My First Sips of Ale Asylum

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For my after dinner stop at Madison Craft Beer week – I had the chance to stop by the Argus again to try some Ale Asylum beer. It was late and had been a long day – so I didn’t have much, but I did try a couple I really liked!

I walked into the Argus with a much different scene than I did when I went to try Left Hand just a night before. It was packed. Clearly this local brewery had some fans, including a crowd of Wisconsin State Assembly Republicans both veteran and freshmen – as always, it’s nice when we can agree, even if it’s just on a nice glass of craft beer. The people there ranged from your average Madison foodie, to folks in their suits that just left work, to the parents of those people. My expectations were high.

I tried the Hopalicious Pale Ale. This one smells great for starters – like nice smooth citrus. It’s a medium weight beer, and they fit just about all the hop flavor into this thing they could without making it too crazy.  Just so you’re not too overwhelmed, there’s a nice hint of citrus flavor.

Next I had the Bedlam! Belgian Style IPA. This one also smelled nice and citrusy, but as expected the texture was smoother and creamier. There were plenty of hops to around in this one; it’s basically a great example of a straight forward Belgian Style IPA. I wouldn’t have this while you’re trying to eat a bunch of food, or if you’re trying to stay awake for more beer, it will fill you up really fast.

This was a great first try at Ale Asylum beer, but really just the tip of the iceberg. The have a full list beer, and have recently started expanding their distribution a little farther north, which will hopefully help me in Titletown. A list of their beers, both regular and seasonal can be found here: http://aleasylum.com/aboutus-info/brewerybeers/.  You can also follow them on Twitter at @Ale_Asylum.  I’d say so far my expectations have been met; Ale Asylum is going to be the number one stop on my list next time I get in to Madison, Wisconsin.

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The Gem of Central Wisconsin

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Dinner on Wednesday night was at a classic spot in Madison, The Old Fashioned. They routinely have one of the best beer selections in the area, and the best cheese curds in Madison, and I really mean the best. We put our name in for dinner with enough time to go upstairs and participate in the Central Waters tap takeover upstairs. Folks who like beer often cite Central Waters as a gem in Central Wisconsin. I have been a fan of their Glacier Trail IPA for a while, but trying more was a treat.

First I tried the Illumination Double IPA. This was a dream come true and one of the best IPAs I tried all week it had an almost minty edge and the hops had a real crisp kick. For someone who likes a straight up wonderful hoppy beer without anyone trying to soften it up – this one is for you, and I absolutely loved it.

Next I tried the Hop Rise Session Ale. This beer was great because it had a lot of nice flavor – but was subdued enough to have during a meal. It was a little creamy, very smooth, and had a great citrusy hoppy taste that anyone who appreciates good flavor should at least have a sip of, especially over the summer months.

The next two beers were on the darker side, and both really well made. First was the Rye Bourbon Barrel Stout. I don’t particularly like bourbon barrel beer, but this lightly aged beer had a little extra sweetness, was moderate on the creamy scale, and high on smooth scale. I’m not saying anything for sure, but even if you don’t really like the bourbon barrels, you should still give this one try if you’re looking to expand you’re beer vocabulary.

Last was the Peruvian Morning Coffee Stout. This was great. A lot of breweries make a super straight coffee stout that tastes exactly like iced coffee. This one was a little different. It’s really light, smooth, had a great coffee taste, but also had a light vanilla spice taste. If you like a little flavor in your coffee and are more of a coffee snob than a beer snob – this is so your beer.

After we tried beers – we had a good dinner. Now I don’t usually write about food, but I wouldn’t be doing due diligence if I didn’t at least briefly talk about these cheese curds. They make a lot of different styles of cheese curds here but this are lightly deep fried, never soggy, and never too big so you can take small bites, and really enjoy them. I don’t like huge cheese curds with a ton of breading, so in my book, these are prefect small golden brown pieces of cheese curd heaven, and I hope you can go to the Old Fashioned and decide for yourself someday.

All around this place has good beer (beer week or not), and a great spread of Wisconsin food. You’re not really visiting Madison if you don’t stop by.

More Information on the Beer (at Central Waters & the Old Fashioned):

On the Web: centralwaters.com/beers/ & www.theoldfashioned.com

On Twitter: @CWBrewing & @Theoldfashioned

Things to Google Before You Go:

Wisconsin Style Old Fashioned

Barrel Aged Beer

Colorado Takes Madison

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My last stop on Tuesday night during Madison Craft Beer Week was the Argus, a place I had been introduced to as a great spot for after work happy hour, to carry on a good conversation, and/or to eat really amazing cheese fries. Tuesday night they were having a tap takeover & meet and greet with folks from Left Hand Brewery in Colorado.

