This is a massive place on a hilltop that dominates the small town beneath it. You pass the old NG brewery on the left as you approach the new brewery, and sours are still brewed at the old facility. The new place has tons of parking, once you navigate the windy road up the hill. Many buildings, each with different functions, so itís worth poking your head into each one that doesnít have a "brewers only" sign. You can stroll around the brewery itself, large and impressive. There are several stores, but the highlight is a massive multi-level patio out back with multiple tasting areas, tables, and faux abbey ruins. We visited for an R&D release which was not crowded at all. Very well organized, although that system leaves you with multiple bracelets and indelible ink marks. Tasters of three beers was $8. They allow outside bottles and coolers, so tons of folks were sharing bottles among the tables. Earns its nickname as the Disneyland of Breweries, but in a good way.
Although it has a "in the middle of nowhere" reputation, itís not too hard to find. Itís right off the main road into and out of the town. Coming from the south, the landscape was picturesque even before arriving on the New Glarus Brewing campus / farm. What they did with the driveway was pretty impressive as well - although I could see being terrifying in icy conditions - and very scenic. Parking was ample, the staff was friendly, enthusiastic, and knowledgeable. The gift shop and bottle shop where both abundantly stocked and almost overwhelming. You can basically buy whatever beer theyíre currently distributing in bottle form from their bottle shop. The samples are prices in groups of three for $3.50, and theyíre pretty healthy 3 oz pours - so you can try everything they have on tap without breaking the bank - although be careful because the food options are limited (although I couldíve bought cheese and sausage from the gift shop now that I think of it). There were nine options on tap when I was there, and they were all available for sale in bottle form, plus a few others that werenít on tap in the sample room. It definitely had a beer wonderland feel to it - a worthwhile stop for the casual tourist or beer adventurer.
As far as a brewery experience goes (without doing a "hardhat tour", by the way), this place is pretty awesome. They built the production facility with glass walls everywhere, so you can just walk throught the brewery yourself and look at what is going on everywhere. Going there for an event (to buy R and D Peach) was pretty fun too. Plenty of bottle sharing in line, very well organized, and you could enjoy the outdoor "taproom" afterward. I docked them a couple points for food, because they donít really offer anything, and when they do, it is pretty limited (only pizza when I was there for the R and D Peach release... it was pretty good pizza, though). New Glarus itself is also cool, but small and sort of a one day thing, but there is plenty of cross-promotion between the businesses there, including the brewery. Overall, I really like it (Iíve been there four times already, and Iím sure Iíll be back plenty more).
(Visited 08/2014): New Glarus is located in beautiful farm country outside of Madison. Parking is available in multiple areas.
The brewery is gigantic and is laid out like a famstead, and and offers both guided and self-guided tours. There is a gift shop and bottle shop, as well as a beer garden which offers a gorgeous view of the surrounding area.
The beer selection in the beer garden included 9 selections, with some more common options as well as Strawberry Rhubarb, There And Back, Belgian Red and Moon Man. There is a token-based system for ordering the beers, and the ones I tried were excellent.
Service at the beer tents and in the stores was good. The bottle shop has all the year-round brews plus seasonals and Thumbprint choices.
New Glarus does not serve food.
All in all this place lived up to and in some ways surpassed my expectations, and I would love to go back again.
I love the modern buildings made to look like they were imported from the German countryside. I also love that they put their fermentors into massive buildings made to look like barns. Beer garden area continues to be improved. There is a store near the parking lot - prices are the same or a touch higher than some of the big places in Madison, but youíll find everything the brewery is currently offering. If you are entering town from the North, be on the lookout for their original brewery (it will be on the left hand side before you reach the little downtown area stoplight). Youíll see the new ísour caveí building entrance and their original brewery where they still make their fruit beers and really hoppy beers. There are íhardhatí tours available at their original brewery but only on Fridays and they fill up online with reservations really quickly. Tours at the Hilltop Brewery are self-guided, though they often have a staff member stationed somewhere who can answer (some) questions. I really like this place!
Set up to accommodate the throngs of beer geeks that journey there. The beers are good (especially any fruit anything) but the experience came off a little sterile and artificial to me. Of course I had to go and see for myself, but a return trip isnít likely.
Stopped in about noon on a Sunday and the parking lot was only about a quarter full. Unfortunately, getting there was a bit difficult and required some guess work. The GPS didnít know the address existed. Fortunately, the route it sent us on made us drive right by the hill itís located on, so we were able to guess where to turn off. You have to go up a winding road to the top of a hill to get here, but once you are up to the top, itís a beautiful place. It has an old timey European farmhouse feel to it. Lotís of stonework and wood on the outside. As you go in, you can hit the tap room, the merchandise room, or the bottle room. I recommend hitting the tap room first, then take the self guided tour of the facility as you drink, and then hit up the merch and then the bottles. The merch store has a lot of fun stuff. I ended up getting a t shirt, some stickers, and a sweet pilsener glass. I could have really loaded up here if money was no object. The self guided tour was fun and I got some cool pictures of the operation. The big copper kettles are really impressive. The bottle shop in the bottom has a lot of their beers to offer. I got about a case of stuff from here. If ever I am passing through here again, I will definitely want to stop back in just to see whatís new.
Just a great place to go visit or enjoy a beer. I love the self guided tour, you can see what you want as fast or slow as you want to. The gift shop has plenty of things to choose from, and the new(ish) beer garden is nice.
Visited on the way from Chicago to The House on the Rock. Beautiful brewery on beautiful grounds. Everything is so new and clean, which you get to see on your self guided tour. The outdoor area is really worth a view, set up like old ruins overlooking some nice scenery. The gift shop had lots of swag and prices were hefty. You can do a tasting for 3.50, you get 4 samples and get to keep the sampling glass. Nothing all that special on tap basic stuff and Serendipity. The store had lots of regular beer, the Anniversary 500mL, 2 fruit beers. Prices were similar to everywhere else in Madison. Worth a stop if you have the time but not really something I highly recommend. However, if I lived in Madison I would probably come out on many nice weekends.
Itís a bit strange place. Itís like a movie set without any originality. Samples only by threes. No Raspberry Tart available which I came here for. I was disappointed. The village of New Glarus was more interesting than the brewery... unfortunately.