Potosi's story is a great one, an American one
Potosi is a small town of about 700 people off Hwy 61, and just a few miles north of the Mississippi River, near the Great River Road. TravelWisconsin says, "The tiny town of Potosi completed a major renovation of its local brewery that today houses the National Brewery Museum and the National Brewery Transportation Museum. If you like Breweriana, you’ll be amazed. The museum is also home to an interpretive center for the nearby Great River Road, a National Scenic Byway that follows the route of the Mississippi River. Potosi is also the location of one of the oldest lead mines in the state." The town also prides itself as the state's "Catfish Capital!" And there's plenty more of which to be proud.
I visited Potosi in the summer, had a delightful lunch at the Potosi Inn, and a great though short visit to the brewery. I did not go inside the museums. Potosi is close to the Mississippi River, the brewery's outside restaurant was packed on a beautiful day, and while the town is small, and in some ways looks like it's been struggling, I found it a fun place to visit and now I'll show you why.
Main Street is not Times Square, but frankly, I admire all those in the community working to make their town as nice as they can, and so hospitable.
The town of Tennyson, with less than 400 people, just a a little bit to the east of Potosi, threw in with Potosi to outfit and maintain a museum. I walked in, and the lady inside was happy to show me around. The Potosi-Tennyson Area Chamber of Commerce says this about the museum:
"The Passage Thru Time Museum: Experience the rich heritage of the area, with emphasis on mining, farming, the historic Potosi Brewery and the Mississippi River. Displays of Native American artifacts, World War ll memorabilia, historic business paraphernalia, and Agricultural history may be seen. The museum also houses an extensive collection of photos and historic records, perfect for both the casual history buff and intensive researcher."
I think it would be fun to go in there with the idea of doing some research on the community and the area.
This is the Great River Road Museum of Contemporary Art located on the corner of Main St. and Hwy 133. It is located in a historic building that used to be the Potosi grocery store. It is dedicated to the display of contemporary art and to the support and development of contemporary artists. The Museum says:
"Our mission is to provide the public with quality exhibits of world class art and expose and educate the public about world class artists while also promoting quality amateur artists whose art works and artistic vision are inspired by the Mississippi and the Great River Road. We welcome the participation of all artists of the Great River Road, from New Orleans to Minneapolis, in the development of a Museum to celebrate the art and artists of this unique slice of Americana."
Now I have to tell you this is quite an undertaking for such a small community. It has limited hours, Friday through Sunday, 11 am to 5 pm, and is closed during the winter break re-opening in May. Like a said, this is a small community working hard to build something of value. If you are in the area during those times, I urge you to stop by and take a look.
You cannot run a town, no matter how small, without a pizza place. This is ACE's The Pizza Place, on Main Street. The workers will also serve you frozen yogurt and boast special flavors that change over time, such as Cookie n' Cream and Peanut Butter. As ACE's saying goes, "Life is great. Pizza makes it better!
St. Thomas Catholic Church in Potosi is part of the Saints Andrew (Tennyson) and Thomas Parish, established in 1970. The parish also runs a school in Potosi. This church was erected in 1847, while the St. Thomas parish was established in 1836. No fooling' around here — Sunday mass at 8 am!
Of course, when you are in an all-American town like Potosi, you'll find the American Legion. In this case, it is part of the Original Potosi Brewery Saloon. It originated back in the mid-1850s. It was restored and remodeled in summer 2014.
You have not visited Potosi if you have not at least stopped at the Potosi Brewery. It was originally founded in 1852 along the Great River Road and just a stone’s throw from the Mississippi River. The Potosi Brewing Company brewed more than a century’s worth of delicious craft beer before finally bowing to shifting market pressures and emptying its bright tanks for good in 1972.
Many towns and villages brewed their own beer back in the mid-1800s. The National Association of Development Organizations wrote, "During this time, many small Wisconsin towns had a local community brewery or cheese plant to serve residents, farmers, and laborers in the days before refrigeration allowed products to travel great distances."
I'll mention here that history will tell you that many priests and preachers opened their churches across the street fro these taverns back in the day. They would go into the taverns, roust out the men and get them over to church, and then watch them go back to the tavern once services were complete, and only until then!
In 1886 Adam Schumacher bought the brewery and formed the Potosi Brewing Co. with his brothers. The company began shipping the beer and became the fifth largest in the state. Prior to closing in 1972, it was the largest employer in the town.
The Potosi Brewery Foundation was founded in January 2001. The owners donated the brewing building. The foundation restored the buildings and re-opened in 2008. It is the sole owner of the Potosi Brewing Company and is working to spur economic opportunities in Potosi and around the area. The company has brought craft brewing back to Main Street Potosi, Wisconsin.
The village's president Frank Fiorenza once remarked, "The brewery project was never an end in itself. I always saw it as a catalyst for additional economic development in the village.”
The company boasts, "Today our fine people lovingly craft only the highest quality beer — in small batches and without compromise — forging a renewed tradition of excellence that’s all our own." Its tag line is "We are Potosi. We are beer’s hometown."
It was a fairly warm day when I visited, so visitors were hanging out in the great outside at the Brew Pub, a delightful scene. The brewery hosts a museum which is now the home of the American Breweriana Association's National Brewery Museum.
I love draught beer, but of course you want to bottle it and ship it out. The bottling department is across the street from the brewery. I live in Wausau and have noticed more and more Potosi offerings being sold here. Great stuff!
This building is the Schumacher Bottling Works, built in 1902. It now hosts the Whispering Bluffs Winery, founded by Wes Helmick, who is also associated with the Great River Road Museum of Contemporary Art, highlighted earlier. The winery opened on May 26, 2012. Helmick and his wife, Janet, bought land on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River. The Winery has said, "The higher altitude exposed the vines to the sun as well as the warming influence of the Mississippi River. The geographical formation of the bluffs forced the cold air out of the vineyard. This was a perfect vineyard setting."
Whispering Bluffs Vineyard has over 1100 grape vines. The winery opened in 2012.
When I first visited Potosi frankly I thought it was kind of in a run-down town. After riding around a bit I got a feeling that something was up in this town, something that said this place is on the move. After returning home and researching the town, I found that my gut instincts were correct, and much, much more. I urge you to visit and enjoy.
The town had a sign on the side of a brewery building that said:
"Because of you, the good ol’ days are back…”
Let's hope so. A lot of bright, hard-working people are trying to make that so.