*This is the one-hundred and twenty-second post in an on-going chronicle dubbed the Great Wisconsin Brewery Tour. Follow the journey here.*
1) How many different beers?
6 of their own during our visit, up to 8 usually.
2) How long operational?
Taproom opened in 2012 serving others’ beer, they started brewing after that.
3) Why? (here, this, etc)
Owner started a beer festival, saw a homebrewing display there, got inspired.
Own canning line self-distributed in the local area.
5) What sets you apart?
Owner’s experience in the beer industry outside of brewing (running a festival).
6) How did you get your name?
Owner was driving a Mazda Tribute at the time. “Now we name beers in tribute to local things and places.”
Down a dirt road followed by gravel, a large steel pole barn with the words “BREWERY” and “TAPHOUSE” plastered on the side called to us, and we answered. Though we were the first people to shuffle into Tribute Brewing Company that morning, we were quickly followed by a steady stream of new drinking buddies.
This is a no-frills operation, though I wouldn’t expect anything less from an up-nort’ outdoorsy destination like Eagle River. A long polished bartop sitting on a row of old steel drums, a scattering of high-top tables, cement floors, and high metal ceilings make up the taproom space.
Out the lone, elongated window you can view the track for the World Championship Snowmobile Derby across the street, though luckily the only thing that cold today was the beer.
28 Lake Dortmunder Lager
A lightly-nutted, spicy back-end together with a solid mouthfeel.
Blueberry Train Wheat
Well-developed blueberry taste; not overpowering, but very inviting.
Picked up jalapeno and dry wheat notes. An eye-opening take on the IPA.
Barefoot Charlie IPA
Hopped for taste, malted for mouthfeel. An all-dayer.
Ghost Lights Amber Lager
The opposite: malted for taste, hopped for mouthfeel. Approachable, but turns your idea of an Amber on its head.
Old Eagle Chocolate Porter
Bitter chocolate, mellowed by the silky, peanut-buttery Porter base.
Tribute was co-founded by Bill Summers, who we had the pleasure of talking with behind the bar. As an avid beer-drinker years ago, Bill helped found the Great Northern Beerfest (now the Up North Beerfest) to help fill a void left by the closing of Eagle River’s only brewery.
It was at his own festival that Bill saw a display for homebrewing, and with encouragement from a local homebrew club the idea for a new Eagle River hometown brewery was born. Some “starts and fits” later, and Tribute is now open, brewing local craft beer on-site.
But unlike Eagle River’s last German-inspired brewpub, Tribute is doing things a bit modern. As Bill told us,
“Most places (up north) have pine paneling, fish on the wall. Now it’s about taking an old, crappy metal garage and making it all about the beer.”
Being modern does not mean forgoing the local. Beers are named “in tribute” to local places and things, old growlers are gifted to a local artist for painting and reselling, and the Independent Brewer’s seal behind the bar shows they’re keeping the control of the business local. No doubt, Tribute Brewing Company is adding a bit of Eagle River into each batch of beer they make.