Thursday, January 14, 2016

Local Beer For Your Manitowoc "Making A Murderer" Adventure

If internet discussion is a gauge to how many people have watched the documentary Making a Murderer, than I assume everyone on earth has watched the 10 part Netflix series. That means, assuming someone is reading this, that you have watched or at least heard of the show. Don't worry, I won't spoil anything for you. What I am here to do is get you ready for your journey to the actual city of Manitowoc.

"What is there to do besides look at a salvage yard?" 

"Do all of the folks in town sound like they came straight from the Fargo movie set?"

"Can I get a good beer after all of these questions have been answered?"

No matter how you feel about the shows outcome, it's time to discover this now famous city - outside of the salvage yard.

So lets dive in. One of the major features of Manitowoc is its location on Lake Michigan. While most of the documentary revolved around rural Manitowoc County, the cities of Manitowoc and Two Rivers border one of the greatest of lakes. That fact alone makes Manitowoc a draw for outdoor enthusiasts looking for boating, sailing or even paddling adventures. When you're out on the water, salmon fishing is very popular in Manitowoc. Manitowoc holds a Salmon Derby every summer, so if you want to test your sport fishing skills, make sure you look out for the dates of the derby.

The SS Badger coming into Manitowoc Marina photo via Rich Evenhouse
Beyond the recreational water fun, Manitowoc has a very unique Lake Michigan feature, a car ferry. The SS Badger offers daily service in the spring, summer and fall from Manitowoc to Ludington, MI and back. For anyone wanting to get back and forth between the 2 states, the car ferry is the most direct route and adds a little fun to your trip (plus you get to avoid Chicago traffic).

Just because it isn't Florida, doesn't mean there isn't a beach!  photo via Aaron Carlson
Getting in the water isn't your thing? Manitowoc also has a fantastic marina to relax at. Watch the sun rise on the breakwater or watch the boats go out for a daily catch. Down the street from the marina is a docked WWII US sub that you can tour along with the Wisconsin Maritime Museum that it is attached to. There is no museum that tells the history of Great lakes shipping like this museum. If sand is your idea of a good day, Two Rivers has miles of beach to spend building castles or skipping rocks.

With your recreation covered, it's time to tackle a little food before we get to the beer. You have never had a burger and fried cheese curds, until you have had them from Late's. Honestly, I don't care where you are from, your burger is just a little worse than the one you would be eating from Late's. Not a burger fan, try the double brat on a kaiser roll.

After you're done with that, your dessert is waiting for you at Beernstens Confectionary (yes if you're a fan of the show it is that Beernsten family). The ice cream sundaes and candy are the food of your childhood dreams. The buidling, and benches and snack bar area are all from a happier more simple time. Situated in the old downtown of Manitowoc, Beernstens is perfected located to walk to from any shopping or the marina.

The now infamous Manitowoc County Courthouse photo via Jimmy Emerson
But as always, our focus is filled with local booze filled dreams. And Manitowoc doesn't disappoint when it comes to the local beer department. For people stopping here on a Netflix quest, the local microbrewery is right across the street from one of the major features of the documentary, the Manitowoc County Courthouse (double bonus).

The Courthouse Pub is housed in a fantastic turn of the 20th century building. Before prohibition the building was a local beer hall. During and after prohibition the building was expanded and became a restaurant. Now the history of the building thrives as not only a restaurant, but also as the only microbrewery in the city. Conveniently located, the Courthouse Pub is impossible to miss (the courthouse dominates the area) and is steeped in history.

"But what about the beer?"

The Courthouse Pub has a rotation of around a dozen regulars and seasonal brews available at the brewery and for take out in a growler. Most of the time there are about 5 brews available on tap. Most of the brews have a fun name associated with justice (I will not comment on Manitowoc justice), and many of them are an innovative fun take on traditional beer styles. That's one of the reasons I love microbreweries, without the constraints of large production a microbreweries beer can be a little more "fun".

Fantastic beer awaits your stop at the Courthouse Pub
The secret to success though at the Courthouse Pub is that the traditional beers produced there are top class. You can't be innovative if you don't nail the originals and my favorite beer there is the Munich Helles. Many breweries don't bother with a true original like this light marzen style beer, but those who do have a lot to live up to. The Courthouse Pub does a wonderful job keeping this beer free of "over-bitterness", while still giving it a nice malt bill.

Another top beer for me at the Courthouse Pub is the Black Peppered Lager. For me it's a cross between a saison and a lager. It has all the body of German lager, medium boldness and easy to drink with a spicy finish that adds to that body. It's a very fun lager that doesn't go overboard in multiple flavors.

The team at the brewery has done a nice job of using seasonal fruits and veg as well, wait veg? yes there is a butternut squash ale that I unfortunately have only heard about from folks who have had it. I have had the summer raspberry ale though and can confirm that it is one of the few raspberry flavored ales that doesn't either taste like sweat socks or wine cooler. It's subtle in fruit but there beyond the aroma. Ability to use fruit and veg is important, and the Courthouse Pub nails it.

So there's a little taste of the Manitowoc I know. How does he know so much you may ask? Well, I've been traveling to Manitowoc my whole life. I was born there and it has been a place that I've gone back to with joy ever since I can remember. I haven't lived there since I was a baby, but I can confirm that I do say "yah" a lot and may even slip in a "dontchya know". If you told me 2 months ago that any of these things would have actually been pop-culture references (beaches in Manitowoc county, the county courthouse, Manitowoc) I would have called you nuts.  It really is a good town to make a stop in, especially on a Great Lakes tour, but more than anywhere, don't drink and drive after your solid local beer, I've heard the sheriffs department is tough to deal with.