This place is not your average establishment. Though there is the word bar on their sign, you won’t find frat boys stumbling around at one o’clock in the morning. You won’t find pool league every Thursday night. And you definitely won’t see shots lined along the counter. Because even though it says bar on their sign, they are anything but.
Hidden in a town of just 544 residents, the Whistle Punk has made their home in Stone Lake, Wisconsin. Two sisters, Ashley and Linsey, and their husbands, Ian and Matt, opened their doors in February 2016.
With the dreams of being entrepreneurs, they set out to own their own business. Ian and Ashley were involved with the craft beer industry in the Twin Cities area. Ashley working for Summit Brewing Company, Harriet Brewing, Day Block Brewing, and Flat Earth Brewing Company, while Ian worked for The Four Firkins craft beer store. They credit much of their beer knowledge to these establishments.
But the desire to be closer to family and live in a smaller town, drew them away from the big city life. Packing up their belongings and moving back to Northern Wisconsin, they settled down and started their next journey. Linsey wanting to be closer to her sister, made the move a year ago to the Stone Lake area with Matt. At the same time, the building now known as the Whistle Punk, was available for lease.
Jumping at the opportunity to start a coffee shop, they started discussing the idea together. Ian and Ashley immediately thought, “well, we could do beer there.” And the Whistle Punk was born.
Craft beer and coffee is an interesting, yet amazing combo. The four owners joined forces and partnered with Duluth Coffee Company. They wanted a company that made good quality coffee to pair well with their craft beer items, and Duluth Coffee Company fit the bill. They were also not well established around the area, so it was a great way to bring in something new.
They signed the lease a year ago, and after two months of renovations, built solely by the owners with a lot of the carpentry done by Matt, they had their soft opening on Valentine’s Day.
The name is based on the history of the town. Stone Lake was well established back in the day, with a railroad line for the logging industry. Looking up the history they came across some fun terms, like Steam Donkey, which they coined as their legal LLC name. And Whistle Punk, was the person who ran a signal wire, or the whistle to make sure people got out of the way. The name raised a question because it is interesting and fun to say, while also tying in the history of the town. It is safe to assume the loggers drank plenty of coffee and beer back in the day too.
The reason behind adding coffee instead of just beer, was to have the opportunity to have two businesses instead of just one. With such a sparcely populated town, they knew having just a beer tap room probably wouldn’t make it, but they were certain that they didn’t want to get involved with the food industry, having worked it in the past. Since the start of the business, the sales of beer and coffee are pretty equal.
One thing that they take pride in is the event planning that they do with the business. A regular occurring event is beer yoga, which is part beer tasting and part yoga, lead by an actual certified yoga instructor. They also do beer tastings with a unique style. Cinco de Mayo, Halloween dress-up, and actual sheep have all made the cut.
But what is truly special about this establishment is their act of giving back to the community. With an event called Good Pours, they partner with a non-profit each month and give a portion of a certain beer line to that organization. They also get out a donation jar and invite the group to come down once during the month so the community can support them. While we were there we were able to support the fire department.
Having only seven different tap lines, they try to keep a bit of balance with all beer styles. They keep good quality beers to try, while also trying to tap beers you can’t find commonly around the area. Be sure to check out their website to see their current line-up.
Follow them on Facebook and Instagram at TheWhislePunk to see everything they are up to. And be sure to stop in and try a beer or two, did we mention they have coffee on tap?
W170 US Highway 70, Stone Lake, WI