"I'm a rowdy soul, rowdy sooooooooul!" crooned Buck Towne, lead singer of the Simple Rogues, as he stood atop a small wooden stage held aloft by old kegs.
His voice, coupled with distinctly Irish folk music, projected over the speakers and rattled around the Pearl Street Brewery like hops and grains gone rogue from the production line.
A crowd of onlookers stomped their feet and clapped their hands in rhythm while the bartenders poured fresh pints and lively conversations continued around the bar and back tables.
Outside, dozens of bicycles littered the grassy areas along the towering brick walls of the historic rubber mills this microbrewery now calls home.
Bikes, craft beer and live music are the highlights of Wednesdays at Pearl Street Brewery - and this tradition is unlikely to pedal away anytime soon.
Joe Katchever, owner and brewmaster, started Free-Wheelin' Wednesdays about three years ago when he noticed many of his customers and employees were biking to the brewery.
Located near trails on La Crosse's north side, Pearl Street Brewery had become a popular post-ride destination for many cyclists.
Katchever wanted to support the city’s thriving bicycling community and show some gratitude, so he started offering a free beer to anyone who rode a bike to the brewery on Wednesdays.
"Funny thing is, we figured we'd run it until the end of summer, but there are some hardcore bikers out there who ride all year-round, so we just never stopped. It has been running every Wednesday since we started it," Katchever said.
"We've since paired Free-Wheelin' Wednesdays with live music," he said.
Regular patrons look forward to seeing live music from local bands like the Simple Rogues, and this year, Pigtown Fling String Band, which plays a mix of Irish, bluegrass, blues and swing music.
In many ways, these Wednesday night scenes are reminiscent of traditional Irish pubs known for their live music, spirited conversations and quality pints.
Pearl Street Brewery got its start in a basement on La Crosse’s Pearl St. in 1999. Today, the brewery is located in buildings that housed La Crosse Footwear from 1897 to 2001. When the company left town, the brewery seized the opportunity to expand their operations and moved in. With additional space and equipment, the brewery was able to increase production and distribution and cement their status as a legitimate player in the microbrewery market.
As the old saying goes, the rest is history.
A number of events and endeavors like Free-Wheelin' Wednesdays have helped Pearl Street Brewery build their reputation over the years, retain the allegiance of local craft beer fans and attract new followers
Pearl Street appears headed in the right direction atop a trail of friendliness, tradition and plenty of interesting characters.
For now, expect to hear the rubber mills rocking every Wednesday evening, where the easygoing atmosphere and buzz of conversation will tumble through the front door to greet anyone who opens it.
Whether by car, on foot or by bike, people come seeking - in the words of the Simple Rogues - "a folkin' good time."
IF YOU GO
Pearl Street Brewery is at 1401 Saint Andrew St., La Crosse.
The tasting room is open Tuesday through Thursday from 4 to 8 p.m., Friday from 4 to 10 p.m. and Saturday from noon to 5 p.m.
Tours are offered Saturday from 12 to 5 p.m.
For more information, call (608) 784-4832 or see pearlstreetbrewery.com.
Follow Greg Lovell on Twitter at @greglovell2.
- Rhinelander is much more than its famous hodag
- Day Out: Wedl’s Hamburger Stand a staple in Jefferson
- Design Ideas: 24 hours at the former Pabst Brewing Company
- Day Out: Adventure races pose a different kind of challenge
- Day Out: Old World Wisconsin visitors can ride replica 1890s tricycle
- While doing Wright thing, see Tower Hill State Park
- Summer Getaways: Minocqua is a pine-scented retreat in the North Woods
- Door County blossoms with things to do in spring
- Day Out: Touring Aldo Leopold’s shack near Baraboo
- Wisconsin distilleries show plenty of variety (3)