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Walters Brewery Tour
One day in 1975 my friends and I were sitting around in my friends' house trying to think of some way to pass the time. It was a fine day, but we didn't want to drive anywhere. We were young Wisconsin men, so we really really liked beer.
I most definitely liked beer. I still like beer, but not as much as I did then, bucko. At the time, I was going to school for Music Education at the University of Wisconsin at Eau Claire. Every morning I rolled out of the dorm and down the hill to the Fine Arts Center across the Chippewa River footbridge. After class, the Fine Arts Center was about 75 feet from the nearest bar of a street full o' bars: Water Street. I would go there every single day.
Later in my college career I became an adept foosball defensive player, and earned my share of beer every night backing up some hot offensive player. Oooh, I had a wicked goalie shot. It was a good system. I spent a quarter for the first game and another quarter for the first beer. After that, the beer and the games were on the losers until the beer slowed me down. When I was too slow to stop the shots anymore, I went home.
It was like an outrage when they raised the price of a beer from a quarter to fifty cents, eh?
So we were sitting around the house with no beer, and the idea was put forth that we should take the Walters Brewery Tour.
"Ya, it's great man, eh?" said my friend. "It's like the best tour ever, you know? Eh?"
"Oh ya, eh?" I said. "So let's go, eh? Why don't we just go, don'tcha know, eh?"
"Ya," said my other friend. "So let's go, eh?"
So it was settled and we went.
In these times, there was still a local brewery in every major Wisconsin town south of Highway 8, and some north of Highway 8, too, you betcha. Just north of Eau Claire there is the town of Chippewa Falls, that the Leinenkugel's brewery still calls home. Further north yet there is Stevens Point, home of Point Beer. Both of these beers are still brewed, last time I checked, eh, though Leinenkugel's is owned now by the Miller Brewing Company.
It was a sunny day. We set out for the Walters Brewery on foot, not wanting to drive in case they were going to give us any samples don'tcha know. We crossed the river on the Lake Street bridge and headed west down Lake Street. Later on we took a right on some street and went a block or two and there it was! the Walter's Brewery building.
The building was about four stories tall, an old brick building attached to a more modern concrete building. On the sidewalk was a small storefront with some Walters merchandise in the window - a baseball jacket, a bowling shirt and some assorted bar ware.
We went inside and there was a nice lady behind a glass counter full of more Walters merchandise - ash trays, beer glasses, figurines and other assorted chachkes. We told her we were there for the tour. She smiled and said we should have a seat, someone would be right with us.
After about fifteen minutes a guy in a plaid shirt came out of the back.
"You're here for the tour, eh?" he asked.
"Ya, eh," we replied.
"Okay," he said. "Come on."
We followed him past the nice lady and down a hall. There he opened a steel door and led us into a room with maybe a 20-foot ceiling with a skylight, with kegs stacked almost to the top. He led us silently past some interesting equipment and turned a corner.
There, an older man stood with a glass in his hand. There was a small amount of beer in the glass. There was a tap sticking out of the wall. The man who was giving us the tour handed us each a glass.
"Okay," he said. "I'll be back in an hour."
So we stood there and drank for an hour, not saying much. Just drinking. An hour is kind of a long time to just stand in one place and drink, but we managed it. After the hour, the man came back.
"Okay," he said. "Tour's over."
He led us out in to the Wisconsin sunshine where we blinked with watery eyes at the sudden brightness. I don't know what the other guys did. I was fit only for going home and passing out, and that's just what I did.