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Explained: Why New Glarus beer is only sold in Wisconsin


New Glarus Brewing Company in New Glarus, WI | Photo by @beertebo

Welcome to Spotted Cow Land 🐮

New Glarus — the beer dubbed as “only in Wisconsin” — has a cult following. Some people to go extraordinary lengths to get it. The Chicago Cubs *smuggled* it across the border after a series in Milwaukee. The brew has been sold in the Badger State for the past 28 years + is in the fridge of most Wisconsin homes. But why all the hype?

Let’s take a look at the history, and why the beer is only sold in Wisconsin.


A Spotted Cow overlooking the Capital | Photo by @sammychews

The origin story: First released in 1993, Edel Pils and Wisconsin Belgian Red were the original beers of New Glarus Brewing. The brewery didn’t start to gain its iconic status until the 1997 launch of Spotted Cow. Over the years, New Glarus has received awards + accolades for its famous beers. The brewery was named one of 2018’s Top 50 US craft breweries by the Brewers Association. Its Spotted Cow was awarded Best Drink in Wisconsin in 2009 by Bon Appetit.

The recipe: Spotted Cow — arguably the most iconic of the beers — is a “traditional farmhouse ale, hand-crafted and unfiltered with complex flavors.” The best-selling draft beer in the state accounts for 40% of all the beer the brewery makes each year — about 45,000 barrels. While the name is utterly appropriate for Wisconsin, it was inspired by a sheep on a trip to England. Founder Deb Carey was reminded of Holstein cows and thought it would be funny to have a beer named after the animal.

Why Wisconsin: At one point in time, Spotted Cow beer was sold in Illinois. The small brewery struggled to keep up demand in both states + pulled back distribution to make sure locals had plenty in stock. But don’t worry, it’s perfectly legal to take it to friends and family in other states — just don’t sell it.

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