Nobody knows beer like Wisconsin folk, and when Oktoberfest USA rolls around, you’d better hold onto your stein.
One of the few traditional Oktoberfests held in the United States each year, the first Old World celebration in La Crosse took place in 1961, in conjunction with the annual festival in Munich. Some years it may be snowing while during others the sun shines brightly, but weather doesn’t stop the crowds from gathering for some beer, bratwurst, knee-slapping polka music and, of course, more beer. But what’s beer without hot dogs? The annual Wienerfest pays homage to the cased meat, practically a religion in these parts.
Kicking off summertime, the event is more than an ode to the American classic – it’s jam-packed with plenty of bands performing live. Wienerfest also shines the spotlight on its local sponsor, Bakalars Sausage Company, which has produced sausages, bratwurst and pork loin since 1935. But you don’t have to wait for one of the annual celebrations to come around to enjoy a refreshing beer. Several local microbreweries offer the same experience on a daily basis.
City Brewing Company, one of the premier beer manufacturers in the state, produces 40 different brews and more than 50 million cases of beverages every year. Take a tour to sample the product, and go home with a sixer of your favorite ale. Founded in a downtown La Crosse basement, Pearl Street Brewery now operates out of the historic La Crosse Footwear building, hosting tours and tastings of its handcrafted ales, lagers and even an organic oat stout.
If you prefer grapes to hops, Vernon Vineyards & Winery in nearby Viroqua bottles reds, whites and blushes. Or, you can check out the wine lists at a variety of downtown dining hotspots. Kate’s on State offers delectable Italian dishes, while the historic Freighthouse Restaurant serves up seafood and steaks with live music on the weekend.