J and I got our Madison Craft Beer Week adventures off to a great start last night when we stopped by The Malt House during “Red Eye Happy Hour.” We even managed to score a bit of swag in the form of a Red Eye pint sporting their cool logo, despite our arriving after the glasses had all but disappeared. (A few early-bird patrons left theirs behind, and happily I was able to trade in the orphaned dirty glass in the pic for one that had been sent through the dishwasher.) The place was really busy, with a mix of Malt House regulars, first-timers like us, active members of the local craft beer scene, and even a few families and tourists. It made for a lively atmosphere, with the hard-working bar staff scrambling to keep up with orders and glassware shortages.
J ended up sampling two non-Red-Eye brews on tap. He started with Common Thread (on the left in the photo), which we both agreed was good but too lager-y for our individual taste preferences. For his second round he had Raven Black IPA (a style he’s really been enjoying lately) from Thornbridge.
I had two of the four featured beers from Wausau’s Red Eye Brewing Company. The two I didn’t sample were their Thrust IPA and A Cart Ride to Mexico Maibock. I started with the Anniversary Sour, which I was happy to see was selling extremely well. (As a sour fan myself, it’s nice to know that I’m not the only one with some beer tastes that are far outside the U.S. mainstream.) The menu described it as “Belgian[-style] brown ale aged in French oak with a sour ‘La Folie’ yeast blend.” As Isthmus food writer Kyle Nabilcy tweeted, “Red Eye makes me so happy when I can track it down. This sour is hoppy and unlike any other sour I’ve had. Hooray beer”; and “Definitely less fruity than most sours I’ve tried….” I was very happy to have tried it, but for these exact reasons, it turned out to be not quite my thing. It was really quite sour, which is plenty OK by me, but I missed the complimentary deep fruity notes that you get in something like Duchesse De Bourgogne. Red Eye’s Saison de Fleur, my second round, turned out to be much more to my liking; the menu noted that “floral aromas and a touch of coriander distinguish this saison.” Both beers were also listed as “unknown ABV,” which turned out to mean that one or both were of relatively high alcohol content, since I was quite toasty by the end.
While one of us (me) could sober up for the drive home, we walked up Winnebago from the Malt House to Alchemy for dinner. To tide us over during our wait for a table, we sat outside at The Green Owl and shared a slice of vegan coconut cream pie that’s consistently yummy. Alchemy’s amazing buffalo wings haven’t made it back on the menu just yet, but as always we both had delicious locavorian and conscientious-omnivore-friendly meals that left us very happy campers.
We’re looking forward to the rest of Craft Beer Week!