Before I get all hoity-toity and say "I haven't had a Budweiser in years," let me first say I've had my share, your share, your mom's share and a light-drinking hobo's share of Hamm's and ol' Grain Belt. I am by no means above it.

NOW. I haven't had a Budweiser in years.

To read this Wall Street Journal piece about the king's decline didn't make me drop my coffee exactly, nor did its chief statistic: forty-four percent of drinkers age 21-27 have never tried Budweiser.

My first thought: Why would they?

To be clear, this is JUST Anheuser-Busch's flagship Budweiser beer. This leaves out Bud Light, Bud Light Lime, Black Crown if they still even make that, and the other beers under AB InBev Alphabet Soup's umbrella. Budweiser is distraught over the youth's hesitation to drink specifically Budweiser.

The article suggests AB is befuddled by this, then it gives you the answer in statistical form: 50 percent of of 21- to 27-year-olds identify themselves as “foodies.” FIFTY PERCENT!! Those who fancy themselves foodies are out judging the new restaurant, the flashy cuisine fad, the brewery down the way that just opened. They aren't drinking Budweiser -- because it's, you know, Budweiser.

Being the world's biggest brand disconnects you from a few people. Unfortunately for the king, that group is rapidly growing. Having more than 3,000 breweries in the U.S. nowadays doesn't help. Those so-called foodies are going to be busy a while. Disclosure: I am not in the 21-27 age bracket, but I am married to a woman who is (I still can't believe she got in the van. Peanut butter cups, guys).

Now let's talk about those unfortunate marketing pathways they've set upon.

The clydesdales were the drink's only distinguishing quality, and they're cutting them loose? Today's marketing centers on being unique, not ANOTHER beer bouncing up and down in ANOTHER club scene ... so who is AB calling up? According to the article, Jay Z and DJ group Cash Cash.

First, who is Cash Cash? Is that the group with Skillets and Dead Mouse? How are these artists going to spin Budweiser's fortunes around? Speaking of spin, what made Coca-Cola's "Share a Coke" campaign go viral was the flooding of bottle shots onto social media. AB's trying to copy it, and completely missing the point. I saw one of the "holidaybuds" commercials on this morning and it hit me like a ping-pong ball against the hull of an aircraft carrier. What's worse, Coke's campaign is fresh enough that Bud's looks like an obvious ripoff (which it is).

I'm leery about the idea to sponsor food festivals and college parties, since Budweiser already sponsors a ton of events, but I've got to like ONE of their ideas. This one seems the most feasible.

So, what do they do?

Most of my ideas are a little nuts, I know, but hang with me for this one.

Maybe ... Budweiser hasn't fallen far enough.

Let's take Converse and Levi's, since they're mentioned in the article. They snuck back into style after becoming afterthoughts -- I mean total afterthoughts. Levi's had been banished to Shopko, and Converses (ever-chic Chucks aside) were marooned on the bargain racks almost right out of the shippers (I know: I spent years at Champs Sports putting them there). That's where Bud has to land if AB hopes to have it hauled back out by millennial "foodies."

They're not going to sip it for flavor's sake, and they're not going to chug it out of a marketing scheme. This generation grew up around marketing schemes. They're aware they're being targeted by marketing schemes.

AB's best bet is keeping their core consumer base happy while letting Bud lay low for a few years, then switching the cans retro and betting on a PBR-like revival. Being "big beer" will never ensnare the audience they're after, nor will lazy marketing.

Alternatively, AB could just buy some beer companies. They are AB-InBev, after all. Similarly to how MillerCoors bought Leinenkugel's and Duvel snatched up Ommegang and Boulevard, AB could just throw their dollars at similarly-sized companies who are still coined as "craft."

If it's straight-up Budweiser AB wants to sell, though, that's going to be tough. As long as it's still around, being marketed and produced in bulk, they'll be the opposite of what their target audience wants. They'll still be Budweiser, and they'll still print money. They just might have to settle for Budweiser being King Nothing.

Jurt and Jo's Eats and Treats: It sounds Dairy Queen-esque and shoves the words FAMILY DINING into your eyes the second you see their strip mall hideaway, off Highway 29 close to Wausau. Before you cross into Rib Mountain, before you pass over the Little Rib River, you've got a shot at some FAMILY DINING.

