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A Cold One for Carl: Tribute Brewing renames coffee stout in honor of snowmobile inventorSubmitted: 02/19/2019

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SAYNER - Located just before of the cash register and not far from the screwdrivers at Eliason Hardware and Lumber in Sayner, a special supply sat that customers couldn't wait to try on Tuesday.

"Mixing beer, hardware, and vintage snowmobiles... What better way to spend an afternoon?" Mike Kowalski told Newswatch 12 shortly after sipping from a cup.

A dark oatmeal stout beer with a fitting name filled small plastic cups, but not for long.


"It's a tribute from Tribute, I guess it would be," Tribute Brewing Company Co-Owner Bill Summers said.

Tribute, which has been based in Eagle River for the last six years, decided to re-name and re-brand its "Bucksnort Coffee Stout" as the "Motor Toboggan Coffee Stout" last year.  The beer uses coffee beans roasted at Eagle River Roasters.

"The two go beautifully together," Kowalski said of the coffee-beer mix. "It's an awesome blend."

The beer -- but more importantly, the can itself -- salutes the grandfather of snowmobiles, Carl Eliason.

In 1924, Eliason finished his first "motor toboggan." It was made out of downhill skis, an outboard engine, and bike parts. Eliason finished the vehicle in an old shed behind what is now the Sayner Pub.

At the suggestion of his fried Dale Buss, Summers and his brewmaster Mark O'Brien agreed the coffee beer needed to feature Carl's contribution to the world. Summers said the Motor Toboggan Stout has been one of the best sellers of the season at Tribute, where there are currently 10 beers on tap.

"It's just taking off like crazy and a lot of it has to do with the history of the motor toboggan," Summers said.

That history can be found just a short walk from where the beer sat in the hardware store.

"The brand doesn't matter to me. I'll ride anything," Carl Eliason's granddaughter Jona told Newswatch 12.

Jona helps run Carl's old hardware store with her brother and father. She also helps preserve the mini museum up front, which has five of Eliason's vintage sleds that he built.

Eliason did so out of necessity. Jona says Carl had clubfeet and couldn't snowshoe or ski to get around in the winter.

Eliason had patents for his creation, but other people around the country also worked on similar machines and eventually the patents expired.

Jona says Carl only made about $3,000 dollars his entire life for the invention that eventually helped change the landscape and economy of Wisconsin winters. He died in 1979, but always made sure his family had access to snowmobiles and respected the sport.

"It was something that was before its time," Eliason said of her grandfather's invention. "Seeing him watch snowmobilers... He was so very proud. And he'd be really proud of this day."

The Eliasons signed on to Tribute's beer idea right away. They provided the artwork for the can, which includes a note that Carl really loved his coffee. The rest is... history.

"I don't think I could ask for anything more than this, really," Jona said of the beverage honoring Carl.

Perhaps the Eliasons could ask for one more thing: one more round of Motor Toboggan Stout to toast the man who helped bring cheer to winter in Wisconsin.

Tribute brewed about 3,000 cans of the stout for this winter. They're sold in four-packs, but once they're gone, they're gone.

Tribute plans to keep the new name for next winter when the beer gets released again with a different can design. You can buy the beer at Eliason's Hardware at 2954 Highway 155 in Sayner, at select Trig's, and Save More Marketplace in Minocqua.

Story By: Lane Kimble

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