The Beautiful Wall of Beer at Main Street Market

One of my biggest concerns when I moved to Door County in April 2013 was that I would not be able to keep my refrigerator/beer cellar as well stocked as I had at my previous location, where I was near one of the great liquor/beer outlets in the Fox Valley.

Now, you may think that is a ridiculous concern, but once you are used to a large and ever-changing variety of beery options, it’s hard to go back to few or no options.

The couple from Illinois shows why Main Street Market is the third biggest seller of New Glarus Brewing Products in Northeastern Wisconsin, topped only by Woodman’s and Costco. The couple was buying beer for themselves and friends in Illinois because New Glarus does not sell beer outside of Wisconsin. Photo by Jim Lundstrom.

But I soon found that my concerns were nonsense because my new local grocery store has a wall of beer that could easily satisfy most anyone’s beery needs.

“The store when we built it 27 years ago was much smaller, less than half what it is now,” said Kaaren Northrop who owns Main Street Market with her husband, Steve, and parents Dave and Vonnie Callsen.

The store was 7,000 square feet when they built it on a vacant lot in 1987. Two additions, in 1991 and 1997, brought it to its present 17,000 square feet. The expansion was necessary to accommodate the growth of the store, but also to accommodate Dave Callsen’s growing interest in wine.

“All of the beer and wine started with my father because he was willing to commit the space and time and dollars to them,” Kaaren said. “This is pretty much true of anything in our store – we like it, we sell it. My father absolutely loved Guinness, so we’ve been selling Guinness forever. Then my dad got into wine big time. We had wine everywhere.”

It was the 1997 expansion that allowed for the wonderful wall of beer.

“We tripled the space of everything we previously had,” Kaaren said. “You can’t just all of a sudden decide to sell 500 kinds of beer if you don’t eliminate something or add more space. Thank god we have a clientele that appreciates it, because you can’t just all of a sudden do all this if no one buys it. It’s a lot of inventory and a lot of space.”

Today the wall of beer at Main Street Market is an amazing lineup of top American craft beers and the best from European brewers. Kaaren said her son, Sam, is responsible for the savvy state of the wall of beer today.

“Sam started getting really, really interested in the craft part of beer,” she said. “He just started taking care of it when he was home in the summers and became very good friends with most of the distributors. He really got into it and kind of took over for my dad. Once Sam really got involved and interested in it, it just kept growing.”

Now 25, Sam said he started taking an interest in the craft beer revolution/evolution when he started doing the beer ordering at the age of 18.

“It was a lot of fun reading about all the breweries and learning fun, quirky facts about them. Every single one is different,” he said.

But because of his age, wasn’t able to gain firsthand knowledge of the products he was ordering.

“I could read about how an IPA is different from a wheat, but I couldn’t put it into context,” he said.

So turning 21 was a very big deal for Sam.

Sam Northrop helped to build the wall of beer at his family’s store, Main Street Market in Egg Harbor. Photo by Jim Lundstrom.

“Yeah,” he said. “I wish I could remember the first beer I bought when I turned 21.”

Sam lives in Green Bay and works for liquor and wine distributor Badger Liquor, but keeps in contact with all the beer distributors at Main Street Market, and is always on the lookout for more beer to feature on the wall of beer.

“The world of craft beer is huge,” Sam said.

His personal favorites are IPAs.

“I’ve got a lot of favorites, but I love IPAs. That’s the beer of choice for me,” he said. “Mikkeller 1000 IBU is a special one. After you drink that, any other beer will taste like water. My go to beer is either Sierra Nevada, that’s always a staple in my fridge, and lately it’s been Wisco Disco, and I’m a little biased in that because he’s one of my close friends, Brad Stillmank.”

Sam said one of the great satisfactions he derives working the wall of beer is when someone is looking at the domestic macrobrews and asks Sam for help.

“I’ll ask what they normally drink. From there I can pretty much pick out five or six beers they’d be interested in,” he said. “If they are used to domestics, they’ll probably want to start lighter, so I’ll probably recommend an Oberon (a wheat ale from the popular Bell’s Brewery of Kalamazoo, Mich.), and they’ll come back and say, ‘Wow, that’s one of the best beers I’ve ever had.’ And they just keep coming back and buying it. And that’s cool, converting them over to craft.”

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