Before you know it, summer will be a thing of the past. Now is the time to head north to my hometown of Madison, WI, where the craft beer scene is bulging at the seams.
Let’s begin with a focus on my favorite place to imbibe because I can't get enough of their flavorful beer. Giant Jones is a certified organic brewery independently owned by two women.
The warehouse-style space is open and bright with the brewing area close and visible to the taproom. Patrons are welcome to bring in food or sample from a food cart if available. Be sure to plan your taproom visit during the hours of 4-10 pm Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.
The current tap list is spectacular and I can vouch for every one of these beers. Giant Jones focuses on strong ales and they do it well. I like that you can order the beer in four different sizes: 1.5 oz, 3 oz, 8 oz, and 10 oz, and the price range fits any budget ($1-6).
More Great Breweries
Delta Beer Lab will make you feel as though you are in a science lab, and instead of experimenting with beakers, you will be drinking beer out of them. The brewery offers tasters in mini beakers so you can try everything. Delta currently has 11 taps with a heavy focus on IPA variations; however, they have a coffee-infused brown ale (BRN.01) that is so good. Customers can bring in food or cook an onsite frozen pizza (Pep's Drafthaus) in one of two pizza ovens. The beer is a bit more expensive because the tip is built into the price. I admire this because it's all about paying their employees a living wage. Hats off to Delta!
O’so Madhouse - O’so Brewing opened a taproom in Madison and it’s impressive. Food isn’t available; however, they often have food trucks. O’so offers 24 taps with a wide range of styles. The bar has a turntable and encourages customers to bring in vinyl. A patio was recently added and they are dog-friendly.
Working Draft is a friendly neighborhood establishment that focuses on IPAs and lagers, as well as creative food. There are 16 taps including two gluten-free beers. The spacious brewery offers an artist-in-residence program; therefore, you may encounter art or live music during your visit.
Favorite Craft Beer Bars
The Biergarten at Olbrich Park is an outdoor, German-style Biergarten located along Lake Monona. The Biergarten features Wisconsin only beer with 11 taps including one cider and one gluten-free beer. Amenities include giant Jenga, cornhole, and a large sandbox. Food is available including a hummus plate, fresh cheese curds, giant pretzel, and mini brats. Also, the Biergarten hosts numerous weekly events that are family-friendly.
Brasserie V is a quaint Belgian-inspired neighborhood bar with 300 craft beers available on tap and in packaged form. The food is a must, especially their frites, soup, and apple swiss sandwich. They host many beer tasting events.
The Mason Lounge is an awesome dive bar with free live music on certain nights. The funky decor can’t be beaten including the patio. Note they are closed on Sunday and Monday. You will always find a solid beer selection (19 rotating taps) at rock bottom prices. Food isn’t available; however, you can have it delivered or bring in.
Dexter’s Pub is a laid-back bar with stellar beer offerings and good pub food. I especially like the stuffed grilled cheese and old-world pretzel. Dexter’s offers 24 taps and many of them are big, rare beers.
The Malt House is a Madison staple, specializing in first-rate local and international brews with 18 taps. The bar has a great patio that is open year-round, and they often have food trucks in the parking lot. I like that they don't have any TVs and they are dog-friendly.
BarleyPop Tap & Shop consistently has outstanding beers on tap with 40 to choose from. The bar hosts monthly events such as Sour Night, Barrel-Aged Night, and Cider Night. Large coolers are on-site filled with fantastic beer selections, which you can drink there or carry-out. No food is available; however, you can bring your own. A small patio is available and the bar is dog-friendly.
The Coopers Tavern is reminiscent of a pub you might find across the pond. The food is a must, especially the sweet potato chili and frites. 28 drafts are available with solid choices for all palates. The bar has a nice patio facing the state Capitol.
Off Broadway Drafthouse is located in Monona, but easy to get to right off the freeway. This rustic-style pub has good food, especially brunch. The bar has a tantalizing draft list with 24 to choose from. The venue features a beer of the month and other numerous beer-related events.
Growlers to Go-Go is a retro-style bar complete with arcade games. The bar offers 16 taps boasting hard to find beers that you can also take home in a crowler or growler. No food is available other than snacks and they are dog-friendly. Growlers hosts lots of cool events, which are posted on their Facebook page.
This is by no means an all-inclusive list for bars or breweries, so I encourage you to explore. Prost!
Tags: BarleyPop, Biergarten at Olbrich Park, Brasserie V, Delta Beer Lab, Dexter's Pub, Giant Jones Brewing, Growlers to Go-Go, Madison, O'so Madhouse, Off Broadway Drafthouse, road trip, The Coopers Tavern, The Malt House, The Mason Lounge, Visit Madison, Wisconsin, Working Draft