Vintage Beer Saves My Day

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Most times that I am going to go somewhere that brews its own beer – I plan ahead, at least a day.  This time was different. I was having a bad morning. I had gotten a lot of bad news, I was behind on work, and my schedule had been thrown off by some meeting cancellations  This meant I could head to Madison, WI a little earlier that day than I had planned. Since it was a bad day, I texted my best friend in true Wisconsin fashion and said “when can you leave work to have a drink,” and she responded (again, as only a good Wisconsin friend would, “2:30.”

We walked into Vintage’s downtown location (there are two locations) closer to 3, and they let us start even though they didn’t open until 4. I had a Three Floyd’s Alpha King waiting for me – which made the day better right away. We started talking to the bartender about different places to get great beer. Unfortunately he had to leave to go brew some, but it was nice to know we had good, beer educated company. We looked at the list of beers brewed at Vintage Brewing Company. I told my friend I usually try four or five. She suggested we try all the beers available, so we did.

We started with the Bees Knees Crème Ale. It’s a great match for anything – and a wonderful standard beer if you’re looking for one. It tastes a lot like Leinenkugel’s Honey Weiss – with a little bit of a creamier blend. There’s really no way you won’t like it.

Next we tried one of everyone’s favorites, Better off Red Ale. It has a mild molasses smell, starts off with a bitter taste, but goes down nice, smooth, & easy going. It’s a great afternoon beer in my book. If I lived in Madison, I’d have this one after work all the time.

The Rye Bock was on its way out, but we got one of the last tastes. If you get a chance to try it you should. It tasted a little lighter than an average bock – but the flavor was really full. I wouldn’t recommend trying it with a nice dinner that you really want to taste – because it might off set you. But like any good spot in Wisconsin, Vintage has a lot of nice fried food favorites that would go well with this one.

For those of you who would prefer to have whisky instead of beer, the Dedication Abbey Dubbel is your kind of beer. It tastes like a nice whiskey and water, with a medium texture that’s perfect for beer lovers. So if you can’t decide between your favorite whiskey – and your favorite thing on draft, the Dedication is for you. But it’s strong, so be prepared for a kick.

I was most excited for the Woodshed IPA. This was another great example of a good warm weather IPA. If you’re a wheat beer, or fruity beer lover, but want to stop drinking beer that makes you feel full after two pints, this is a great transition. It has enough hops to satisfy the Pale Ale & IPA lovers of the world too. It’s a good hoppy, citrusy balance of wonderful springtime taste.

Last we tried the Scardy Cat Stout. It’s a nice, light, oatmeal stout with a full creamy flavor. This one is great as your last drink after dinner.

After we were done with the beer – we went to Dottie Dumpling’s Dowry for one of the best burgers you’ll have in Madison to end the day. It was overall a really uplifting experience and a great way to improve my mood the Wisconsin way.

I really liked my visit to Vintage. The staff knew exactly what they were talking about when it comes to beer – and I am all in to visit their brewing location on South Whitney Way next time I get to Madison. What’s great is that this stuff is made from all local ingredients (which you can also find lists of on their website). Vintage Brewers are great at making the beer light enough in texture that it’s easy to drink – but full enough in flavor that you appreciate the creativity across the board. That results in a lot of great anytime beers. On a scale from “This beer tastes like pennies,” to “I’m drinking anything else, ever,” this selection is like… a 6.9, and the experience as a whole is a 7.2. What I’m saying is, you should go if you’re in Madison & need a few hours to relax.

Things to Google before you Go:

Dottie Dumpling’s Dowry (it’s nearby – you have to go)

Wisconsin Hops

Wisconsin Cheese

More On the Beer:

http://vintagebrewingcompany.com/brews.php

Follow On Twitter:

@vintagebeer

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The Best Thing You Will Ever Do on a Saturday Morning

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Half Acre Brewery is a great place to grab a tour for those who like to wake up for a Saturday morning adventure. I am not a morning person – but I was really proud of myself when I woke up early enough to pick up a very necessary bagel and coffee before making an hour drive into Chicago to get in line for a chance to join the Half Acre Brewery tour. I knew that if I wasn’t in line in time to be included in the lucky 60 people allowed on the tour at 11am – I could still enjoy the tap room (and so can you if you don’t do well with mornings).

When the line starts getting long – a nice young man with nice snug jeans will come out and count the people who will be able to get in, let you know where the cut off is, and tell everyone else that the tap room will be open. My boyfriend and I were behind the cut off, and too tired to be heartbroken. At 11am they opened the doors and started letting people in. Somehow by the wonders of nature we were the last two people let into the tour, even though earlier we might have left. Half Acre Brewery tours prove that miracles can happen to anyone.

First off – you’re going to get three pints of solidly great beer for 10 dollars on this tour, plus the glass you get to bring home. This is by far – the most for your money in dollars per ounce that you’re going to get on a beer tour (that you randomly attend without any pre-arranged membership, etc.) – especially in a big city. I’m going to tell you what I filled my pint glass with.

I started with the Pony Pilsner. This was great. It was a full flavored bitter beer that has a really fresh, crisp ending to it. I wouldn’t recommend it right away to a beginning beer drinker because it might be a bit much, but would recommend it to folks looking for a good alternative to a filling fruity wheat beer over the summer. This is has a fresh enough taste that it works for the summer, while still satisfying the bitter beer lover.

