Great Taste of the Midwest 2012

November 19, 2014 § Leave a comment

It was perfect weather for the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild’s Great Taste of the Midwest, hosting 142 midwestern craft breweries this year at Olin Park. There are a few standards I have to pay homage to, but I always try to find new and interesting beers to fall in love with.  Here is an alphabetical listing of the beer tried and responses.

Ale Asylum Madison, WI
Happy Ending: This is a 7.7% abv, Belgian Abbey Ale.  This is a fine beer, but not as full flavored as I want an Abbey Ale to be.  It’s light-weight and easily drinkable.  I’m still looking for my Ale Asylum beer.

Bell’s Brewery Galesburg, MI
Cherry Stout: I don’t generally like fruit beers, but this one was surprisingly good. The cherry really blended nicely with the stout, making it a compliment, not a competition.
Raspberry Wild One: Yikes, very fruity, almost like a wine cooler.  If you like really light-weight beer that doesn’t taste like beer, this is yours.  Sorry, Bell’s, not my beer.
Black Note Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout: Still awesome.  They tapped the keg at 4:30pm, and you can better believe I was in line. 

Destihl Champaign, IL
Barrel-Aged Cherry Chocolate Imperial Stout: This is dessert in a glass.  Really, it’s like a slice of cherry chocolate cake.  I really wanted to try this beer, since the last time I was at the brewery, I was unable to sample.  This is a special release, which I think they should add to the rotation.  Well done, Destihl!

Founders Brewing Co. Grand Rapids, MI
KBS: Founders is a great brewery. I’ve been to their brew pub in Grand Rapids, it’s a fun place, lots of atmosphere and yummy food. The beer is solid, and a sure bet.

Right Brain Brewery MI
Chipotle Porter: spicy, smokey, solid porter. Found in the Real Ale tent.


One Barrel Brewing Company

July 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

Becoming Madison’s first Nanobrewery, brewing one barrel at a time, One Barrel opened with a packed house Friday, July 6th.  The 100 degree weather didn’t stop the craft brew fans from crowding the bar and keeping the three bartenders chain-pouring pints.  The menu says they’ll always have The Commuter Session beer and #2 Strong Ale on tap.  They also have nine “Guest Taps”, featuring beers from around Wisconsin. It’s a promising start to a great idea. 

Strong Ale #2
The darkest beer they had today- a full-flavored, murky brown glass of deliciousness.  The complex, layered taste makes this one a winner, and keep in mind the 10% ABV.  My curiosity is peaked.  I can’t wait to see what they come up with in the future.

2001 Atwood Ave • Madison, WI • 53704
Hours: Tues. & Wed. 4pm-11pm • Thurs. & Fri. 4pm-1am • Saturday 11am-1am • Sunday 11am-11pm


Destihl Restaurant and Brew Works

June 28, 2012 § Leave a comment

Nice looking, brushed steel and dark wood restaurant with easy access to the freeway.  From Interstate 74, take the Neil St exit and head south.  There’s a meter parking lot across the street.  The atmosphere is pleasant and relaxing, a modern business lunch place without the need for a suit jacket.  Brew barrels line the entry, and the steel vats gleam behind clear glass walls.  A chic glass-tiled host station greets you and a rough stone wall ushers you to the restaurant floor.  

Bison Burger
Completely delicious, lean bison surrounded by fresh lettuce, tomato and a thick bun.  It was perfect, not dry!  What I love about bison is that it doesn’t have the fat taste of beef, and this burger was no exception.  It comes with fries, but I opted for a side salad with the house dressing- a garlic vinaigrette.  It was a satisfying combination and well portioned.

My one complaint is the service.  There is one server who takes the order, one who brings the food without direction, and many who wander the restaurant without the initiative to look to see what customers might need. We were not checked upon, water was not refilled and no dessert or check offered well after our plates were clean.  The restaurant was not full, and I felt neglected.  It’s unfortunate for such a fine establishment to be hamstrung by this fault. The food is excellent and I would come back if the experience was better.

301 N. Neil Street • Champaign,IL • 61820
Hours: Monday – Thursday 11am to 10pm • Friday – Saturday 11am to 12am • Sunday 10am to 9pm


Court Avenue Brewing Company

May 24, 2012 § Leave a comment

Court Avenue has plenty of restaurants to choose from.  We stopped here because it was a brewery, and breweries have good food, as a rule. We weren’t disappointed. Set in a classic brick building, the atmosphere was casual and relaxed, even though it was packed with business lunchers.  The outside seating was full of patrons just enjoying the day, drinks on the tables and books in the hands.  The wait staff was friendly and efficient.  It would be a good dining spot before going to any of the public events in the area.

Porto Bomber
Grilled portobello mushroom, romas, grilled onions, roasted red peppers and sage gorgonzola, this is a great grilled veggie sandwich for those who want something on the lighter side or an alternative to a burger.  It’s served with a generous portion of fries.

I didn’t try the beer, because I was driving.  If you are familiar with the beer, please leave comments.

309 Court Avenue • Des Moines, IA • 50309
Hours: Sun-Thur: 11:00 AM-Midnight, Full menu until 10:30 PM •
Fri and Sat (November thru April): 11:00 AM-2:00 AM; Full menu until 11:00 PM; late night menu until Midnight •
Sat (May thru Oct): 9:00 AM-2:00 AM; Full menu 10:00 AM-11:00 PM; late night menu until Midnight


The Old Fashioned

October 23, 2011 § Leave a comment

Traditional Wisconsin pub with a great menu and impressive beer menu, featuring hundreds of Wisconsin brews. There’s seating at both bars, bar booths, and cafe tables. In warm weather, the outside is open for seating as well. It’s a cozy, casual, relaxed atmosphere, where you can watch the game or hang with friends. Even though the store is usually slammed, the service is great: fast, friendly and efficient. This is an easy go-to place. Check their website for nightly specials, which are actual deals.

