Travel Wisconsin Poll Brews Up Some Controversy

How did the “Wisconsin Brewdown” poll end up with 20 top Wisconsin breweries without a single one from Milwaukee? Social media democracy.

This summer, Travel Wisconsin launched a promotion asking the general public to choose the state’s best brewery. So far, so good.

From June 22 to 26, it sought nominations of people’s favorite Wisconsin brewery on its Facebook page. Twenty finalists in four regions were chosen based on the breweries who received the most mentions. Travel Wisconsin posted the list of 20 finalists for the Wisconsin Brewdown poll on Thursday. Craft beer fans can vote once a day until July 24 to determine the “best” brewery in Wisconsin.

Determining the finalists was a very democratic procedure. And the masses … um, may have made a few mistakes.

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No New Glarus Brewing.
No Milwaukee breweries. (Lakefront? Third Space? Good City?) 
No Madison breweries. (Karben4? Ale Asylum?)
Did I mention, no New Glarus?

Not having New Glarus, largely regarded as one of the better breweries in the United States, on the list of 20 finalists is akin to not even including Christian Yelich on the MLB All-Star ballot. It’s like checking the “fish” box on a wedding dinner menu when they’re also serving filet mignon. Even the geekiest of Wisconsin beer geeks among us didn’t recognize at least a few of the finalists. 

Travel Wisconsin certainly did its part setting up the process, which of course is all in good fun and hardly meant to be scientific. The group received more than 1,000 nominations overall and around 2,500 engagements (likes, comments or shares) with those nominations.

But apparently, the local craft beer community needs to step up its social media game. Not one of Milwaukee’s fine breweries earned a spot in the top 20; the southeast region is dominated by breweries from the Fox River Valley. Do we need some sort of Facebook tutorial? A “get out the beer vote” campaign?

“I’m sure that there were some Milwaukee breweries mentioned,” said Amanda Weibel of the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. “I saw a Lakefront Brewery comment, but (those mentions) must not have been as frequent as others.”


Cheers to the great breweries in the running for bragging rights. They’ve all earned their mention. But it’s clear that while we in this great state come together on many issues – the merits of a brandy old fashioned, the Green Bay Packers, Door County – we have some work to do when it comes to agreeing on our favorite craft breweries (also on whether or not to parboil brats).

Seriously. No New Glarus?

Here’s the list of the 20 finalists. At least we’ll have some new-to-us places to check out on our travels around the state.

Photo by Jesse Darley

Central Waters Brewing, Amherst
Pigeon River Brewing, Marion
Stubborn Brothers Brewing, Shawano
Sawmill Brewing, Merrill
Tribute Brewing, Eagle River


Bare Bones Brewery, Oshkosh
Barrel 41 Brewing, Neenah
Fifth Ward Brewing, Oshkosh
Fox River Brewing, Appleton
Racine Brewing, Racine


Adventure Club Brewing, Bayfield
Amery Ale Works, Amery
Earth Rider Brewery, Superior
Sand Creek Brewing, Black River Falls
The Brewing Projekt, Eau Claire


608 Brewing, La Crosse
Cercis Brewing, Columbus
Driftless Brewing, Soldiers Grove
Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse
Potosi Brewing, Potosi



Dan Murphy has been reviewing bars for Milwaukee Magazine for roughly 15 years. He’s been doing his own independent research in them for close to 25.