Look at it. Don't you want to just run up with an elderly man, plop in those Adirondack chairs, and bitch about weather for a few hours? The ice cream shop's got a crane game and some pinball the tykes can toil around with while they wait for their ice cream inside, and the adults can just belly up to the bar.

(Record skips)

Oh, come on. This is Wisconsin we're talking about. You get a beer, then you get a beer, then you get a burger -- the one with the beer cheese, or the macaroni and cheese -- then you get a beer, then you get blutterbunged by the size of your ice cream helping. You walk out to the tune of belly-slaps and blusterous exhales, and you're on the road at 1 p.m. after working off your first little beer buzz.

The Dairy State is full of worthy diners and bars. Let me introduce you to one of both, if I may.

"You eating or treating?"

The Basics: Without stuff like this, you'd only find this on accident. From what I can tell, I'm mis-typing the name by not using "Eat's and Treat's." I'm fine with that oversight. They have no website of their own.

I need to tell you that our server greeted us upon entry with: "Are you eating or treating?" We didn't know how to handle this until we saw the bar, decided we'd be doing a little of both, or a lot of both, and which one is drinking because we'll do plenty of that as well.

I don't remember how exactly we answered. The bar.

The bar's interior is like that of your buddy's garage, with its walls addled with beer tins and shelves packed with tchotchkes. He might not have a bathroom built into it, or a helmet-rockin' sloth on a bicycle situated above it, but otherwise it's very man-cavey. We sat near the sloth, in front of a television playing Vanilla Ice Goes Amish.

What I just thought about Vanilla Ice: He's like a Swiss Army knife ... whose knife you use as a screwdriver, whose Phillips you use as a chisel, whose scissors you use as a file, and whose file you've yet to unhouse. The 90s kids are still curious about him, though, so here we are with that flimsy filet knife and some screws that need tightening.

The menus were set before us by the woman at the door. She was motivated and attentive despite having only two customers. At times, other team members filled in to assist us. If this is a family-owned business, the family cares.

The burgers were fired at us out of a cannon (not really) and landed in a diner meal's default attire: Little red snack basket; thin, sketchy fries; eerily disc-like patties failing with grandeur at containing their toppings; and the red and white plaid napkin beneath. These are all positive attributes, if you're keeping score.

My wife kicked off by dropping a pickle on "the shelf," if you know what I mean (her words, not mine). A couple of macaroni noodles followed soon after, and ice cream soon after that. In total, a four-course meal would be fed to her sweatshirt.

"I hope you didn't want a clean wife the rest of the trip," she said, running her fingernail under a glob of cheese and lifting it from her hoodie. Her manicure upkeep is impeccable -- there isn't a wayward food wad in the world she couldn't snatch up.

The burger was cooked right, just a hint crunch of char on the bite but easy to chew. The pretzel bun had a firm shell, but squished and rose like a pillow. The beer cheese was zesty but not spicy, thick and simply a joy to eat and lick off my fingers. I'd bite, see a bunch ooze into the basket, run my next bite through that, repeat without rinsing.

Her mac-n-cheese was a clumsy operation, as mac-n-cheese burgers inherently are, but delicious nonetheless. I mean, if you like cheeseburgers and you like mac-n-cheese, you'll overeat mellifluously by exploring this one. We finished our burgers (oh, by the way, it's only $2.30 to make them doubles) and the ice creams essentially ordered themselves.

Her ice cream was called Pirate's Booty, a caramel flavor with all manner of crunchy trespassers. Ice cream sandwich bread might've been one of them. I chose Zanzibar Chocolate, made from the three richest chocolates Wisconsin can get imported. I didn't object to this in the slightest.

Below are the "single scoops of ice cream" we ordered apiece. It took our waitress three scoops to load up what they define as "one scoop." Our singular scoops took us 10 minutes apiece to consume.

Wisconsin prices, I swear, are a misprint everyone's just going with. Our double burgers, a local beer apiece (and I'm not talking Millers), and two ice creams totaled $30. That's a $45 meal in the Twinkies, easily, probably $50 if you're downtown or uptown.

In sum, Kurt and Jo's does nothing to calm Wisconsin's preeminent stereotype -- but neither do any of Wisconsin's visitors, and neither do anyone who's ever lived in Wisconsin. If we're all in agreement that best practice includes over-consumption of dairy and beer in their borders, who am I to suggest against that?

