Feature photo: JSOnline.com
Here at Drink Wisconsinbly we’ve taken the guess work out of this contentious topic and created a guide that shows everyone you know what’s up, what’s north, and what is certifiably Up North. Discover how you rate among your fellow Cheeseheads and march forth accordingly. Have no fear if you don’t have the chops to move on to the next level, baby steps my friends, but rest assured this guide is a passport to places you’ve never dreamed of. Unless you’ve actually dreamed of a weekend in Plover.
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Highway 33 through the Baraboo Hills. If you think this is Up North perhaps you were unaware, until now, that cheese curds are supposed to be squeaky. When you watch the Packers, you don’t mind Joe Buck’s commentary. Somehow you don’t have feelings about Anheuser-Busch, one way or the other, and never drink more than three beers before noon.
Want to move to the next level? Head to Mousehouse Cheesehaus and get an education. Really listen to what Joe Buck is saying, I mean, really listen to the words. Even they are upset that he’s using them. Tour Lakefront Brewery and revel in the glory of beer made in your backyard. That strange sensation you’re discovering is called flavor. Cool, right?
Highway 10 through Stevens Point. You’re getting closer to the land of accents and pines. If this is your Up North, it’s probably because your family has a cabin here or you’re just nervous about pushing further. Stevens Point keeps you connected to creature comforts like Buffalo Wild Wings and a Walmart Supercenter. There are some nice breweries though, so use that as an excuse when needed. Perhaps you have an extra fridge for beer in the garage or basement (extra credit if both). It’s likely that you know most of the words to On Wisconsin.
Think it’s too warm down here? That’s the spirit. Start slowly and take some time off for bow hunting, that’s when da big ones are out and early season is very mild. Stock your beer fridge with domestic beer only, and by domestic we mean Wisconsin only. Branch out into the Milwaukee classics like Schlitz. They’re using the original recipe again so you can actually watch your chest hair sprout thicker with each sip. Sit in the student section at a Badgers game; you won’t regret it. But don’t do Facebook Live.
Highway 29 through Wausau. This is often regarded as the first real Up North fringe. Your presence in the local bar has just doubled the gene pool. You’re used to family holidays where an uncle slaps his beer belly and says, “bought and paid for.” You’ve planned, stocked, and proudly displayed your cooler at a wedding reception (parking lot booze). And you have very strong opinions on happy cows and where they come from.
Think you can hack it? Ruin Thanksgiving and make your uncle put his money where his mouth is: chug, chug, chug. Leak info of the cooler in your trunk or truck bed; see how many members of the wedding party you can get out to your F-150. Give your local 4H a break, get a booth at the Dairy Expo and proselytize.
Highway 8 north of Rhinelander. This is proper Up North. If you think you’ve made it, you’re right. You may also have been to every brewery and winery within a 50-mile radius and are happy to give recommendations. You’ve spent at least 2 hours listening to the police scanner for road-kill (you didn’t get your deer this year). 12 inches of snow is barely more than a dusting, and it won’t stop you from getting your Friday night fish fry. In a city of 3,000 people, there are only four different faces. One is a German Shephard.
Keep’er movin’ der guy. Get that police scanner mounted in your truck; chicks dig it. Who needs snow tires, take your Harley.
(Please note: You face an increased risk of bumping into Bears jersey-wearing Illinoisians in Door County. Slowly back away.)
Highway 2 through Ashland. You are unmistakably Up North. You have arrived. Up here you enjoy natural air conditioning from the big lake they call Gitche Gumee. This is an undeniably Wisconsiny zone. If you are at home here, you’re probably also a Packer season ticket holder and regularly get on TV because of your ensemble. Your winter coat isn’t North Face, it’s back hair. You’ve been excluded from drinking contests because you’re a Wisconsinite—the mortals know better than to tug on Superman’s cape. If you’ve waited more than 3 minutes for a drink at your favorite bar, it’s normal behavior for you to get back there and pour it yourself. Dolly Krempke just taps your hand and rolls her eyes. Bless her.
So as you dodge FIBs heading north on one of our great interstates, ask your fellow Badgers where they think the line is. It’s ok if they are novices—show them the way. Allow them in on our most cherished secrets. Share your favorite Chequamegon camping memories. And remember that while it takes hours to get where you want to go, it could be worse. Like when the Bears signed Jay Cutler to that seven-year contract. We miss you Jay.
Thanks to Trevor Bellrichard for the assist on this list!