“I see a sign, right there,” I said to my wife. We were returning from a weekend at my sister’s cabin in Hayward, Wisconsin and had decided to take a different route back. “Oh yeah, I see it,” she replied. An old brick schoolhouse sat on the corner; a hand-painted wooden sign pointed the way. “Pizza and beer, sounds like what we’re looking for,” I said. Sawmill Pizza & Brew Shed awaited.
“This place is way bigger than I expected,” I said, as I lifted my son out of the car. He rubbed his eyes and buried his head into my shoulder. “Are we at the brewery?” my daughter asked. She’s had her fair share of taproom experiences, but this one would be different. “Yep, and this one has pizza!” I replied. “Should we go find a spot?” I asked.
Sawmill is impressive. I’ve heard about pizza farms before but I’d never been to one. I had few expectations. It was clear the two large sheds on their property were once home to farm equipment, nobody would build something like this for pizza alone. We walked on a small gravel road that connected the parking lot to the buildings. To our left was a large shed with a front porch patio. People packed seats spanning every decade. Behind them were old metal signs of every shape and variety—brands lost to time. It was an anachronistic jumble—charming and delightful. To our left people had strewn out on the grass, picnic blankets and camp chairs of all colors dotted against the green.
We kept walking. Across from the first shed was a smaller building with a grain bin next to it. On the side facing the gravel road there was another covered porch with two gentlemen setting up amplifiers and other equipment. Besides pizza and beer, live music was on the menu! We stopped at a crossroad. The gravel continued on to another large shed and to the left was a newer building with two small grain bins behind them—the bathrooms. At this point I spotted some folks exiting the first shed with drinks in tow. “Should we grab some beer first?” I asked.
There are two main rooms. The first housed the bar and all the taps. The other, much larger, had the seating. Both were empty—when the weather is nice and there is room outside nobody is sitting indoors. We didn’t spend much time inside either. With our drinks in hand we went in search of a table to accommodate two small children.
We found it under the porch of the second shed. There were less people here and much more room. We try to be respectful of others when we bring our kids to breweries. Even though we teach them that they have to sit at the table they can be tough to wrangle, primed for random outbursts. We do a great job, yet we remain vigilant. At Sawmill this didn’t seem to be an issue at all, in fact it seemed the point. During our visit, there were countless children running around, plenty of space to stretch their legs and grow their minds.
After settling down, literally for ourselves and figuratively for our children, I went to order pizza. I saw now that the smaller building where the musician’s were setting up housed the restaurant. Smoke poured out of the top of the grain bin while boxes of pizza shuffled away from the bottom. My search for a wood-fired pepperoni pizza began. Inside the small building was another blast from the past. It was a retro wonderland, a palace to vibrant 50s formica dinette sets. After placing the order they gave me a small ticket and I returned to our table. My ears were now trained to hear numbers, something they’d filtered out minutes before.
As I returned with the ticket I noticed my children had vibrated away from the table. Arlo crouched in the grass just off the porch while Ellen looped circles around him. My wife stood leaning against a post, drink in hand. A common pose for us: relaxed vigilance. The weather was a perfect August day—seventy and sunny—where the temperature doesn’t register as a factor in life. Eventually a pepperoni pizza would come, paired with a porter and a cream ale. I couldn’t ask for a better day with my family at Sawmill. It’s a memory we’ll chase again next summer.