PHOTOS BY LOUIS LIVINGSTON-GARCIA / HEAVY TABLE
Prairie du Sac and Sauk City, Wisc. are my Twin Cities (twin towns, if you will). The general term for the two close river towns (they blend together seamlessly) is Sauk Prairie, but I prefer Prairie Du Sauk.
While this area of Wisconsin may be known for Madison and all it has to offer, Sauk Prairie is actually quite the heavy hitter in terms of drink, food, and activities considering its size. First, the town has plenty of projects like libraries and an upcoming massive park that is funded in part by Culver’s, which is headquartered here (and founded here). The Great Sauk State Trail is an amazing place to bike alongside the Wisconsin River, through farmland, and straight to Devil’s Lake State Park in Baraboo. Plus, we have pelicans, eagles (tons in the winter), and a number of other birds and even foxes that you may be able to see.
The Wisconsin River in this area is very easy to canoe, and you can start near the Prairie Du Sac Hydroelectric Dam, which is a cool portal into the history of the area. Because of the dam, the river won’t freeze, allowing eagles to hang around for food before heading back to other areas of the state. And if you want to experience that bluff life but don’t want to be around thousands of people at Devil’s Lake, give Ferry Bluff just outside of town a try. It’s usually very quiet, has eagles, and is a fun, easy hike.
As for food. Well, the original location of Culver’s goes the extra mile and is better than any location I’ve eaten at. Sadly, the Culver’s owned Blue Spoon Cafe is no more. It was a coffee, gelato, ice cream, and restaurant facing the Wisconsin River. Rumor has it that it may be transformed into a new coffee shop or cafe soon. Most businesses facing the river off Water Street have outdoor seating for river viewing.
Vintage Brewing Company, also on Water Street, has a huge patio with a view of the river. You can enjoy one of the 45 taps. And while Vintage maybe doesn’t come up as a Wisconsin beer giant, its Dedication dubbel and Rhine Heights ALT albier are both Great American Beer Festival Gold medalists. Not only did they win two medals that year, but they were awarded “large brewpub and large brewpub brewer of the year.”
At the time of the win, Vintage head brewer Scott Manning said through Vintage’s official channels, “I’m especially proud to have our Altbier honored as the nation’s best. Having spent a college year in Bonn [Germany], the classic beers of the Rhineland were among my first ‘eureka!’ beer experiences, and still inspire me as a brewer today. I hope we can help Wisconsin beer lovers discover the classic, yet sometimes overlooked Altbier style.”
The beer at Vintage is typically good with some fun surprises. I hate doppelbocks as they are usually too sweet for me, but I highly recommend the Bock’s O-Chocolates as the cocoa cuts out the sweetness with more of a dutch cocoa flavor and is just delightful. The traditional styles are pretty solid, but the barrel-aged beers leave much to be desired. And the fish, as is customary in Wisconsin when combined with deep frying, is tasty. My wife is partial to the beef stroganoff, and the brunch is the type of hearty meal you’d expect, with sausage gravy filled with marble-sized pieces of sausage.
“We have been so fortunate to share such a great town with so many awesome people,” Vintage director of operations Rory Nienajadlo said, adding that the location has been very successful. If you didn’t know, Vintage has two other brewpubs in Madison, and a bar and restaurant location. But this is definitely the showpiece.
Wollersheim Winery and Distillery is the other big drinks player in Prairie Du Sac. It’s nestled on the other side of the river away from the town, features a bistro, and a gorgeous campus to walk around. I use the brandy and apple brandy in my Old Fashioned drinks if I don’t have Baraboo’s Driftless Glen Distillery brandy on hand. You really can’t go wrong with brandy in this state.
“If you haven’t visited recently, then you may not have had the opportunity to enjoy the addition of our bistro, where owner and winemaker Philippe Coquard and Julie Coquard’s son [Romain, who studied cooking in France] is the head chef,” Wollersheim Winery and Distillery marketing communications person Jessi Schoville said. “We also just released Scarlet Fumé, the new red wine sister to Wisconsin’s favorite wine, Prairie Fumé. People have been enjoying it so much we expect to sell out and have plans to triple the production next season.”
If you check out a review below, you can see that I really love the winery’s ice wine, and highly recommend it. The location is usually busy, but it has ample outdoor seating to enjoy wine or a cocktail. Plus, the Old Fashioned syrup is a must-have item.
Prairie Du Sauk is an incredible place to visit for some drinks, food, and outdoor adventures. I’m also hella biased as a Wisconsinite who loves pelicans, fish fry, and Culver’s.