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)
About the beer: http://wausau.greatdanepub.com/location-beers
Follow them on Twitter: @greatdanepub