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Who's up for a mid-state brewery tour?
Who's up for a mid-state brewery tour?

Inspired by a six pack -- a guide to New Glarus

It was a long winter. These Wisconsin winters always seem endless to me, but this past one felt particularly lengthy, what with being pregnant, sober and decaffeinated through the darkest days of the year.

Thankfully, that's over and now I have nothing but warm weather, the occasional sip of coffee and the forthcoming first giggle from my new baby girl to look forward to.

Oh, and my triumphant return to beer.

We invited friends over for dinner last night and they arrived armed with an arsenal of interesting brew, including New Glarus' Fat Squirrel. I like a hazelnut brown ale as much as the next guy, but it wasn't the specific flavor profile that got me excited. It was the memories.

A couple summers ago, a group of us packed up the car and headed due west to spend the weekend in New Glarus, a quaint town blanketed by rolling green hills, peaceful pastures and a palpable Swiss influence. This charming village has earned a reputation for being the "Little Switzerland" of America, and the affectionate nickname makes a lot of sense -- the town was originally settled in 1845 by a band of Swiss pioneers who fled Canton of Glarus in Switzerland during an economic crisis.

With its beer gardens, Chalet-style architecture and penchant for polka, its no wonder thousands of tourists -- including many Swiss natives -- come to experience the rich Swiss heritage of this Wisconsin village each year. And at only about a two-hour drive from Milwaukee, it's a perfect destination for a summer weekend getaway.

We opted for simplicity -- tents to sleep in, a campfire for cooking and bicycles as transportation, but there are several less primitive means for vacationing in New Glarus if you're not exactly thrilled by the idea of sleeping on the ground.

With a newborn keeping me busy 24/7 I probably won't be venturing out there this summer, but I encourage others to indulge in this classic Wisconsin getaway. Here's the scoop on Swiss Town, USA.