Q&A with Kathy Flanigan, Author of ‘Beer Lover’s Wisconsin’

Kathy Flanigan crisscrossed Wisconsin to get to as many breweries, brewpubs and beer bars as is humanly possible in five months.

Beer Lover's Wisconsin Book
Photo courtesy of Kathy Flanigan.

The result of Flanigan’s beerstorming tour was Beer Lover’s Wisconsin, a 232-page book outlining Badger State beer spots, published in September 2017. In her book, Flanigan provides insightful scene-setting nuggets about more than 120 breweries and other beer-centric locales in the state. It serves as a comprehensive overview of beer in Wisconsin and would do equally well as a travel guide.

I asked Kathy a few questions about her tour and what it was like to see Wisconsin through a pint glass.

When did it all start?

I started visiting breweries, well I always do that here, but I started going further into the rest of the state in the summer of 2016.

Your barnstorming tour was a quick one.

It’s not like it’s hard. But yeah, I had a pretty tight turnaround. Time-wise you can see why I missed a few breweries, but it is kind of amazing that I got a few in at the last minute. I started in June and the book was due in October. So it took weekends and vacation time to do it.

How many breweries did you make it to? You had to sample at least one at each place, right?

I don’t know how many are in the book anymore, but I made it to at least 98 percent of them. It’s easier for me to talk about the ones I didn’t get to in some ways. I left a lot of beer on the table, but I tried beer at all of them. I got flights at all of them so I could sample as many as I could.

There were weekends when I did nine breweries. There was one day where my husband and I went from Milwaukee to Minocqua Brewing to Rocky Reef in Woodruff to Eagle River and Tribute Brewing and then down to Bull Falls Brewery and Red Eye Brewing in Wausau. We stayed in Wausau that night. That was all in one day.

Did you ever get tired of beer?

Yeah, I did. But they’re all so different. I already need to do my second round. There’s one woman in Michigan who’s been to all the breweries in Michigan and I think I can beat that. I think it’s time to do a second round because there are so many new ones, especially around Oshkosh and in the Fox Valley area.

Was there anything about the experience that surprised you?

I think if I had this book to do over again I would really write it from the perspective of what beer offers communities. Bloomer is a pretty small town and they have a brewery. For this man (Dan Stolt) brewing is a labor of love to bring back pre-Prohibition beers. He opened Bloomer Brewing Company in an old brewery building. On a Saturday afternoon at like four o’clock it wasn’t packed, but the people who were there just love it and they couldn’t stop talking about it.

Were there any places that were favorites or hidden gems?

She’s not there anymore, but at Thirsty Pagan in Superior, Allyson Rolph was the head brewer. Her sours were perfect for a really hot afternoon and we sat there and drank one after the other. They were really delicious.



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 20 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for a few years more.