When it comes to Second Salem Brewing Company, not only will you indulge in a delicious local craft brew, you’ll find yourself immersed in Whitewater’s (and the surrounding area’s) rich spiritual folklore. The brew pub’s name is a nod to that history as Whitewater was once referred to as the Second Salem of the US due to rumors of witchcraft and strange hauntings, as well as the presence of the Morris Pratt Institute for spiritual education.
Employees of Second Salem swear the place is haunted. The building has existed since the 1800s and has been many things–a blacksmith shop, a furniture store, and a boiler unit company, to name a few. When Christ Christon, owner of Second Salem, bought the building in 2010, his dream was to turn it into a gastro-pub.
“About a year later, I was sitting out back having a beer with a patron, Thayer Coburn, and he jokingly said, ‘Have you ever thought about turning this into a brew-pub?’ to which I replied, ‘Yes it’s one of my long-term goals.’ We talked about it and thought about involving a few other people, but it wasn’t until several years later when we both met a resident professor in town, Karl Brown, who did have brewing experience. We got together, and we decided to move forward with the brew-pub experience. I like to focus on our local, historical roots as inspiration to make great beer. Our base grains are from Wisconsin and Minnesota, and our yeast comes from a lab in Chicago. Other hops and grains come from countries that grow them best.”Owner and Brewer, Christ Christon
The pub is cozy-industrial with a mix of wood and iron. It definitely feels different than other local bars.
“Customers come in and can get a great, locally brewed beer in a cool atmosphere. There’s a patio overlooking Cravath Lake. It’s comfortable. Customers often say, ‘We like it because it feels like we’re sitting at a bar in a big city.’”Owner and Brewer, Christ Christon
The walls feature artwork of each beer and paintings that will linger in your psyche long after you leave.
Christon’s favorite imagery is the graphic for his pale wheat brew, The Reaper. It features the Grim Reaper riding in an Esterly Reaper–one of the first pieces of wheat harvesting equipment created by the Esterly family in Whitewater in the mid-1800s. The reaper (and Grim Reaper!) is, of course, being pulled by a death horse through sheaves of wheat to tie in more dark mythology.
“I like beer, and I care about what I sell. My favorite is our Oktoberfest. I like clean, malty beers. The Oktoberfest is crisp, clean, and goes with everything on our menu, but especially our burgers.”Owner and Brewer, Christ Christon
“The brewery kind of reflects my personality, what’s me. The beers I make are based off how I’m feeling that day or what my mood is or where I’m at in life. There are trendy things that are sellers, but many things I make are based off my palette and creativity. So it’s a pretty good reflection of me in many ways.”Owner and Brewer, Christ Christon
Patrons at the bar can see into the brewery where all the magic happens. Christ brews with standard brewing equipment, but one gadget in particular made the cut for the most unique piece in the brewery. Learn all about a Zahm & Nagel from Christ.
Aside from going for walks at night when it’s quiet or taking bike rides with his boys, Christon is happy to talk beer and share all he knows about the folklore surrounding their names. Travelers come in to Second Salem because they’ve heard the folklore and want to hear it from a local.
“I enjoy sharing the stories with customers. They get to enjoy a good craft beer and talk with the owner about that history. I have not just one fun story, I have a handful of stories and characters that I can talk about.”Owner and Brewer, Christ Christon
Second Salem is a popular destination for beer enthusiasts, day trippers, and locals alike, and has been featured on Travel Wisconsin and the Travel Channel. The Bike MS riders make a stop at the pub each year.
“We help bring people downtown.”Owner and Brewer, Christ Christon
That’s at the heart of it all. It’s important to Christon that Whitewater’s local wares and fare are appreciated and supported, and if Second Salem can help make Whitewater special, then he considers that a success.
For hours, info, and a menu, visit Second Salem Brewing Company here.