Tuesday, October 1, 2019

The Drink that Made Wisconsin Famous: Beer and Brewing in the Badger State

The Drink that Made Wisconsin Famous is an epic. It is easily the most comprehensive book ever written about the history of beer brewing in Wisconsin. And it looks the part. Across 744 pages author Doug Hoverson manages to touch upon every Wisconsin brewery. He begins with the inception of commercial brewing here in the 1830s and carries forward through the most recent burst of craft brewery openings. Approximately 800 breweries are covered with more than 600 color images accompanying the text.
The book is divided into two major sections. The first presents a high-level overview of the brewing history of Wisconsin. Hoverson weaves together the stories of massive producers, such as Schlitz and Heileman, with those of local and regional breweries. It's a complex story, but Hoverson's fluid, inviting prose makes it an accessible and enjoyable read. This section could have been a book unto itself.

The second half, though, is where Hoverson outdoes himself. Here he presents concise histories of every Wisconsin brewery. There's been nothing of this scope attempted before and when you see it in print you understand why. It's an almost overwhelming amount of information that took Hoverson a decade to gather. It’s an amazing collection of work.

The Drink That Made Wisconsin Famous becomes the essential resource for anyone with an interest in the state's beer and brewing history. There's simply nothing else like it. And I should add that Oshkosh definitely gets her due.

If you’d like to dig deeper, here are a few additional resources. First, Bobby Tanzilo of On Milwaukee conducts a good interview with Doug Hoverson about the book here. The publisher's book page can be found here. And you can purchase the book online from Amazon here.


  1. If you read this blog and share an interest in Wisconsin brewing history you need to buy this book. No one will ever do a book like this again and it will be the quoted reference for all time.