We walked in to a small crowd considering how well these guys make beer. Last year, I had been introduced to their Left Hand Milk Stout on nitro. It’s smooth and chocolaty, and a good example of how to make a good stout. If you like dark beer, this is a must have and probably Left Hand’s most well-known beer.

Next I was in heaven when I had the opportunity to try Left Hand’s Twin Sisters Double IPA for the first time. Like any good IPA it starts off with a bitter bite that you don’t think will fade out – until you get a taste of the sweet malty aftertaste that this beer has. If you like an IPA with some interesting, well put together flavors, you should give this one a try.

Midway through our Left Hand tasting, we got to meet Matt, a nice guy who works for Left Hand who was there to talk to us about the beer, make sure we were having a good time, and to give us some fun stickers. He started out asking if we were drinking Left Hand and asking how we liked it. We discovered that it’s his job to travel and talk about the beer, and that he basically has the best job in the world (even if he isn’t using his engineering degree a whole lot). His co-worker, a self-proclaimed Ryan Braun look alike (you can guess which one he is), had started out bartending and worked at a few different spots before he started at Left Hand.  They were both excited to be in Wisconsin and seemed ready to make sure that we loved beer from Colorado right alongside beer from Wisconsin. We also learned that Left Hand makes about 50,000 barrels a year and distributes widely for you to find them nearby if you have a decent liquor store, but does make a special beer for “beer weeks.”

That was our next beer, and we tasted really quickly why it was made for weeks with lots of drinking: it tastes just like coffee. If you’re at a Left Hand beer week event and are getting a little slumpy, make sure you order the Week Sauce Porter. This one goes down just like a creamy iced coffee and sits at just 6% ABV. It’s a great beer for halfway through a night of serious beer drinking.

Overall this was a great experience. Lots of times you’ll go to meet and greets where the folks from the brewery just sit at the bar – these guys did the opposite and made sure to engage everyone, have fun, and answer questions about their process. It’s always great to hear about great Wisconsin breweries at beer week – but these Colorado folks can make an amazing beer, and absolutely take the cake for making sure everyone had the beer they wanted the whole time.

More Information on Left Hand:

On the web: http://www.lefthandbrewing.com

Follow them on Twitter: @LeftHandBrewers

Things to Google before you go (if you get out to Colorado):

Beer on nitrogen

Great American Beer Festival

Can’t Find a Good Mixer for your Cocktail?: Try Beer

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My second day in Madison for craft week started out at a wine bar, the kind of place that I don’t usually go. But when facing the decision of “new exciting beer,” or “interesting event,” I chose interesting event this time. It was a beer cocktail tasting. I was delighted with what I found out last night at Barriques.

The man running the show was great. I asked what got him into making beer cocktails – or just doing some flat out crazy experiments. He said he had been in the liquor business in one way or another for a long time – and eventually just got sick of using Sprite as a mixer.  I’m going to go through some of the recipes and let you know what I thought.

Disclaimers….

1. If you think beer by itself is subject to personal taste – beer cocktails are even more so. I just want to make it known that all of these are good for whoever’s taste they might fancy, even if I didn’t like them.

2. I take no credit for these bomb ass recipes.

3. The recipes here are all made to use one bottle of beer (12 oz) and serve two after shaking.

Cocktail one was Per. Fect. For. Summer. If you’re not a fan of something like Summer Shandy – this might be a little sweet for you, but don’t worry, they added bourbon. This one is called the Strip and Go Bourbon. Yes, it’s based on the fancy college drink Strip and Go Naked. This one uses a bottle of Bell’s Oberon, a great wheaty beer that always shows up just in time for summer. Mix two ounces of bourbon, four ounces of lemonade, and touch of mint – then shake it up! This was a lot of people’s favorites, I think because the flavors are really familiar. As a non- super fan of lemonade beer, I still liked it because with the right bourbon, and a little mint, you can really take the edge off too much sweetness. This would also be great for people who don’t really like beer our bourbon at all – it’s magical.

The next one was the 7 Iron. It gets its name because if you drink too much too fast, apparently you feel like you got hit in the head with a 7 Iron.  This is made with New Belgium Fat Tire Amber Ale, one ounce of Yellow Chartreuse, and three ounces of pineapple juice. It’s recommended you serve it with pineapple garnish. I also really liked this one for summer. Remember, as the title indicates, I wouldn’t sit down outside, have more than one, and then try to get up too quickly – especially in warm weather.

