Battle of the Breweries in Green Bay
All photos by Kevin Gibson.
Green Bay, Wisc., is famous for the Packers, cheese and bratwurst. But it’s tough to imagine any of those three without beer being in the mix.
And while it’s a Miller town (MillerCoors is just down the road in Milwaukee, and Miller Lite is a key sponsor at Lambeau Field), Green Bay residents like their craft beer as well. New Glarus beers, made in New Glarus, Wisc., are everywhere, and there are several breweries.
But the two most enduring, interestingly, are right across the street from one another in the small city’s downtown area: Hinterland Brewery, which opened in 1995, and Titletown Brewing Co., which opened its doors in 1996. Both are staples that pay tribute to the city’s football tradition with beers bearing names like Packerland Pilsner (Hinterland) and Dark Helmet Schwarzbier (Titletown, which is the nickname for which Green Bay is known thanks to said football tradition).
However, they are very different creatures. Titletown actually consists of a small restaurant set in an old train depot, as well as a brewery and taprooms nearby in the larger complex nearby, which was once a vegetable processing factory.
The former is a quaint, family-friendly space with the distinct feel of an English pub, from fireplaces and lots of dark wood to antique signage, while the latter is a modern, spacious area with a first floor taproom and a rooftop companion. (Titletown was named Best Brewpub in the nation by 10Best.com this year.)
Hinterland, meanwhile, is in an old building across the street that was once a meat-packing warehouse, and features an upscale dining experience (owners Michelle and Bill Tressler own other restaurants in Green Bay as well).
I stopped with my girlfriend at Titletown for lunch and beer tasting recently. The macaroni and cheese pizza was surprisingly good, but it was the beer I was most interested in. I was impressed by the Boathouse Pilsner, a Bohemian-style, as well as the Schwartzbier, which was medium-bodied but packed a chocolaty flavor.
In addition, the CTRL ‘Alt’ Delete was a hoppier version of a classic German ale, and the 366 Pale Ale, a single-hopped pale which made a perfect pairing for our pizza. Meanwhile, a seasonal Berlinerweiss was an unusually light version, crisp and thin with just 3.0 percent ABV, and the Green 19 IPA, which was so good and so well balanced that I ended up taking home a six-pack.
After lunch, we walked across the street to Hinterland, where I enjoyed yet another sampler (thank goodness Cynthia was driving). The ambience at Hinterland is decidedly different, with more elegant accessories and a more upscale vibe overall. Suffice to say I felt more at home in my vintage Packers jersey at Titletown, yet didn’t feel unwelcome at Hinterland in the least.
The Packerland Pilsner was my first taste, and scored well with a clean finish helped along by Saaz hops. The pale ale bore a lovely, grainy aroma that gave way to a light body and a spicy hop finish. The IPA featured grapefruit notes in the aroma and a similar spicy finish to the pale, if a bit more bitter.
But the two standouts were a cask-conditioned ale called “Oh Yeah!” Hop Punch, a pale ale cask-fermented and infused with pineapple tea. Normally, I think of a bigger challenge to the palate from a cask beer, but this one was a tropical explosion. In addition, the Luna Stout, made with local coffee from Luna Café & Roastery, was a winner. Amazing, bold coffee flavor in a rich, enjoyable beer. Perfect for those cold Green Bay winters.
The great thing about both of these breweries is that they are what they set out to be – they really aren’t competing other than the fact they both make good craft beer. Which is to say I enjoyed them both immensely, for different reasons.
It should be noted that next year Hinterland will move into a 20,000 square feet facility in a new business area called the Titletown District, just west of Lambeau Field, where it will be a co-anchor of the new space aimed at visiting Packers fans. After 21-plus years as neighbors, Titletown and Hinterland will end up across town from each other.
(And one last note: If you’re in Green Bay, definitely stop by Badger State Brewing Co., right by the stadium. You won’t be sorry.)