Wisconsin is famous for many fine products, with some of the most notable ones in the food and beverage category.
Cheese and beer are the two products most closely associated with the Badger State. Throughout America’s Dairyland are shops selling freshly made cheese, including string cheese and those squeaky cheese curds. At the Swiss-style Alp and Dell Cheese Store, attached to the Roth Kase Creamery in Monroe, your group can view the cheese-making process behind glass walls and sample many varieties. In metro Milwaukee, a group favorite is West Allis Cheese and Sausage Shoppe, which has a wide range of cheeses, meats and gourmet foods, plus a cafe/deli seating area with a full breakfast and lunch menu and a garden patio great for group gatherings. Mars Cheese Castle is a popular stop for bus tours passing through Kenosha on I-94.
Milwaukee Food Tours offers bus groups the 5.5-hour “Custard Capital of the World” tour. It includes lunch at a classic diner, narrated city sightseeing and a “custard crawl” with stops at three historic custard stands. It’s just one of the company’s many tours that focus on good foods made in the Milwaukee area.
Tours of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery are not only informative but filled with laughs, thanks to clever commentary by hilarious tour guides. The 45-minute tour includes a souvenir glass and four six-ounce pours of beer like the Eastside Dark, a Bavarian-style dark lager, and Eazy Teazy, a tea-infused ale. For non-beer drinkers, Lakefront’s Golden Maple Root Beer is available. Private tours can be arranged on weekdays for $9 a person. Stay for a meal in the restaurant or at least have some cheese curds.
The Jacob Leinenkugel Brewing Company in Chippewa Falls also offers tours that include a glass and beer samples. Tours start at the northwoods-style Leinie Lodge, which is filled with historical photos, vintage brewing equipment, and Leinenkugel wearables and collectibles. The six-generation family company, founded in 1867, is the nation’s seventh oldest working brewery.
Candy lovers flock to the Jelly Belly Visitor Center, which offers a complimentary, entertaining tram tour of the warehouse facility in Pleasant Prairie, just south of Kenosha. After learning about the company and how the candy is made (in California), guests are free to sample as many flavors as they want in the Jelly Belly store.
Another Wisconsin-made treat is the Cherry De-Lite dried cherry, a healthy snack made by Country Ovens from tart Grade A fancy Montmorency cherries grown in Door County. Country Ovens’ factory retail store in Forestville has a wide range of cherry products, including chocolate-covered dried cherries and cherry chutney, juice and syrup.
A trip to southeastern Wisconsin is not complete without sampling the state’s official pastry, as biting into a rich, sweet, buttery, flaky slice of kringle is one of the true joys in life. Groups visiting Racine, America’s Kringle Capital, can tour two of the five bakeries that produce this oversized, oval-shaped Danish pastry ring hand-formed from 48 delicate layers of dough and hand-coated with white icing after being baked to a golden brown. Pecan, almond, raspberry, cherry and apple are popular fillings.
Another group tour option in Racine County is the 2.5-hour walking tour of Case IH tractor assembly plant. Guided by retired employees, the tour shows each step of the manufacturing process, from engines being painted by robots to tires being mounted.
Wisconsin’s industrial might also is at the Harley-Davidson Pilgrim Road Powertrain Operations facility in Menomonee Falls. The “Classic Factory Tour” is 30 minutes and includes a video, while the 90-minute “Steel Toe Tour” provides a closer look at how motorcycle engines and transmissions are manufactured by the Milwaukee-based company.