Sunday, June 5, 2011
271 Gleaves Street
Making beer is easy. Making good beer is another matter entirely. The first timer can brew up a batch of beer on day one and be drinking it a few weeks later. Serious home brewers can spend years perfecting a simple brown ale. It would seem that when opening a brew pub you would want to have done your experimentation well ahead of opening. Enter peanut butter beer, just one of the first for sale creations of the new Brewsters brew pub in Madison. It’s harsh at best and undrinkable at worst. It’s fine to have a bad batch in the amateur world- after all that’s how people learn. Selling the stuff to the public is probably not the best idea. Blueberry beer was not horribly fruity and unremarkable. Vanilla beer was inoffensive and similarly amateur. Why did they start with such an unusual line-up? We’re not sure. The IPA is weak and inoffensive. There’s the same flavor base running through all of the brews and it’s not a good thing.
What’s strange about all of this is that the space is quite stylish and airy. It’s the building that once housed Pargo’s and Zen Bar and Grill. Loft ceilings and plenty of windows make for a pleasant dining room and the brewing equipment is on display behind the bar.
The menu has a German theme running through it- pretzels with beer based dips, various sausage platters (knockwurst, bratwurst and kielbasa). Those pretzels are okay, if institutional, and covered up with butter and salt. A German bomber flat bread pizza features the aforementioned meats on a crispy crust for a decent dish. A smoky pork chop is served in a light brown sauce and well-seasoned. The vegetable medley is given a fair chance in cooking. The fried foods seemed to fare better with good crispy French fries and a decent fried fish for a respectable pairing.
There’s a solid line-up of outside beer available and a full bar. One of those beers and a snack on the patio might not be such a bad thing.
Veggie Eater: There are veggie friendly options here as long as you like pizza and fried appetizers. I attempted a house salad and pretzel combo on my first try. The salad was non-descript and served with a not so wonderful bottled blue cheese. The pretzel appears to have been of the giant food wholesaler variety with tons of excess salt (I knocked most of it off), but I found the mustard and beer dip tasty. On my next attempt, I had the nachos, which were fresh fried and generously adorned with beans and cheese. They weren’t earth shattering, but I found Meat Eater and my visiting mother squirreling away bites off my platter. My general golden rule for brew pubs is I can put up with mediocre food if the beer is wonderful and I can put up with mediocre beer if the food is phenomenal. My dream, of course is a brew pub that manages to produce both fantastic beer and fabulous food. I wax nostalgic about the establishments that have achieved this feat (Great Dane Brewery in Madison, WI, being my benchmark). What I cannot abide by is a brew pub that has mediocre food and mediocre (or worse) beer--life is too short. I don’t think I’ll be rushing back anytime soon.
Meat Eater: We hope they can figure out the beer thing soon. We don’t mind folks tinkering to get things right, but when you start charging the public it’s a whole different matter. Perhaps they just need to give the stuff away free until they get a batch worth paying for. We paid $52 with tax and tip for dinner for three and $30 for a dinner for two.