Sunday, November 29, 2015

Have a Sip: Three of Milwaukee's Lesser-known Brewery & Winery Tours

As winter approaches, we Wisconsinites are always looking for fun things to do on the weekends that are, well, warm.  A brewery tour or winery tour is a great way to spend the day (you probably have some in your area that you visit).  While you may be familiar with the bigger Milwaukee brewery tours, such as Miller and Pabst, there are many smaller ones to visit.  Here are 3 of them:

You may or may not be familiar with Sprecher.  They were founded in 1985, and are described as the area's first craft brewery since Prohibition.  Located on the north-side suburb of Glendale, their tour consists of a talk about the different ingredients that make up beer, and it's difference from other malt beverages, then a tour of the plant including the bottling and shipping areas, seen below.

At the end of the tour, patrons over 21 can sample up to 20 different beers in a, in my opinion, very large shot glass.  Or, if you don't like beer or are under 21, you can sample up to 10 of their flavored sodas.  You can also buy beverages along with shirts, bottle openers, and even frozen pizzas, in their gift shop.

 2) Cedar Creek Winery

Cedarburg is a gorgeous smallish city north of Milwaukee that is a great place to visit any time of year.  But during the holidays, it's decked out liked a country Christmas card.  On the north side of Washington Street, Cedarburg's main street, is the Cedar Creek Winery and Shops, which holds a lengthy tour daily.  You start off by watching a video on the history of the winery, then get a tour of the antique equipment they used to use to make their wine, and the casks used to store the wine and other mulled beverages, such as cider, seen below.

Their wine casks are huge, and kept in their limestone-walled cellar, ideal for fermenting and aging their wines to perfection.

When my friends and I visited last year, the tour guide said the casks were large enough that a tall man could stand upright in them, so one of the visitors had to try it:

3) Milwaukee Brewing Company

This brewery tour is by far my favorite of the ones I've done so far.  The brewery is located on the south side of Milwaukee, on 2nd Street, and you can tell the tour guides have a lot of fun and are passionate about their product.  They crack a lot of jokes, engage with the visitors, and contribute a lot to the relaxed atmosphere brewery tours should have.  Head brewer Robert Morton studied at the Culinary Institute of the Arts in New York, and infused their beer with different flavor combinations, usually in seasonal varieties. 

The brewers even add fun to the machinery they use:

The brewery holds a 5:00 PM "Open House" on Saturdays, where visitors can sample seasonal beers and socialize with patrons as well as the brewers themselves.
In addition to these three breweries/wineries, you can find other tours here.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

First Snow of Fall 2015

Southern Wisconsin received its first accumulation of snow this weekend.  Although it's rare for us to get snow before Thanksgiving, it's not unheard of.  I went out this morning and took advantage of the sun and freshly laid snow to get some landscape photos around Hoyt Park in Wauwatosa, not far from where I live.

The interesting thing about having snow this time of year is the juxtaposition of the remaining fall color and the wintery dusting.

I don't know how long this round of snow will last since the temperature is supposed to go back up into the 50's again later this week.  And, I'm sure we will all be sick of the snow by February, but for right now, it sure is pretty.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Favorite Flower #2: The Chrysanthemum

In a previous post, I showed my collection of photos of one of my favorite flowers, the Dahlia.  Another one of my favorites, especially this time of year, is the Chrysanthemum (or just plain "mum").  Like the Dahlia, they come in many different types and colors and look pretty alone or in bunches.

Chrysanthemums are native to parts of Europe and Asia, cultivated as an herb as far back as the 15th century.  They were brought to the United States by Col. John Stevens and planted into the Elysian Fields in New Jersey.  One type, known as "Garden Hardy Mums" can survive northern winters, which is why they last so long where I live.

I visited the Mitchell Park Domes last month, where they showcased mums in their Show Dome.  I was amazed at how many different types of mums were on display from the Irregular Incurve (pictured above) to the Spider mum:

There is also the Semi-Double variety, probably the most popular:

 And the Decorative variety:

Chrysanthemums also come in Reflex, Anemone, Regular Incurve, Spoon, Quill, Pompom and Brush.  You can learn more about these different types here.

As I mentioned above, one of the reasons I love mums is that they are really the only type of flower you see in their prime in late fall around Wisconsin.  I love going to the farmers markets and seeing their bright colors all around.  They are always the last burst of color before we head into cold, gray winter.

I'm sure you can still see these vibrant, happy flowers at any botanical garden or farmers market for the rest of fall and, maybe, into winter.  They really do brighten any dreary day!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Art, Nature & Progress: O'Donnell Park & the Milwaukee Art Museum

Milwaukee is continuing to grow.  Recently, a first-class hotel was built by the Potawatomi tribe as part of their casino, drawings were just unveiled yesterday for our new arena for the Bucks basketball team, and, in my own area, Wauwatosa, the Mayfair Collection has added Osgood's, an upscale casual dining and ice cream treat restaurant.

I went down to the Milwaukee Art Museum this past Thursday, and finally got to see the construction being done on what will be the tallest building in Milwaukee, the remodeled Northwestern Mutual building.  You can see the skeleton of the building above.

Here is an even better photo of the progress being made.

I also took some time, in the sunny, 70 degree weather, to walk around O'Donnell Park, which is located just west of the Milwaukee Art Museum, and considered to be the divide between downtown and the east side.  We still have some gorgeous autumn color to see.

I also took a photo of "The Calling" a sculpture famous in downtown Milwaukee, designed by artist Mark di Suvero in 1982.  The Art Museum sits to the bottom right.

I couldn't leave without taking some more photos of the Art Museum itself.  The museum is closed for remodeling and expansion, except for its temporary exhibit, gift shop, and café.  It will re-open on November 24.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Favorite Flower #1: The Dahlia

I've been photographing flowers since I bought my DSLR camera in 2012.  I learned how to properly photograph them when I attended a flower photography workshop at a local garden store in the spring of 2013.  I didn't have a favorite then, even though I think I took more photos of daisies than anything else.  But when I attended a Dahlia show at Madison's Olbrich Botanical Garden, I fell in love with them.  I loved the curves, the two-toned colors and the many different types I found.
Did you know that there are 42 different species of Dahlias?  They are native to Mexico, related to daisies, sunflowers, chrysanthemums and zinnias (all flowers I'm also drawn to), and are classified into 14 different groups based on their design.  For example, the dahlia above is part of the Pompon group.
There is also the Peony group:

 The Semi-Cactus group:

The Anemone group:

The Single-Flowered group: 

The Collerette group:

And the Fimbriated group:

There are also waterlily, "decorative", ball, cactus, star, double, and "miscellaneous" dahlias.

As you can see, there are so many different types of dahlias, that it's easy to mistake them for another type of flower.  They consider dahlias to be "octoploids", meaning they have 8 sets of chromosomes whereas other flowers only have two.  This is why there are so many different types.

The next time you go to a botanical garden, public park or flower shop, you just might find one of these beautiful, vibrant flowers (and not even know it).