Once teeming with miners, the area now offers recreation, relaxing drives, and a reminder of the brew that satisfied a thirsty territory.
Running 3,000 miles along the Mississippi River through 10 states, the Great River Road has no shortage of claimants to its most beautiful stretch. We covered several Wisconsin destinations in 2020. A strong case can be made for Potosi, once one of Wisconsin’s larger settlements in its territorial days.
First named Snake Hollow, settlers from England and Germany flocked to this area of southwestern Wisconsin to mine its lead ore. Today the village is still very small but remains a worthy stop on any road trip.
Enjoy and Learn the Local Spirits
No, we don’t mean ghosts– we’re talking about drinks. Start out by learning more about the history of beer in the United States at the National Brewery Museum Inside the Potosi Brewing Co.
Located right on Main Street, the museum offers guided production facility tours which includes tastings and an up close look at the tap room, canning and bottling line, and barrel aging room. You’ll also be able to check out a cave where beer was stored prior to the invention of refrigeration and an awesome collection of signage and neons.
Potosi Brewing Company originally operated for more than a century, starting in 1852. At one point, it was a top-five producer in Wisconsin—it survived Prohibition, but ultimately closed inl 1972. A non-profit foundation restarted operations in 2008 after a $7.5 million restoration.
Both the National Brewery Museum and the Potosi Brewing Company offer tastings. In addition the brewery tour includes a complementary pint glass.
“On vacation, I try to find local beers to taste. When I picked up a six-pack of Potosi, I saw the advertisement for the Brewery Museum. And as luck would have it, it was right on our way home,” wrote Sid Sidow on TripAdvisor.“ I’ve done some research into beer/brewery history, but was quite impressed with the collection. So many breweries represented from the past history in the area. The breadth of their own beers in the tasting room is impressive. Check the schedules, unfortunately the brewery was closed the day we visited.”
Tours are available year-round but hours and availability may vary, especially in the winter months. Call (608) 763-4002 ext. 134 for availability. You can also book tours online.
Museum admission iss $5 per person, or you can tour the museum and the brewery for $13 per person.
If beer isn’t really your thing, you might want to check out Whispering Bluffs Winery.
The relatively new winery is housed inside a historic 1902 building located just across the street from the National Brewery Museum. The building was restored in the 1960s, and Whispering Bluffs has called it home since 2012.
The winery offers an assortment of fine wines, and many of the grapes used to create their drinks are grown in Wisconsin. The Whispering Bluffs Vineyard is located near Cassville. Visitors can spend part of their afternoon in their comfy tasting room, and tastings are offered daily. Try five of their local wines for $8.
Andrew on TripAdvisor called the winery a “neat place,” writing: “This winery is sitting next to its bigger and better known cousin—Potosi Brewing Company. While the latter attracts the crowd from near and far, people also discover the winery next door. That’s how I got here…But the place is very nice, sitting in the old restored building next to few other businesses benefiting from being next to “Potosi.” Their line of wines is pretty significant for such a small place, with proprietary names. The owners of the winery are bird enthusiasts, so all of their wines feature different birds on their labels. There are lots of wine paraphernalia in the store as well to browse. The store also offers coffee on a small scale. They do wine tasting as well. Their wines are not carried by bigger stores and companies, I gather, instead being distributed mostly locally with cheese, wine and other specialty stores.”
Whispering Bluffs Winery is closed on Mondays and opens at 11 a.m. the rest of the week.
Get outside and enjoy the river!
One of Potosi’s many charms is its close proximity to the Mississippi and its many tributaries, like the Grant River. In the warmer months, visitors to the area can enjoy river-based activities like tubing.
For a fun and safe trip down the Grant, visit the Grant River Tubing Company. They offer two floats down the river—a short trip of four hours or a longer trip that’s six to eight hours depending on currents and water levels. Floaters get to enjoy a slow and relaxing trip through scenery lined with timber and rustic rock ledges. They also offer different sized floats to fit different needs.
Click here to visit their reservations page, as they do not offer walk-ins. They can also be reached via phone and Facebook Messenger.
Check out the Badger Hut Trail
Located just above Potosi’s Main Street (claimed to be the longest Main Street in the world without an intersecting road), visitors can check out several “Badger Huts.”
This self-guided tour goes up a steep trail above the town where visitors can check out the area where miners used to live while they looked for lead ore. In the 1830s, miners who were digging for lead and other minerals in the area would dig a small hole in the ground and build low walls around it with limestone. They added a limestone roof and these small dwellings were nicknamed “Badger Huts.”
The hike takes about an hour to walk. Learn more and find exact coordinates here.
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