The Akari Shogun English Brown was my second beer & is great because it’s really, really smooth. It’s also right in the middle of the bitter – sweet scale and a solid combination of nutty and juicy. The flavor is a little overwhelming at first, but it’s quick to get used to and I would have a hard time not recommending it to anyone.

Last, I had the Ambrosia, a great wheat beer. A lot of wheat beers that folks start making closer to summer either taste like Lambic or Lemonade and could replace an entire meal at the rate they expand in your stomach. This is brewed with oranges & hibiscus – and has a nice malty finish. This one is pretty medium weight – with a really creative and well balanced flavor that you just have to try.

Also available that day was Half Acre’s staple, Daisy Cutter Pale Ale. It’s great pale ale. The situation is that I didn’t have it… that day, so I didn’t really write down anything about how I think it tastes. Honestly, I have it at least once every time I am in the Chicago area so you should just try it. Per the name, it is obviously a hoppy beer with a tiny floral hint. Just trust me and have some – you basically have to.

You also should take sometime to walk around in this place and look at all of the characters on the tanks, and the stickers on the wall. You’ll heard someone yell when it’s time for you to go – but these folks aren’t just good brewers, they’re fun characters – so take some time to look around, and even pop over to the tap room afterwards if you have enough space left in your stomach.

On a scale from “I hate everything on Saturday mornings,” to “I wake up with the sun and everything before noon is wonderful,” this is totally a 9 on the “worth it” scale in my book. These folks are energetic, happy to have you, and they know their shit. The only thing I would say is that you need to remember to eat beforehand, because otherwise you’ll be drunk during the tour, and you’ll start having conversations when someone is trying to teach you about beer. You really should listen to these guys – they’re smart, and even a little funny.

Things to Google before you go: (some of these are dictated by the characters on the tanks – have fun!)

New season of Arrested Development

Devil’s Half Acre

Why cans are better than bottles

(Project) Narwhal

Follow them on Twitter:

@halfacrebeer

More info on the beer:

http://halfacrebeer.com/beer/

Beer with the Anderson Family

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If you ever take a trip to Madison, Wisconsin, one of the spots I’m sure you’ll visit for beer is the Great Dane – a brew pub that has four great locations in Dane County. Something a lot of folks don’t know is that there is also a location in Wausau, Wisconsin – a place that you think is “up north” if you’re from out of state. Really, Wausau is in central Wisconsin, and this is a great stop is you’re visiting breweries in the area (among them are Central Waters, O’So, & Point). I should say that all of the Great Dane locations have different beers at different times – but do keep their staple beers everywhere.

The treat about this trip is that I was with my family. My mother, father, & I were visiting my sister who is working in Wausau. I’m happy to say that this post includes special commentary from my dad. My dad grew up on a farm in Northeast Wisconsin and worked his way up with my mom to make sure we had a nice place in the suburbs. He embodies Wisconsin because of his hard work, his excessive love of hunting, planting vegetables, wearing flannel & sweatpants together, and his understanding that you need to bring cheese & venison jerky with you on every long trip so that you have something to eat in the case you get stranded and need a snack.

So now that you have some background – we’ll get to the beer. Folks will tell you that you absolutely have to try the Crop Circle Wheat. My dad said “Tastes kinda fruity. Reminds me of the old feed mill.” I say it’s a smooth creamy wheat beer with a lemony flavor. The texture is super unique & it’s worth a try. Be aware that this beer fills you up, and you should make sure you’re staying awhile, or waiting a second to order your food if you’re going to have it.

If you wander around a UW-Madison on game day, you’ll for sure find someone with a t-shirt that says “Grateful Red.” That’s also the name of a beer here.  My dad says “Kinda reminds me of briar rabbit molasses.” It might be because I am too young – but I have no honest to God idea what that means. This is a full flavored red lager that is a little creamy with a slight bitter molasses edge. While it’s flavorful – it’s very light and is easy to have with a meal. It offsets some good Wisconsin deep fried food very well.

If you’re a brown ale fan – you’ll probably like the Otter’s Brown. It’s not complicated and very light. The taste starts sweet, and just when you don’t think it’s that creative, there’s a nice bitter after taste. It’s well put together but honestly just not one of my favorites. I could work with it if it were a little heavier & had a bit more flavor. My dad had a profound opinion of this one saying, “This is pretty good.”

Next, let’s talk Emerald Isle Stout. This come’s highly recommended by my sister. She says, “It tastes like coffee – good coffee. It was recommended to by a really nice man who works here.” What you don’t know about my sister is that she is a former (but well- seasoned) Starbucks employee and overall coffee enthusiast and snob. This stout was a little light for my taste – but she loves it.

Last, the Schwartz Bock. My dad says, “This is really good. This is my favorite.” It was my favorite of the day too. It was a medium weight beer that you could drink easily, with a well measured, complex taste. It has a caramely hint & a chewy texture with a nice full, bitter finish. Don’t drink it too fast – or you won’t appreciate it.

There are a lot of great staples & rotating beers here. In my experience, the wait staff members are usually local folks and know what they’re talking about – so feel free to ask questions. On a scale from “don’t bother” to “you’re an idiot if you visit Wisconsin without going here,” it’s a solid 7.5 and a good spot in my book. Just to draw you in a little more – if you’re a mac & cheese fan, that goes up to an 8.

Things to Google before you go:

John Stoner, Fitchburg Farmer

Beer Soap (because you can get them at some locations)

Fauerbach Brewery

 

More Info:

About the beer: http://wausau.greatdanepub.com/location-beers

Follow them on Twitter: @greatdanepub