I proceed with caution when I say that the Tommy Tequila was my favorite. This one is really for people who are always asking for more lemons and limes to squeeze into their bloody mary. This one takes a bottle of Capital Mutiny IPA, two ounces of tomato juice, and one ounce each of lime juice and tequila. Then obviously add hot sauce to your delight. If a bloody mary is your staple drink with brunch on weekends, or what you drink on a tired morning – I would recommend it. It has a nice kick a traditional bloody mary doesn’t. My only (personal) criticism should be obvious if you’ve read anything I’ve written – I could have used a hoppier, spicier IPA.

The next one is for everyone who enjoys a good smokey beer, it was the Smokey Smokey. It’s made with O’So Night Train Porter, and one ounce of scotch. Side note on this one – if you can ever visit O’So in Plover, WI, you should. They were great friendly folks, and they are right next to a few great places to grab a bite to eat. We talked about this one for a while – you really need the right beer and the right scotch to make it taste to your liking. I would have liked scotch with a little bit more of a bite, because I felt like the smokey after tasted stayed with me for an hour afterwards.

The last one was just a Hard Root Beer Float using Sprecher’s Bootleggers Barrel Aged Hard Root Beer. This was really straight forward, just add ice cream. You really can’t dislike it. If root beer is too sweet for you – you can always try this with other nice creamy dark beers. Ice cream is amazing with almost everything.

The advice from the folks working the event was great. They said they made all of these up themselves, just make sure you stick to 3-4 ingredients max. They also encouraged everyone and said you’ve got to make what you like, and move forward without considering that what you’re making might taste terrible the first time; you’ve just got to keep plugging away. Once again, advice that’s good for mixing drinks – also seems pretty good for life. Never give up friends!

More Information on Barriques:

On the web: www.barriquesmarket.com

On Twitter: @BariiquesMadison

Things to Google Before You Go:

Dessert Wine (too many people walk into wine bars asking for this and have no idea what it is – true story)

How to Properly Cork Wine

No Crap on Tap

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Last night I started my Madison Craft Beer week journey trying some Belgian Beer. But that wasn’t enough. I wasn’t quite satisfied yet, so I looked at the schedule for the week and saw that Karben4, a new brewery in Madison that was recommended to me by a college friend had a bunch of beers on draft at Dexter’s Pub. This place was a nice little bar complete with friendly wait staff, volleyball, cheap food prices, and a punch card for frequent pitcher purchasers.

The place was filled with some real excited hipster beer enthusiasts, and a few folks who had just finished volleyball. I hadn’t heard about Karben4 before last week – but I’ve read good reviews, so I was excited.

The first one I tried was their Undercover Session Ale. This was a gem. It was light, crisp, & great for summer, but has enough complexities in the taste to satisfy a craft beer lover. This is one I appreciated because I expected it to be totally generic based on how it looked, but it was sweet with a hoppy edge to make for a subtle, but really pretty creative flavor. You can also toss one of these at your Miller Light friends, and they just might like it and start getting their life back on track. Moral of the story: don’t judge a book by it’s cover – just because you can see through it, doesn’t mean it’s terrible.

Next – because I’d been missing them all night, I tried SamuRye Pale Ale. This was a little heavy for the flavor, and I wouldn’t recommend having it with your food – especially if you’re eating carbs. I will say the flavor is nice – citrus hops and ryes are a good pair that these guys put together really well. I would really recommend this highly for someone who is starting to like pale ales and is a wannabe imperial IPA drinker. My taste buds wanted more hops – but I also wouldn’t run around giving it to my non beer loving pals.

This is about the time we started getting a little hungry and naturally ordered a soft pretzel and asked the bartender to give us his favorite mustard with it. It was a really good balance of tangy and spicy – and wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet. The pretzel was also nice, chewy & warm. This one seriously hit the spot.

We had the chance to grab one more before we went – it was the Block Party Amber Ale. This one was popular in pitchers with the folks around us coming in from playing volleyball – and I found out why. The Amber Ale was full flavored milky, caramelly, hoppy goodness. Words of warning – drink this one slowly, and don’t give in to peer pressure and chug it, ever. You’ll want to enjoy the flavor, and let it settle in your stomach before you give it too much love.

I wish I had the time to try more – but overall if these guys know how to do anything, they can balance a lot of ingredients in their beer to make a solid flavor whether it’s strong or subtle – their beer is artistic, and I’m excited to try more of it.

More Information on the place & the beer:

Karben4’s Beer: http://karben4.com/beers/

Karben4 on Twitter: @Karben4

Dexter’s Pub: http://www.dexterspubmadison.com/

Dexter’s Pub on Twitter: @DextersMadison

Fun Things to Google before you go (to either or both places):

How to dress like a hipster

Carbon Four Bonds

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