Cheese Curds No. 13
Beer-battered cheddar cheese curds, served with an option of sauces- get the Tiger Blue and get two cups of it. It’s a blue cheese dressing with horseradish. Two great tastes in one.

Sandwich No. 35
Grilled eggplant, portabella mushroom, wood-roasted red pepper and zucchini, with goat cheese and black olive tapenade on toasted country bread.  There’s a choice of fries or, my choice, tossed green salad with amazing house dressing. This is one of my favorite things on the menu.

Burger No. 30
The Old Fashioned House Burger-grilled over a live fire and topped with fried onions, Bavaria’s hickory-smoked bacon, aged Cheddar, garlic sauce and a soft-cooked egg on a buttered and toasted roll.  When I need a Top 5 in Madison burger, this ranks, no question.

Mac & Cheese No. 51
Wisconsin sharp Cheddar & Sarvecchio, topped with crisp breadcrumbs. This is the ultimate comfort food, perfect for cold-weather hunger. Yum.

The Beers
Wisconsin is known for craft beer, and you can try them all here. The taps are all Wisconsin beers. The list of bottled beer from the Midwest is impressive as well. This is the great place to try something new from the region, something you won’t find as readily anywhere else.

23 N. Pinckney St. • Madison, WI • 53703
Hours: 7:30 am – 10:30 pm am Mon-Tues • 7:30 am – 2:00 am Wed – Fri • 9:00 am – 2:00 am Sat • 9:00 am – 10:00 pm Sun • Breakfast
7:30-11:00 Mon-Fri


Brasserie V

August 31, 2011 § Leave a comment

Nestled in the bustling first stretch of Monroe St, Brasserie V is a sanctuary of Belgium beer and amazing food. Done up in beautiful polished wood, this bar restaurant is a classy blend of the european and american neighborhood pub, but don’t sidle up to the bar and expect to order a Miller Lite. 

Cooked to perfection and served the only way mussels ought to be prepared- butter, garlic and white wine sauce. If you are a fan of these delectable bivalves, you should order them.

Tuesday Sliders
Every Tuesday, at least in the summer, is the Slider special, a plate of three sliders made with three different recipes.  This Tuesday was first bacon, cheddar, lettuce, tomato, smoky aioli, second caramelized onions, mushrooms, Gruyere, mushroom onion aioli, and third double cheeseburger, lettuce, pickle, onion, ketchup, mustard.  It would be worth going every Tuesday to see what Chef comes up with. I guess it would be good to order something else, just to try the rest of the menu, eventually.

The Beer
The beer list is impressive, especially if you like Belgium-style beer.  With over 150 rotating beers from around the world, taps and bottles, it’s hard to decide. The “house beer” St. Bernardus Abt 12 is the only one that is always on tap, and for good reason. It’s a full flavored, smooth brown ale with hints of caramel.

1923 Monroe St • Madison, WI • 53711
Hours: Mon-Thur 11am – 11pm • Fri-Sat 11am – 12midnight • Sun 4pm – 10pm


Great Taste of the Midwest 2011

August 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

Celebrating 25 years of brewing greatness, the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild hosted 124 midwestern craft breweries this year at Olin Park. As a first-time attendee, I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend this festival to anyone who appreciates or has a curiosity about beer. This is a alphabetical listing of the beer tried and responses.

5 Rabbit Cerveceria Chicago, IL
5 Rabbit: I tried this beer because it sounded really interesting. The brewery concept of mixing historical and modern Latin flavors is intriguing, but I’m afraid it didn’t come through in this beer. I’m looking forward to trying other brews from this brewery.

Bell’s Brewery Galesburg, MI
Black Note Bourbon Barrel Aged Stout: Very good. If you like barrel aged beer, this is a sure thing.
Eccentric Ale 2008: Fantastic! My new favorite beer. It’s a dark, barrel aged beer that is a step above. It takes smooth and depth of flavor to a new level, only brewed for this event.

Blind Tiger Brewery & Restaurant Topeka, KS
Java Porter: Strong coffee flavor that balances well with the porter. A lot of coffee porters have a burnt flavor, not this one. It’s a great combination.
Whiskey Porter: Blind Tiger was going around the festival with backpacks of beer, handing out pours. This was one of them. It’s a delightful, not too dense, barrel aged porter. Definitely worth pursuing.

Blue Heron Brewpub Marshfield, WI
Grapefruit IPA: One of the specialties of the Great Taste is all the experimental beers. So, when I saw a grapefruit beer, it had to be tasted. Now, I’m not an IPA fan. If you like bitter beer, you’ll like this one. The grapefruit flavor came through great, but it was too bitter for me.

Founders Brewing Co. Grand Rapids, MI
Red’s Rye PA: Founders is a great brewery. I’ve been to their brew pub in Grand Rapids, it’s a fun place, lots of atmosphere and yummy food. The beer is solid, and a sure bet. The Red’s Rye PA has a strong rye flavor with a bitter edge. If you like rye, this beer’s for you.

Right Brain Brewery MI
Chipotle Porter: spicy, smokey, solid porter. Found in the Real Ale tent.

More beers to be added…

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