Monday, June 21, 2010

My favorite tavern

  Wisconsin has a tavern culture; most small towns have one...or several. I never thought I would have a favorite bar; I thought of them as dark smoky places where perhaps a customer is drinking himself into a stupor. But for the past 15 years or so, I have had a favorite bar to hang out in: Sprecher's Bar in Leland. Leland is an unincorporated town with a handful of houses, an attractive white church with a steeple, a park, and two taverns. Typical small town Wisconsin. Leland also is a great place to start a bike ride over back roads that have hardly any traffic.
   The best thing about Sprecher's is the owner, Junior Sprecher, one of the finest raconteurs I've ever met. He's in his late 80s and has been working in the bar for 69 years. That's long enough to really hone your barkeep skills.  The Sprecher family has been in business in the same location for 110 years. First they had a general store and after Prohibition ended Junior's father opened a tavern and dance hall.
   During the day, there's no TV and rarely even jukebox music, just good conversation. Six years ago, Junior banned smoking because he suffers from asthma. We've only been there in the afternoon but the number of people knocking back a soda tend to outnumber beer drinkers. My favorite brew is the root beer soda he keeps on tap (Sprecher's from Milwaukee, no relation.) He keeps the mugs in the freezer, so they get all frosty. It's the perfect libation after a sweaty bike ride and you can pair it with a pizza from his freezer.
    A notable feature of the bar is that Junior sells guns and ammunition.  Most of the guns are for hunting—Leland is out in the country. Which reminds me of the story Junior told of going turkey hunting and falling asleep in the blind. When he woke up, an enormous male turkey was right near him, too close to shoot at. I suggested that he might market a recording of his snoring as a special turkey call.
   When a young friend from Brazil was visiting last year, we felt she wouldn't have a complete picture of Wisconsin until she went to Sprecher's bar with us and experienced root beer for the first time (a hard sell for people who haven't grown up with it) and beer nuts (which have no beer in them but go very well with either real beer or root beer.) She got to talk to both Junior and his daughter Amy who sometimes tends bar.
  Since his wife died a few years ago, Junior has started traveling. His first big trip was to Ireland. Next month he's going to Ireland and Scotland with Amy and 3 granddaughters. We wish them bon voyage and a speedy return—we're looking forward to hearing the stories Junior will have to tell.


Trudy said...

Carol - I continue to enjoy your commentary on where ever you are or what ever you are doing. Thank you for enriching my week.

Carolina said...

Thanks so much Trudy! Next time you are birding up at Baxter's Hollow or Hemlock Draw, you should check out Sprecher's Bar. By the way, the road at Baxter's Hollow washed out (again).

Gabriela said...

Hey hey! There I´m :D You were right, Carol. It´s not a great photo but it remembers me about great moments! I´m so happy to see this, thank you! :D

Jody Kapp said...


I'm the President of the Sauk Prairie Area Historical Society. We are working to create a little day trip from our church on PF to our little stone church out on C, into Leland to Sprecher's, and then to a restored schoolhouse on B. I was wondering if it would be okay if I used your photo of Junior? It's great! I would like to put it in our promotional materials to send to the local senior center, etc. Would that be okay? We love Junior!! And thank you for this great post!

Carolina said...

Dear Jody,
Thanks for asking. Yes, that would be fine. Sounds like a fun trip!