*This is the one-hundred and sixth post in an on-going chronicle dubbed the Great Wisconsin Brewery Tour. Follow the journey here.*
1) How many different beers?
6 on tap.
2) How long operational?
Fountain City Brewing Company was founded in 1856, closed in 1965, and re-started in 1997 at the Monarch Public House.
3) Why? (here, this, etc)
Irishman bought bar, found out brewery’s history and had a vision of successful resurrection.
Only available at the Monarch Public House.
5) What sets you apart?
True pre-Prohibition style recipes.
6) How did you get your name?
Brewery named after the city.
We always hope as we travel around Wisconsin from brewery to brewery that we’ll encounter some interesting people and stories behind the beer, and we’re rarely disappointed. But Fountain City Brewing Company at the Monarch Public House is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to tales to tell.
Let me set the scene: perched on the steeply-rising slope of a tall bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, sits our state’s oldest continuously operating tavern. The Monarch Public House opened their doors in 1894 and never closed them.
Bought by Irish expat John Harrington in the late 1990s and tweaked to be a traditional Irish pub, the historic tavern still features the original, imposing back bar, as well as furniture dating nearly to the 1800s.
Though you can get an imported Irish brew here, the real draw are the 6 taps filled with Fountain City’s libations. We took ours to the back patio overlooking the River.
Original Recipe Fountain Brew Gold Lager
Classic light Lager; nutty, dry, refreshing.
Eagle Valley Harvest Gold
Slight honey notes in an all-day drinker.
John Robert Porter
Lightest, reddest Porter I’ve ever seen. Bubbly, caramel-y.
Harrington’s Irish Red Ale
Clean, crisp, with a lasting Amber-malt taste.
Prairie Moon Red Lager
Pepper front, candy back. An odd introduction, but satisfying.
Crystal Springs Stout on Nitro
Smooth coffee coats the tongue. Inky-black, but light-drinking.
The original Fountain City Brewing Company, started nearby in 1856, closed shop in 1965 and was demolished. But, after a chance encounter with former assistant brew master Wilbert Schmitt, John was able to resurrect 5 original recipes.
“I’m Irish: I’m not real good at doing what other people tell me to do. I had this vision it’ll (the beer) sell. And it has, over our other beers 10 to 1.”
Though the beers are currently contract-brewed elsewhere in Wisconsin, the Monarch Public House in Fountain City is the only place to get FCBC beers. Schmitty handed over the recipes to John to make sure they’d be served again in their original town. In fact, the recipes were only saved by Wilbert when he scratched them on a roll of brown hand towel paper before they closed in the 60s.
“People ask if we have IPAs: back (when FCBC was around), the only Indians these people knew were living across the river.”
Fads don’t exist in this beer, and haven’t for a century. Every beer has its own history attached.
The duel sagas that are the Monarch Public House and Fountain City Brewing Company stretch back to the 1800s, and thanks to John Harrington neither shows any sign of slowing down. Make sure to stop in for a pint and a story along the banks of the Mississippi.