Home > 2011 US Caps & BeerVenture, BeerVentures, Brewpubs > To the Land of Beer and Cheese – Madison, Wisconsin

To the Land of Beer and Cheese – Madison, Wisconsin

We have a new favorite city and it’s Madison, Wisconsin!

The capitol building is gorgeous, and it’s the city centerpiece – as it should be.  Similar in appearance to our national capitol, each main road leads straight up to a majestic capitol view.

Madison also happens to be a fun, young, warm, friendly, cultural, clean and super fit university town and beer bar meca.  Seems like there are more bikes and runners on the road than cars, and every bar features a wide selection of local craft beers.  It’s Wisconsin for crying out loud – beer and cheese rule!

The Great Dane

After viewing the Madison episode on Brewing TV, we made The Great Dane Pub our first destination.  The Great Dane is a brewpub and a Madison landmark.  One side is a wide, spacious pool room and lounge area, and the other side is a more upscale bar and dining area.

Their flight features sixteen 4-oz pours, so there’s certainly a beer to suit every palette.  The styles include English IPAs to American Pale Ales, wheat beers, sweet and dry stouts, an English porter, pilsners, a maibock, an Alt, as well as three cask beers.  The stand out for us was a Tri-Pepper Pilsner, brewed with three different peppercorns.  Then dried peppercorns are crushed and added to the bottom of the glass, giving the beer a fresh (almost jalapeno-like) flavor and heat.

If you’re in a cheesy mood, the menu includes beer battered Wisconsin cheddar cheese curds (to die for!), macaroni and cheese bacon pizza (holy bajeebers!), and ground sausage sliders stuffed with Wisconsin cheese and prosciutto (gone to heaven!).

Great place, and everyone in Madison is very warm and friendly.  After chatting it up with one of the locals, we learned of a fantastic unadvertised beer spot that became the highlight of our visit.

Wisconsin University – Memorial Union Rathskeller

A student at the Great Dane tipped us off to the student union at the University of Wisconsin, which ended up being just a 10-15 minute walk from our hotel.  The Wisconsin Badgers are host to some glorious old buildings that resemble some at the Smithsonian in DC.  To top that, their Memorial Union on campus houses Der Rathskeller.

Der Rathskeller looks just like an old world gathering place for beer lovers.  And boy do they have good beer – Belle’s, 3 Floyds, New Glarus, and a great selection of german-style Wisconsin-brewed beers.  Must be a generation thing, but I don’t remember having a place like that at my university.

So here’s the drill….

  1.  Pick a beautiful evening and make sure you take a camera.
  2. Buy a pitcher of great beer.
  3. Go outside behind the Rathskeller and find a picnic bench overlooking the lake.
  4. Pour a beer, kickback, and watch the sunset across the lake.

That’s pretty much what every student at the University of Wisconsin was doing on that absolutely breathtakingly perfect Monday evening.  No last minute book cracking going on there.  Kayaks and ducks splashed in commeraderie; joggers flew by from every direction; frats convened on their house balconies; the air was amicable and the sunset was spectacular.  Even the stage was set for nightly live music.  But alas, we headed back through town to the hotel before dark, took some more photos, and enjoyed the sights and smells of the Madison nightlife before reaching the luminous blue lit capitol building just across from our hotel.


Bidding Adieu to Madison 

Before resting up for the next day’s journey, we stopped briefly in the hotel bar, which also had quite an impressive local draught beer list, and chatted with the bartender who bragged about Wisconsin’s extensive beer roots and the amazing array of beer bars that infiltrated this great city.  Specifically, he recommended another neighboring bar called the Old Fashioned that offers 125 Wisconsin beers in bottles and on draught.  Darn impressive for one state!  But since we reluctantly had to move on, we will plan on tapping further into Madison the next time around.  No doubt, there will be a next time, as we surely plan to revisit this unexpected gem of a city.

Cheers beers!

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