Dining and Drink

17 Madison-area taprooms that are serving up new beers, spirits and small-batch ciders

None of these operations existed 5 years ago

Madison’s brewing and distilling scenes are growing so quickly, it’s difficult to keep up with the new tasting rooms popping up in the Madison area. Five years ago, none of the beer, spirit or cider operations in this listing existed. Today, some are expanding operations out of state while their local facilities and taprooms are thriving. One was even named one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S. by Inc. magazine. Check out these 17 Madison-area taprooms offering some of the newest beers, spirits and small-batch ciders on the market.

ALT Brew
ALT Brew, a nanobrewery started in 2014, has filled a gap in the local beer community. Owner Trevor Easton could no longer enjoy a microbrew with his wife, Maureen Easton, after she was diagnosed with a gluten sensitivity. Once an engineer and always a hobby brewer, Easton dove into creating a gluten-free beer. Today, they have a 5,800-square-foot brewery on Madison’s east side with a rotating tap list. The lineup includes Rustic Badger Farmhouse Ale, Hollywood Nights Blonde IPA and Copperhead, an award-winning copper ale made with roasted millet, which lends the brew a malty, chocolate flavor. ALT’s motto: “ALT Brew. Awesome beer. Gluten not included.” 1808 Wright St., 352-3373

Boulder Brewpub
Housed in the former Gray’s Tied House in Verona, Boulder Brewpub entered the scene in May 2018 and introduced Kara Hulce, one of the few female head brewers in the area. Hulce is a former home brewer who now has a substantially bigger test kitchen at Boulder. Hulce plans to brew on-site, but she has not started brewing yet. Hulce collaborated with Capital Brewery over the summer and started to develop her own recipes that she hopes to bring to Boulder Brewpub. 950 Kimball Lane, Verona, 845-3323

Brix Cider

Marie and Matt Raboin opened Brix Cider at the beginning of 2019. Not only are the ciders produced locally, they’re also sourced locally. And their ciders don’t leave Dane County. They source from 15 to 20 orchards in the area that have been in business for decades and grow good cider apples. Even the pigs think so — the Raboins feed the leftover mash or apple pomace to a group of 30 pigs that devour it in minutes. One of Brix’s offerings is a wild apple cider. The family spends weeks harvesting wild apples in the Driftless area — something they say no one else in Wisconsin does. The wild apple cider is something special, Marie says, and is available in very limited quantities. 119 S. Second St., Mount Horeb, 437-2749

The Cider Farm 
In 2003, The Cider Farm started as an overgrown, 166-acre farm with an undetermined future. Today, it has grown into a farm of 10,000 trees that produces 7,000 gallons of cider a year. Although the orchard has been around for more than a decade, it is gearing up to open a new tasting room in Brennan’s Cellars. It will feature The Cider Farm’s organic ciders and seasonal, limited release ciders. To pair with the ciders, cheese and charcuterie plates and other locally sourced menu items will be available. The classic dry cider and the popular five-year aged apple brandy are made from French and English cider apples that have high levels of tannins, which creates a dry and bitter, but desirable, taste. The products are sold in two states and more than 30 cities. 8210 Watts Road, 219-4279 

Dancing Goat Distillery 
Less than two years after opening, Dancing Goat Distillery has become the largest distillery in the state of Wisconsin. Opened in November 2017 by Tom Maas, son Nick Brady Maas and Travis Hasse, Dancing Goat is a craft distillery that its owners hope will become a big competitor in the whiskey and spirits industries. With a combined 75 years of experience, they may not have any problems accomplishing that. Tom created a popular and boozy horchata, and Hasse started The Travis Hasse Distilling Co. creating spirits like Apple Pie, Cow Pie and Cherry Pie. Now with a distillery of their own, the owners boast a 22,000-square-foot space located in Cambridge. At the outlet, Dancing Goat continually pours its popular whiskey Limousine Rye, which has notes of vanilla and caramel. 909 Vineyard Drive, Cambridge, 467-4905 

Delta Beer Lab

Madison’s south side recently welcomed Delta Beer Lab. The interior mimics a science lab, with white walls, a two-tiered chalkboard (with beer recipes) and black resin countertops. These elements evoke the creative aspects of brewing beer and mixing yeast to create malted barley, hopped fruits and spices in the right proportions. Founder Tim “Pio” Piotrowski also wants to establish a social laboratory through Delta Beer Lab. For instance, “delta” is the mathematical symbol for change. Piotrowski hopes to change the relationship between business owners and the community. There is a permanent space in the bar dedicated to nonprofit causes and local community initiatives. 167 E. Badger Road, 640-4500

Driftless Glen Distillery

When co-owner Brian Bemis started building his dream distillery in Baraboo in 2012, there was one small hiccup. Halfway through construction, Bemis realized that his 10,000-pound, 44-foot-tall still wouldn’t fit inside his building. A new belfry was built to accommodate the still, and Driftless Glen opened in 2015. Today along the Baraboo River, the distillery is one of the fastest-growing private businesses in the U.S. With three-year revenue growth of 1,561 percent, the distillery appeared on Inc. Magazine’s Top 500 companies list in 2018. This prestigious list had previously included companies like Microsoft, Pandora and Yelp. The distillery is known for its bourbons, rye whiskeys, brandy, vodka and gins, including WisconGin, which uses only locally sourced Wisconsin botanicals. Driftless Glen Distillery spirits can be found in more than 1,000 stores and 10 states across the country. 300 Water St. Baraboo, 356-4536

