Saturday, August 13, 2011
BREW Tour, Bike Ride Exploring Wisconsin
While riding through the rolling hills of rural farmland in southwest Wisconsin with its clear blue sky and one’s mind turns to the thoughts of pizza, there are two words that set the framework for southwestern Wisconsin pizza-“Beer” and “Cheese”. Yes this is the land of beer and cheese. Dairy farms dot the country side with the distinctive red barns and contrasting black and white spotted cows, the Holsteins. This is America’s dairy land. And one of its tastiest products is cheese. You see the cheese shops everywhere. The other thing that typifies this part of the country is beer. Every little town has several bars to service the local population and there are also many micro and craft breweries with history going back over 150 years. Cheese and Beer. So naturally one would expect the local pizzas to lead with cheese. Heaping mounds of cheese cover the top of sauce and ingredients. It is baked to a golden brown and very delicious. The pizzas in this part of the country scream, “this is dairy land”. The “cheese” part of “Cheese and Beer” is pretty obvious as a main ingredient for pizza in all parts of the country but beer? You might say, “That’s obvious as well, everyone likes a cold beer with pizza”. And while that might be true, the connection between beer and pizza in southwest Wisconsin goes beyond a compliment to a good slice. In Wisconsin one seeks out a cold beer in the local bars and taverns and that is where virtually all pizza is found as well. Don’t know that we saw a stand alone pizza restaurant in any town we passed through. But when asking for a recommendation as to where to find the areas best pizza, a local tavern was always what was mentioned. We sampled two tavern pizzas. The first in Mineral Point, was at the Midway Bar. I never did find out what two points that it was midway between, but I did discover what made this pizza special. A letter sized sign taped to the wall proudly announced that Midway pizza was made with fresh Wisconsin provolone cheese. It was a delightful change from the standard mozzarella. It received a 3 ½ spoke rating with deductions for prefab crust and canned mushrooms. The second was the Sportsman’s Bar and Grill in New Glarus which proudly listed on its moniker outside the establishment, “Homemade Pizza”. As typical of the area it was smothered on top with cheese baked to a golden brown of the traditional mozzarella variety. It earned a handsome 3 ¾ spoke rating due to its delightful crispy crust and fresh mushrooms with a healthy but not over the top portions of remaining ingredients on the deluxe.