Vintage Brewing Company deluges devotees with bountiful beers born out of Belgian, German, and American traditions. These refreshing hop-laden selections rest beside a slew of creative culinary concoctions, many of which comprise locally sourced ingredients. A plate of AJ's pretzels ($6) saunters in at the beginning of a feeding frenzy, with house-made pretzels perched on a pedestal and set to dive into a sea of VBC beer mustard and cheese dip. Vintage Brewing Company ups the burger ante with bratwurst burgers ($10.50) that explore what happens when two 4-ounce grilled brats are picked to live inside a beer-bread pretzel roll with oatmeal stout bacon sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and beer-cheese sauce. Throughout the visit, diners can pair plates with an array of bottles and cans, beers on tap, and wine.
The Old Sugar Distillery produces small-batch liquors made from Midwestern ingredients. Its cornerstone concoction, the Old Sugar Factory Honey Liqueur, is distilled from dark-brown beet sugar and then aged in a wooden womb of American oak before being subtly sweetened with pure Wisconsin honey. The Cane and Abe Freshwater Rum, named in honor of President Lincoln and his favorite criminal-scaring stick, is made with cane sugar lovingly beamed up from the saccharine states of Hawaii and Louisiana and then aged in charred American oak barrels. These luscious liquids can be sampled either by sipping a freshly made cocktail ($6) at the distillery's long wooden bar, or by buying a bottle ($30) for midnight sips in the dead chill of winter. The Old Sugar Distillery also offers free tours and tastings with up-close views of the large copper pot still.
Travelers follow Jo Daviess County's sprawling fields and undulating hills toward Massbach Ridge Winery?s 18+ acre estate. Founded by the Harmston family in 2003, the winery?s proprietors grow the grapes to concoct their batches of reds and whites. Members of the winery family escort guests on impromptu tours before rendezvousing in the tasting room or on the patio for samplings. The outdoor patio grants a heightened view of the vineyards below, which visitors can wander through on quests for vine-ripe copies of The Grapes of Wrath. In addition to its frequent tastings and tour sessions, Massbach Ridge Winery hosts a number of wine-related events each year.
Located inside a brick-hewn building reminiscent of a grand castle, the Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery recounts the history of the company’s former brewery, which dates back to 1844. Visitors tour Pabst’s corporate offices, take photos with a statue of Captain Frederick Pabst, and drink tall pints of the brewery’s concoctions. The gift shop stocks vintage Pabst memorabilia, including steins, shirts, and artwork. Best Place’s halls and courtyards can also be rented for banquets, weddings, and other events.
For casual American-style cuisine, burger-loving diners head to Water Street Brewery. Diners who avoid fat need to be careful, though, because Water Street Brewery's menu does not offer low-fat options. The bar at Water Street Brewery is fully stocked, so pair your meal with a glass of wine or beer. Take the kids along too — Water Street Brewery is a great spot for families with food that even little ones will love. Don't miss the happy hour food and drink specials, where a great bargain is always in sight. Be sure to check out Water Street Brewery's outdoor seating when the climate is right.
Always five minutes behind schedule? Pick up your food to go instead.
For drivers that fail to find luck on the street, the nearby garage is another option.
An average meal at Water Street Brewery will set you back about $30. Water Street Brewery serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, so stop by whenever is most convenient for you.
Acquaviva Winery's 40 acre estate contains more than picturesque rows of vines and trellises, though those can be found in spades, as well. The winery includes a tasting room, pizza bistro, and marketplace within a elegant edifice custom-built for the winemakers' purposes. The architecture and decor, created by artist Andrew Zabela, boasts the rich color palette and complexity associated with the high Renaissance, a brand of opulence seldom seen i the New World. Domed ceilings feature elaborate, gold-painted plaster filigrees, which, in turn, frame Zabela's hand-painted murals.
The elaborateness of the decor actually stands in stark contrast to the simplicity of the wines. "We have a minimal intervention approach to our process, creating soulful wines that express the true nature of every part of our vineyard," says wine maker Sergio Benavides, "permitting our terrior, grapes, and vines to speak for themselves." He manages every acre of the vineyards, coaxing flavor from 23 different varieties of grapes. His care and tending pay off; virtually every bottle of wine the vineyard produces, from the Bianco Bello to the Frontenac, boasts multiple awards and notes of extremely robust self esteem.