*This is the one-hundred and tenth post in an on-going chronicle dubbed the Great Wisconsin Brewery Tour. Follow the journey here.*
1) How many different beers?
17 on tap.
2) How long operational?
First location opened in 1994.
3) Why? (here, this, etc)
Two college friends had a brewpub dream.
Kegs in many bars state-wide and cans.
5) What sets you apart?
Physical size: just their downtown location can seat hundreds of people, not to mention their large suburban offshoots.
6) How did you get your name?
Named after Dane County. The beautiful dog emblem fit well.
As a poor undergrad student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, I subsisted mostly on cold pizza and Keystone Light, rotating to whichever bar offered free pool that night. But when we wanted to splurge on good food, great craft beer, and actual billiards tables (with chalk! and no beer stains!), we made our way to the iconic Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company.
Today, years later, I find myself eagerly returning to this giant Madison landmark every chance I get, and it’s still the same treat it once was.
The front bar and attached dining space are all dark woods and bright brick, with images both hearkening back to Madison’s history and to the Great Dane’s additions to that timeline.
Out back, enclosed by the historic buildings on the block, is one of the city’s greatest hidden patios.
As I wandered the basement, I stumbled into the raucous and cool Rathskeller hidden directly below the main dining area.
The massive pool and games hall is undergoing renovations, but promises to somehow improve on the original space which I personally never saw at less than capacity.
And of course the brewing equipment is somewhere in this giant complex as well, though interestingly tucked away. It’s almost as if the beer itself is supposed to be front and center, not the brewery. We enjoyed a flight of six of their brews:
Spicy front that transitions quickly into an almost sultry, sweet, lingering finish.
Old Glory APA
That malty goodness that you want is center-stage, with a balancing hop crispness.
Devil’s Lake Red Lager
Creamy mouthfeel, with juicy caramel apple notes.
Black Watch Scotch Ale
Served room-temperature, this smokey beer is for sipping whilst contemplating.
Abbey 8 Dubbel
Spiced like a holiday wine, but smooth like a black lager.
Brother Thomas Belgian Tripel
Stark burn, ready to warm a cool spring night.
The classic and contemporary pub food options are perfect complements to the beer selection as well. Major props to our server, Jason, who made some honey mustard for me from scratch and chased us down the street when we forgot our notebook!
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company is top to bottom a premier business in Madison, and the state at large. From the diverse settings in the Downtown building, to the changing pub menu and quality craft brewing, they’re doing everything right.