The city of Manitowoc has a rich malting and brewing history dating back to the mid-1800s. Both the malting and brewing industries have had their ups and downs, with both industries taking short breaks. Almost all of the brewing industry was forced to take a brief break during prohibition, while the malting industry in Manitowoc took a short break when the previous malting company, prior to Briess, closed the Manitowoc malt plant in 2011. Briess quickly resurrected that malting history in 2014, refurbishing one malthouse, followed by another, and building its own roast house on the same site. We continue that history by supplying specialty malt to the brewing industry across the nation. 

Malt is an ingredient in many food products aside from beer, but beer and spirits are where malt really makes an impact on me. So, I took an afternoon to visit three of the local craft breweries to see where some of our ingredients are being used and to sample the delicious, finished products. 

My first stop was at Sabbatical Brewing. The 3-barrel brewery is located in a former flour and grain mill, dating back to 1869. The building retains all the classic grain storage elevator appearance from the outside, with a great modern feel on the inside. They had a delightful array of experimental IPAs and Stouts while balancing them with light and drinkable malty styles like Kölsch, Red, and Brown Ales. I enjoyed the small flight of beers with “Emelioooo,” a Pistachio Vanilla Brown Ale being quite possibly my favorite beer sample of the day! But with a busy afternoon, there wasn’t much time to reflect!

Sabbatical Brewing – Former Oriental Milling Co.
Flight at Sabbatical Brewing.
Spotlight at Sabbatical Brewing.

The next stop was downtown at Craft Creek Brewing. It’s a great taproom in a rejuvenated downtown area of Manitowoc. I stumbled on a tavern tradition of pull tabs, but sadly, none of them hit, so I had to flip the bill for the flight of beer. New to pull tabs? Well, what started in the ’70s as a tool for charities is now a gambling game popular in the Midwest, especially here in Wisconsin, but also in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, and Texas. They have perforated tabs that open to one side and reveal numbers, letters, or symbols you hope to match for cash prizes. Choosing the next flight was difficult to narrow down again. The beer was far more rewarding than the pull tabs, with some wild and unique colors and flavors in their variations of Berliner Weisse Sours. The bar pretzels were a delicious snack that tried to inspire a longer stay for more tasting, but I had to keep moving.

Flight at Craft Creek Brewing.
Of course, there are no bad beers.
Today’s Craft Creek Special.
The Midwest’s favorite tavern game: pull tabs.
Sputnik Juice – Berliner Weisse at Craft Creek Brewing.

The last stop of the day was at PetSkull Brewing. The brewpub is located just a few blocks from Craft Creek in a former 1900s-era tannery. The 10-barrel brewery offers a wide variety of beer styles and even cocktails on tap. Their range covers traditional beers like one of my favorite German Hefeweizens, although there are more experimental beers like a Peanut Butter-and-Jelly Porter or a Blood Orange Mango Double IPA. Thankfully, after the last flight of beer, they also had an excellent food menu with an irresistible 1-pound pretzel! 

Welcome to PetSkull Brewing!
Schnitsky – a German Hefeweizen beer staple at PetSkull.
PetSkull’s 10-barrel brewhouse.
1-pound pretzel and onion rings at PetSkull.

For a town of just over 30,000 people, Manitowoc has an excellent selection of local craft beer. With a wide variety of options, there was no way to fit all the 28 beer styles available into just one afternoon. A beer enthusiast could spend an entire afternoon at each of the stops I made. But for one delicious afternoon, I sampled as much as was reasonable and enjoyed the finished product of the malts we make at Briess every day. 

If you’d like to make a one-stop shop tasting all three breweries’ beers, consider attending Briess’ 3rd annual Malt City Brewfest on Saturday, July 27th in Manitowoc, WI. Reserve your tickets today by ordering online or purchase hard-copy tickets in person at each brewery. Receive a discount when you purchase before May 31st!

Our partners and neighborhood breweries from last year’s Malt City Brewfest.