The OGs of Craft Beer | New Glarus Brewing Co. – Spotted Cow
In 2001, I was a bartender at a joint in Wausau, Wisconsin called Loppnow’s Sports Bar. Our main fare was tap and bottled Bud Light and Miller Lite, but occasionally we sold some Mike’s Hard Lemonade, Smirnoff Ice and Blue Moon. I don’t remember how many taps we had, but I recall that only one rotated: usually with Point Lager or a stout that wasn’t Guinness (we had no nitro). These barrels often took a couple of weeks to cash, with one exception – New Glarus Brewing Co.‘s Spotted Cow Farmhouse Ale.
A Wisconsin Cultural Icon
Spotted Cow has been a Wisconsin cultural icon since it hit the market in 1997. With its image of a dairy cow jumping over the state, it’s one of the most recognizable beers to come out of the 90s. This was years before the craft beer boom of the 00s and at a period when anything other than the big three was often described as “fruity,” “gross” or “unmanly.” But not Spotted Cow. The name itself was enough to draw people to the brew; once they had it in their hands, the unique farmhouse flavors hooked them in. It wasn’t just us. No one could keep it on tap.
At the time, New Glarus was still honing its “Only in Wisconsin” brand and Spotted Cow, along with Fat Squirrel and other New Glarus beers, weren’t as easy to get outside of the New Glarus/Madison area. Occasionally a distributor would get a few barrels and BOOM. Before you knew it, the beer was gone. Little did we, or New Glarus owners Deb and Dan Carey, know that Spotted Cow would become one of the most sought-after beers in the industry. But it didn’t come easy. During an address at this year’s Craft Brewers Conference, Deb Carey recalled making the difficult decision to pull distribution from the Chicagoland area as she was personally selling and distributing the beer, while also starting a family. The decision was met with angry distributors threatening never to carry New Glarus ever again. But it seems as if New Glarus is doing just fine as they’ve grown to become one of the largest craft breweries in the country while still only distributing within the state of Wisconsin.
What Makes Spotted Cow a Classic
When we talk about OG craft beers, we think about the beers that put craft brewing in the spotlight and on the map. Despite it not being the state’s first craft brewery, New Glarus essentially began the craft beer boom in Wisconsin with Spotted Cow and changed the way all Wisconsinites thought about independent beer. The introduction of a microbrew that could compete with—and taste better than—the big guys; was sold only in Wisconsin and was made with local ingredients inspired plenty of others to do the same. That sort of inspiration is what brought about the boom in the first place; it’s the sort of thing that continues to drive the industry to this day.
We at Porchdrinking.com thoroughly enjoy covering craft beer trends and showcasing the newest and beers. But, before terms like Brut, Milkshake, New England and even BBA entered the brewing-industry lexicon, beer fans were thrilled to taste Ambers, Pale Ales and some mysterious beer that may or may not have arrived from India. So, for one month, we are going to take time to remember some of those OGs of Craft Beer — the brews that made it all possible. While we can’t cover all the OGs of Craft Beer, we want to take this time in August to pay homage to several of them. If your favorite “classic” isn’t on the list; don’t fret. Let us know what you loved back in the day (or still do), and bring attention in the comments section below or via our social media channels.