After touring the National Brewery Museum in Potosi, WI, we had lunch at the Potosi Brewing Company brew pub that is attached to the museum. Actually, before we took the tour, we checked in at the brew pub's front desk and saw if we could make a reservation. The manager said, "We're going to be pretty busy today and we have a lot of reservations."
I told him that we were going to go through the museum and wondered if we could make a reservation for an hour later. He said, "I'm sure we can fit you in. Just come on back after your done and we'll get you in."
It took us about 45 minutes to fully go through the National Brewery Museum and we were a little early for our table. But it didn't appear that it was all that busy when we went back to the hostess stand and we were promptly seated at a small table near the front of the restaurant.
The Potosi Brewing Company was originally founded in 1852 when German immigrants Gabriel Hail and John Albrecht started a small brewery to serve beer to local farmers, fishermen and miners. In 1886, Adam Schumacher bought the brewery and 20 years later, with brothers Henry and Nicholas, they renamed their brewery the Potosi Brewing Company. At one point in time, the Potosi Brewing Company was brewing and marketing beers such as ("Good Old") Potosi, Holiday, Augsburger, and Garten Brau, and it was the fifth largest brewery in Wisconsin in terms of barrel production.
In 1972, Potosi Brewing Company ceased operations. But as I chronicled in my previous post on the National Brewery Museum, Galena, IL woodworking artisan Gary David came in and bought the run-down property in 1995. After years of renovation, the museum and brew pub opened in June of 2008.
Originally, the members of the Potosi Brewery Foundation - the non-profit group that oversees the brewpub and museum - turned to Steve Zuidema of the Front Street Brewery in Davenport (one of our favorite brewpubs in the Quad Cities) to become the first brewmaster for the brewery. Using the natural spring water that poured out of the bluffs above Potosi, Zuidema came up with a handful of beers to help get the brewery started.
After helping the brewery get up and running, Zuidema went back to run Front Street Brewery full time (his wife, Jennie Ash, had been overseeing the day-to-day operation in his absence) and the Foundation brought in former Bell's Brewery brewmaster Steve Buszka to run the brewery. Buszka was the brewmaster at Bell's (then known as the Kalamazoo Brewing Company) for ten years before going on to over see the brewing and distilling process at Liquid Manufacturing in Brighton, MI. After three years there, he joined Potosi Brewing Company in 2009.
Jeremy Culbertson was the original head chef at Potosi Brewing Company when it opened in 2008. Culbertson is now the sous chef at Caroline's Restaurant at the recently renovated Hotel Julien Dubuque in Dubuque, IA. In Culbertson's place as the head chef at Potosi Brewing is 24-year-old Jerry Hollis. A native of Freeport, IL, Hollis studied at the Sullivan University Culinary School in Louisville. After working at Brendan O'Shea's Restaurant in Louisville, and later at the Heidel House Resort in Green Lake, WI, Hollis took over the menu at Potosi Brewing Company earlier this year.
The main dining area of the brew pub was designed and built by Gary David utilizing the stone walls and implementing a high wooden ceiling in the room. The bar and back bar was also made by hand by David and the bar features inlaid depictions of beer glass complete with foam tops. The stools, we were told at the museum, were fashioned from old oaken barrels that were used to store beer in the old brewery nearly a 100 years before.
Our waitress came over to give us our menus and she noticed that we had yellow bands on our wrists - our "free beer" wristbands for going through the museum. We looked through the beer menu at the available beer and we both settled on getting the Snake Hollow India Pale Ale. We were given 10 oz. glasses (regular glasses are pints) for our free beer. And it was pretty good.
The menu at Potosi Brewing Company is a good mix of entrees such as honey glazed salmon, Potosi root beer glazed pork chops, walleye, some pasta and other Midwestern types of food. They have an extensive burger and sandwich menu, as well as a number of appetizers. One of their more famous appetizers is the beer cheese soup - a blend of their Potosi Pilsner beer and hearty Wisconsin cheddar cheese. We both got a cup of that, and it was very good.
I wasn't looking for any type of a big meal, but I thought a sandwich or a burger would tie me over. They had a burger on the menu that was topped with bacon, cheddar cheese and barbecue sauce. Then they topped if all with a homemade pretzel bun. I thought that sounded good and I ended up ordering that. A side of fries came with the burger, as well as a cup of cole slaw.
Cindy ended up ordering the grilled chicken and blue cheese sandwich, also with a side of fries and cole slaw. She didn't drink all of her Snake Hollow pale ale, so I finished that off and ordered another one for me.
Our meals showed up and the presentation was very nice, although it looked a little sparse on the large plates.
My burger was cooked perfectly to my taste. I ordered it medium, but it had a little bit of pink throughout. The bun, on its own, was fabulous. Cindy ate her chicken breast with a knife and fork, eschewing the top of the pretzel bun. I ended up taking her bun top and tearing off pieces of it to dip in some of her remaining beer cheese soup. The bun was out of this world - one of the best buns I've ever had on a burger. It was slightly toasted, but the bun had a hard outer shell that was both chewy and flavorful. A great bun makes a great burger and this was pretty damn good.
The French fries were OK, but nothing all that special. And even with ample amounts of paprika on top of the cole slaw, I found it to be somewhat bland. I had a couple bites and called it quits with that.
Cindy said her grilled chicken sandwich was very good, even without the bun. She said it was juicy and had a good charred taste to it. And the blue cheese topping was a nice compliment. She was overly happy with what she got.
The only bitch I had was that our waitress didn't write down our order and I had asked for the barbecue sauce on the side of the burger. Unfortunately - and as I feared would happen - it came with the barbecue sauce on top. I'm not as fond of barbecue sauce on a burger and I would have liked to have dipped my fries in the sauce. But she had three large tables in addition to us, so she was a little frazzled and I don't think she paid much attention to us. In fact, I had ordered a glass of the Potosi Pilsner when she brought our meal out and she completely forgot to bring it to me. My burger was 3/4's down my gullet when Cindy finally got her attention as she was rushing back to remind her of my beer. By that time, I almost didn't want it. But she finally did bring it and it was very good.
After we finished our lunch and paid, we walked out onto the outdoor patio area. Cindy said, "Why didn't we eat out here?" I said I really didn't know. They never offered outdoor seating to us when we first checked in. It was sort of a hot and humid day with hazy sunshine and the air was pretty still. And not every table had an umbrella to shade us from the sun. That may have been one of the reasons we weren't told of the outdoor seating option.
The outdoor beer garden had a nice little koi pond (above right) that was fed by the natural spring running out of the bluffs. It was a nice relaxing area that would have been nice to hang out in for both just a beer or for having a good meal at Potosi Brewing Company.
I'd heard the Potosi Brewing Company had good food and we were far from disappointed with both the food and the beer. It was a busy day and we thought it would be nice to come up to Potosi again at some point when it wouldn't be as busy. But the Potosi Brewing Company and the National Brewery Museum are destination points for people from all over Eastern Iowa, Northwest Illinois and Southwestern Wisconsin. A lot of weekend motorcyclists were swarming into town along with the car loads of people from Madison, Dubuque and other points in the area. While there's not a lot to see in Potosi proper, the brewpub and museum are a great stopping point. It's about a 75 minute drive from our home and I'm sure we'll be back at some point down the road.