Stock up on beer, cheese and meat for all your holiday entertaining with a trip to America’s Little Switzerland.

By Timothy Meinch; Photographer: Kevin J. Miyazaki
October 12, 2018
In the tiny southern Wisconsin town of New Glarus, you may have quaint shops largely to yourself on winter weekdays.

In 2016, a Minnesota bar owner and manager landed felony charges after crossing state lines with New Glarus Brewing Company's Spotted Cow. Their offense: selling the coveted (and famously "Only in Wisconsin") ale back in Minnesota. Yes, New Glarus brews are that good. But the real crime here? They only came for beer.

Steeped in delicious Swiss heritage and situated a day trip away from Madison, Chicago and Milwaukee, New Glarus is the perfect destination for a holiday pantry run. The rolling green hills of southern Wisconsin have churned out some of the country's best cheeses for a century. The town does have a streak of kitsch, but it's also home to new and established makers drawing on 170 years of culinary tradition.

In the tiny southern Wisconsin town of New Glarus, you may have quaint shops largely to yourself on winter weekdays.

Chalet-style shops and restaurants, some built by immigrants who founded the town in 1850, line First Street. Taste the European roots in the tavern-like New Glarus Hotel Restaurant, one of the village's first businesses. You'll find sauerbraten and red cabbage, Spätzli, and Wisconsin-style Old Fashioneds. For desserts, consider New Glarus Bakery across the street, making cookies, stollen and other breads since 1910. Next door, Chris Hessling recently revived Ruef's old-world meat market. Antique photos, butcher blades and cow bells on the walls, plus fun rare meats in the case, invite conversation. "I have the mentality that people take the first bite with their eyes," Chris says.

In the same block, Wisconsin's 11-time Master Cheesemaker Bruce Workman and his wife, Kathy, run Edelweiss Cheese Shop. For savvy pairing ideas, pop in after stockpiling bottles at New Glarus Brewing. (You can take the beer home to any state. Just don't sell it.) Go on a taste-and-shop tour of Bruce's cheeses, and be sure to say thanks for helping make you the favorite person at your next holiday bash.

The Butcher

Chris Hessling moved to New Glarus in 2014 with a mission: restore the art and soul of sausage making. He washed dishes at a 104-year-old meat market called Ruef's with hopes of one day buying it. Last year, after the owner passed away, he did. Chris has restored the shop's old-world charm, as well as recipes that former owner Willy Ruef established in the mid-1900s.

Holiday Essentials

Hard summer sausage Cheese and crackers' best friend, made from select cuts of beef and pork.
Cured hams The secret sauce: bourbon barrel maple syrup.
Landjaeger Double-linked dried snacking sausage (above) that's a spiritual cousin to beef jerky.

The Cheese Master

Photo: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Master Cheesemaker Bruce Workman and his 10 employees process a stunning 100,000 pounds of milk a day at Edelweiss Creamery. He specializes in 180-pound cheese wheels. In their New Glarus shop, Bruce and his wife, Kathy, happily shave off sample slices. If Bruce is around, tell him what kind of beer or wine you prefer. He's a fount of pairing inspiration.

Three to Try

Emmentaler The shop's signature Swiss-style cheese; pairs best with dark beer or red wine.
Butterkäse Semisoft, mild and creamy; great for melting or paired with white wine.
Tuscan Dream Ultra-creamy and soft; try it with a lighter red wine or lager.

The Brewer

Photo: Kevin J. Miyazaki

Dan Carey brews the beer. His wife, Deb, steers the ship. Since the couple opened their brewery in 1993 (making Deb the first woman in the U.S. to do so), New Glarus has grown into the country's 16th-largest craft brewery-without distributing beyond the state. Take a free self-guided tour, and try flagship brews like Moon Man, Spotted Cow and Two Women.

Seasonal Sips

Snowshoe Ale Copper red in color with fruity body and a spiced-hop finish.
Fat Squirrel Unfiltered brown ale sporting six varieties of Wisconsin malts.
Coffee Stout Full-bodied with roasted malts and cold-pressed organic coffee.

A New Glarus Holiday Journey

Clockwise From Top Left :New Glarus has 2,100 residents, but New Glarus Brewing averages twice that in visitors weekly. The Swiss United Church of Christ erected this downtown landmark in 1900. Cow and Quince serves farm-to-table fare. Hutch and Hide sells hip gifts with a Midwest focus.