Back in 1993, American Heritage magazine featured Puempel's as an example of rare authentic taverns in the U.S., a modern relic profiled as one of our country's "most impressive historic survivors." The comforts, charm, and atmosphere that appealed to settlers and travelers back in 1893 has been infused with the energy and integrity of over a century of patrons from all walks of life. The ambience of old-world Swiss tradition, a commitment to local foods and drink blends, and the contemporary energy of the local community and its visitors, allows Puempel's Olde Tavern to thrive as a throwback to a simpler time.You are always welcome at Puempel's. We hope you'll come visit us!
Puempel's was established in 1893. The first owners were Joe and Berta, who also operated the building as a railroad worker's boarding house and served meals to their patrons. In 1935, their son, Otto, became the second owner of the establishment. Upon Otto's retirement at the age of 88, Chuck and Lessia Bigler bought Puempel's and continue to run it as a tavern and restaurant, while passionately maintaining its integrity and welcoming atmosphere.Return to Top
FOR MANY PERHAPS MOST AMERICANS, THEIR FIRST visit to a tavern is a rite of passage, a bridge between youthful days of sneaking illicit booze in a friend's basement and the grownup pleasures of a social drink in good company. Others, however, find their tentative steps into the world of the American public house to be an encounter with history, a chance to commune with ghosts: the traditions, legends, and, in some cases, the very locales that have played a vital role in the development of this nation. For them the appreciation of a good tavern encompasses much more than the drinks and the food it offers, and the quest for the next great place gets under the skin.
America's most impressive historic survivors just may be our taverns because they've had to do it all on their own, by offering you exactly the same kind of comfort they did your great-grandfather.
During more than a decade of traveling America seeking interesting
food and drink and lodging, we have had the good fortune to come
across some of the country's most distinctive taverns. Their décor
may be scarred hardwood beams from another century or kitsch that
seems to be from another planet; their clientele can range from
regulars who mark their barstools not with signs or plaques but
with sharp glances at unwitting interlopers, to a transient crowd
barely out of college; and their wares can run from a full menu with
a wide selection of beers, wines, and spirits to a single draft tap
and a jar of pickled eggs. So what signals to us that we have just
entered an authentic American tavern, if not age or ambiance?
Simply its character.
Such eccentricities...can be maintained only by people with passion, and fortunately passion is what taverns arouse in many of their owners. Take, for example, Chuck Bigler, proprietor of Puempel's Olde Tavern, in the modest Swiss-settled town of New Glarus, Wisconsin.
A car dealer by trade, Bigler told [American Heritage Magazine] that the tavern's previous owner, Otto Puempel, whose family ran the bar for 99 years, had been like a grandfather to him. During Otto's youth Puempel's was a railroad workers' boardinghouse, where a bed and meals cooked by Otto's mother, Bertha, went for 60 cents a day. In 1913 an itinerant artist by the name of Albert Struebin stayed for six months to paint the walls with heartfelt scenes of the old country, such as Appenzeller Musik, depicting Puempel's mother's hometown, and Andreas Hofer, homage to an Austrian patriot, who is immortalized resisting arrest by Napoleon's troops. On Otto's retirement at the age of 88, Bigler and his wife, Lessia, bought Puempel's rather than risk seeing it transmogrified into "a modern bar with video games and lots of noise," and they continue to run it in the traditional manner. They maintain the original icebox (now electrically chilled), and allow no jukebox, video games, or fried foods, the last banned for fear that smoke from the fryer could damage the 1912 cherry wood bar and Struebin's murals. Seeing the tavern as a project for their retirement, the Biglers treat it like a coddled offspring, lovingly sweeping the century-old hardwood dance floor, which has felt the tap and scrape of millions of feet, and polishing the tables, on which locals still play the Swiss card game Yass. Their biggest regret is being unable to restore the murals; the $35,000 price tag is too steep for such a modest establishment.
Why is this bar so important to Bigler? His reasons are part personal, part altruistic. "My grandma and grandpa ran a tavern in town for 40 years, and I saw the back bar chopped up for firewood." He adds: "And the history of the tavern is the history of America."
But beyond century-old bar tops and age-darkened murals, it is the embrace of community that marks the traditional American tavern, making it a place where people feel free both to revel in good times and to close ranks in bad.
Source: Beaumont, Stephen, and Janet Forman. "Liberty Inn." American Heritage 54.3 (2003): 27-33. Print.Find Full Article
Midwest Portraits | Chicago Tribune Magazine (1994)
Source: Sundlof, John. "House of Cards."
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Here's Why Wisconsin Is Weird | Wisconsin State Journal (1999)
It looks like a limburger on rye and locally brewed Pilsner, but, for folklorist Jim Leary, his lunch represents the ways traditional food and drink have persevered in Wisconsin.
...Wisconsin has been called 'the most European of states' and I'd be writing down the evidence, if only I had another hand. Sure enough, there are still slogans on the wall in German and guys playing yass, a card game known only in Green County and Switzerland, while sitting at the 'stamm tisch' or regulars table.
Yep. Looks pretty European to me, I think, while chewing on a crust of rye.
A Bit of Switzerland in Wisconsin | New York Times (2011)
Source: Axelson, Gustave. "A Bit of Switzerland in Wisconsin."
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