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.


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


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…

Wisconsin Brewing Tap Haus

August 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

Formerly the Capitol Tap Haus, WI Brewing Tap Haus stands out as one of the go-to restaurants near the Capitol. It’s the same menu, different brews on tap. Decked out with classic brew pub rustic wood booths and tables, this is a cozy joint is great for small groups, lunch with friends, beer after work. The service is great and efficient.

The Harvester
This is a yummy grilled vegetables and portabellas tossed in balsamic and olive oil sandwich with a scoop of coleslaw, definitely add the goat cheese. Sides are optional. The Root Beer on tap is fantastic.

107 State Street • Madison, WI • 53703
Hours: Monday – Saturday 11:00am • Brunch on Sundays 10:30am – 5:00pm


Red Rock Brewing Company

May 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

An open, inviting brew pub with great atmosphere and lots of space.  It’s a great spot for lunch or dinner, not too loud. 

Wild Mushroom Pizza
Wild mushrooms, caramelized Balsamic onions, fresh thyme, parmesan and gruyère on a thin crust. Yum.

Red Rock Burger
Burger with swiss cheese, caramelized onions and aioli a flatbread pocket.  This is a delicious, well-portioned plate.

Halibut Fish & Chips
Three large pieces of center cut Alaskan halibut deep fried in Red Rock beer batter. I hope you’re hungry.

254 South 200 West • Salt Lake City, UT • 84101
Hours: Friday-Saturday 11am – 1am • Sunday-Thursday 11am – Midnight


Squatters Pubs and Beers

May 18, 2011 § Leave a comment

In the classic brew pub style, Squatters is a cozy hideaway. The bar stretches the length of the restaurant, bordered by a railing for perching and drinking. The dining area is packed with a maze of tables and brew paintings. A bier garten, enclosed by high stone walls, is out the glass back doors. It’s a fun place to hang out and socialize.

Fried Pickles
Yes, deep-fried slices of dill pickles with chipotle ranch sauce, and they’re delicious. Trust me and order them. The portion is enough for 4 people to share.

Niman Ranch Lamb Shank
This is a yummy dish, probably the best thing on the menu. Utah-raised lamb with jalapeño mint sauce, sautéed spinach and pub mashers. The lamb is cooked perfectly, just falls off the bone. The sauce is a beautiful blend of pepper flavor with a subtle hint of mint.

Niçoise Salad
For salad-lovers, this is a must-have. Seared slices of Ahi with asparagus spears, red pepper, capers, Yukon gold potatoes, tomato, sliced egg on a bed of fresh greens with soy ginger vinaigrette.

The Beer
The Captain Bastard’s Oatmeal Stout is the most flavorful of their beers, it’s more like a summer stout than a winter stout. It’s not as thick or as heavy as stouts or porters from the midwest.

147 West Broadway • Salt Lake City, UT • 84101
Hours: Mon-Thu 11:00am to 12:00 Midnight • Fri 11:00am to 1:00am • Sat 10:30am to 1:00am • Sun 10:30am to 12:00 Midnight


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