers and travel websites.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Latest posts by GoNOMAD Contributors (see all)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to Top
Skip to content