Go in, dive in, stagger out. It's like that line in a Streets song goes, "If you think you're a state, you definitely ARE a state."

Frankie's Pub and Grill in Sheboygan is almost conspicuous in its commonplace appearance: Bland, earthy-toned siding, uninspiring signage, second-floor windows that hint at apartment spaces. It's just another hole in the wall, right? Would you even step in there ironically?

Then you remember how prideful this region is of having stashed away gangsters back in the day. You begin to think this workaday approach might be hiding something of importance. You walk up to that creaky ol' door and step in.

Then, you get it.

A mannequin Capone shows you the specials upon entry, white suit, clean, fat ol' cigar in his free hand. The walls are loaded with legends: Sinatra, Jimmy Dean, Monroe, Hepburn, Scarface. The name of the bar is spelled out in big gold across the entire bar's top trim. You're in the presence of something, but you won't know it until it comes out to meet you.


It's a pint glass high and a foot across easily. Meet the Frankie's Challenge: Three buns, four patties, five-and-a-half pounds. It's the MFIC today, hanging out in the old bosses' hideout.

Don't worry: It's got plenty of rings you can kiss when it comes to you.

The Basics: Here's a random website with a pixellized photograph and skeleton details about Frankie's. To my knowledge, they don't have a website -- as if they need one, as if they'd want one. They've an unexpected selection of Wisconsin craft taps on the roster, and they play the Chargers and Cowboys if the Packers aren't playing.

Here was our route home from Door County without Frankie's. Here's our route with it. Notice the absence of regrets on that second map.

My wife and I stepped around Plaster Capone, and were greeted by a half-full establishment, maybe five or six at the bar. The window seats were washed out by sunlight, in sharp contradiction to the otherwise dusky little room. It wasn't long before a buzz-cut man hustled to the end of our table.

My wife had to look at the menu. I did not. My pointer finger rose up slowly, and dove to a thud on the Frankie's Challenge: The most elemental facets of burger-dom, five-and-a-half pounds strong. We also ordered some fries.

"What we'll do is," said the tender, stroking his goatee the way I would, "since the challenge takes up the entire grill, we'll bring the fries and the other burger out first."

It was faster than advertised, maybe a half-hour, for everything to come out.

This is what everything looked like:

Save your campy comparisons. They're no good here.

From bottom to top: Bun, pickles, onion, bacon, burger, cheese, burger, cheese, bacon, bun, onions, burger, cheese, burger, cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, bun. A knife was plunged into its heart, but wasn't long enough to penetrate its whole body. After an extended photo shoot, I readied my jaw, pressed out some handles, and started the advance.

Chaos ensued. The squeeze freed grease and tomato juices, that immediately made their way down to the bottom bun and made it a wet paper towel. The top bun fractured. My first bite was a pathetic nibble of bottom bun, but my next bite gave me a station to work from. I worked the bottom and middle, earning a nice nostril full of cheese and onion bits in the process. I wiped it away, flipped the burger on its head, and began working the top.

Across the bar, a woman took pictures -- not an employee, not someone I knew, just a woman who'd been watching the Cardinals and decided this was more interesting. Is that weird? While you're thinking about that, know that I'm getting used to this. Is that weird?

The Frankie's challenge goes like this: Finish this boss in 45 minutes, it's free and you get a prize. I didn't bother. I made good headway in a short amount of time, but no prize was worth the next five hours in a car with this whole thing in my stomach. I called for the doggy bag barely a third of the way in.

This counts as pointing, right?

About that doggy bag: Do you think they make one big enough for this? My "box" was two paper plates and half a roll of saran wrap.

Challenge burgers are worth it, even if you flake on the challenge. Forget the week of meals I'm getting  from this: I'd pay $30 (THIRTY BUCKS, only!) just to hold this, on the right day. Our total bill (two "regular" burgers -- or whatever passes for regular around here -- fries, and two beers) ran us $64 lighter. That's easy.

Frankie's Pub is easy, too; if you're not in the know, it's easy to miss. It's easy to miss on your map, it's easy to miss in its own neighborhood (seriously, only six or seven people there on a Sunday?!).

That might be what makes it so special -- well, that and the humongous burger, I suppose.