World's Largest Six Pack and Gambrinus, King of Beer
La Crosse, Wisconsin
In the late 1960s the G. Heileman Brewery built six large storage tanks at its plant in La Crosse, Wisconsin. Whether by design or a bolt of inspiration, the tanks were soon painted to resemble cans of Heileman's Old Style Lager beer, and the sextet was proclaimed the "World's Largest Six Pack." Images of the sixer traveled the globe on postcards sold in the Heileman gift shop, which was part of the brewery tour.
Thirty years later, however, the brewery was sold and shut down. In 2000 the empty tanks were painted white -- a poor job, with the Old Style Lager labels still visible underneath. But the idea of using a giant can to represent a giant can was too good to die. It lived on in less-impressive efforts and in at least one poorly-thought-through imitation.
The new owners of the brewery finally realized that a six pack of giant cans was a superior architectural gag. So in 2003 they brought back the World's Largest Six Pack, with a new brand of giant beer -- La Crosse Lager -- to advertise.
It's an imperfect sequel, as sequels often are. The new labels are wallpapered on, not painted, which makes it a somewhat lazy claim to fame (although certainly better than an inflatable). And the plant now makes tea, soda, and energy drinks as well as beer. The World's Largest Six Pack might not even be filled with brew on the day that you visit.
Still, it certainly looks like a giant six pack of beer, and a helpful sign in front says that it would fill over 7 million twelve-ounce cans, which "would provide one person a six-pack a day for 3,351 years."
Adding to the atmosphere is a colorful statue of Gambrinus, "King of Beer," who stands* across the street hoisting a golden goblet of suds. An accompanying plaque, green with age (and still bearing the logo of Heileman's Old Style Lager), calls Gambrinus, "a valiant soldier of the 15th century" and credits him with inventing beer. Gambrinus stands* with one foot propped on a keg, his eyes goggled in awe of his towering neighbor.
*(In March 2015, the King's sword arm was torn off by three unbalanced late night revelers posing for a photo -- the horror was captured on a security cam. The King was removed in April, and a new King was expected to arrive in June).
The gift shop and brewery tours have been revived and discontinued several times by the new owners (they're currently discontinued). But the King makes a worthy photo-op, and the real reason to come here has always been the Six Pack, once again a source of pride for La Crosse, and a mandatory stop for any college road trip through Wisconsin.