Full Mile Beer Co. and Kitchen

Co-owners and Sun Prairie residents Nathan Kinderman and C.J. Hall opened Full Mile Beer Co. and Kitchen in December 2018. The local sourcing-focused restaurant, tavern and brewery has seasoned folk at the helm — Kinderman has years of restaurant experience, having served as bar manager at Sardine and as co-owner of Gates & Brovi on Monroe Street. Hall has homebrewing know-how, and he and Kinderman hired Skyler Kottwitz — previously of Octopi Brewing and New Glarus Brewing Co. — as head brewer. Head chef Zac Vieth brings the experience he gained in Seattle, Washington, and the Madison area to the kitchen. 32 Market St., Sun Prairie, 318-2074

Funk Factory Geuzeria

Funk Factory Geuzeria opened in June 2017 and has already been called one of the most-watched breweries in the state. The brewery is known for its lambic beers, which undergo a fermentation process. Funk Factory Geuzeria offers “meerts” (rhymes with “hurts”), a type of beer within the lambic category. Owner Levi Funk experiments with different styles, and in November he released “The Last Four Winters in Wisconsin,” which fermented in his basement for more than three years. Some of the other meerts include Cherry Meerts, which is a sour, fruity beer with a clear rose tint. 1602 Gilson St., 571-4344

Giant Jones Brewing Co.
Giant Jones Brewing Co.’s beer production has grown substantially since opening its taproom in June 2018. The small-batch, high-alcohol-content beers can be found in more than two dozen restaurants in the area including The Old Fashioned, The Coopers Tavern and Brasserie V. Owners Erika and Jessica Jones didn’t sacrifice their values in order to create a successful business. They committed to paying their employees a living wage, or a minimum of $20 an hour. The Joneses also make their beer with certified organic ingredients. Recently, Giant Jones Brewing Co. donated all the proceeds — more than $8,500 — from a recent 260-gallon batch of Credible Pale Ale to the Rape Crisis Center. They hope to continue this trend of investing in their community while simultaneously making quality beer at 
Giant Jones. 931 E. Main St., Suite 9., 620-5172 

J. Henry & Sons

Since the initial release of J. Henry & Sons’ bourbon in 2015, the distillery has won more than 20 awards in national and international spirit competitions. The award-winning, 92-proof small-batch bourbon is aged a minimum of five years in oak barrels in a 1920s historic barn in the village of Dane. Owners Joe and Liz Henry have a high stake in this business. Joe’s family has been operating the farm since 1946, and the tasting room was converted from the original farmstead where Joe grew up. Tours of the facility are available Thursday through Monday, but it is highly recommended that you make a reservation because tours get crowded quickly. The couple already opened a second rickhouse in 2018, bringing the grand total of large 53-gallon barrels to roughly 1,200. 7794 Patton Road, Dane, 846-4116

Right Bauer Brewing
Right Bauer Brewing — named after the most powerful card in the classic card game euchre — opened in downtown Sun Prairie in October 2018. In July, just five hours after owners Martin McNally and Erica Beckman closed the deal on the East Main Street building, a natural gas explosion occurred less than two blocks away. Fortunately, the building had no structural damage and Right Bauer Brewing was able to open three months later. With no TVs and an array of board games, the taproom atmosphere promotes conversation and interaction. The pub has experimental, flavorful beers like Peppermint Zebra, a chocolate mint stout, and Peanuckle Porter, a porter made with peanut butter and cacao nibs. The menu features smoky barbecue dishes like ribs and sandwiches, including a vegetarian smoked jackfruit sandwich with dry rub spices and barbecue sauce. 239 E. Main St., Sun Prairie, 318-5002

Rockhound Brewing Co.
In April 2015, Nate Warnke — a UW–Madison geology graduate and a hobby homebrewer for 11 years — opened Rockhound Brewing Co. on South Park Street and has been developing his own brews ever since. Although he isn’t using his degree directly, he used his love for rocks to name and decorate the space with the help of his wife. Scattered throughout the brewery you can find soil sifters, geological maps of Wisconsin and a map from 1974 showing different gravity lines. The brewpub also has a 45-foot U-shaped bar that is covered with copper and supported by wood salvaged from a home built in 1888. A seasonal selection starting in April is called Plowshare, a farmhouse ale with light citrus tones and a slight coriander spice. Or try the Mosquito Bite, an IPA with a strong hoppy nip available year-round. 444 S. Park St., 285-9023

State Line Distillery

State Line Distillery celebrated its first anniversary in September 2018. Many Madisonians have already stepped into the distillery, which is a renovated nickel factory on the near east side — and they’ve walked past the locally created painting that is meant to depict whiskey at the bottom of the glass. State Line Distillery has laid down nearly 100 barrels of product including an apple brandy, barrel-rested gin and, the most popular spirit, State Line Gin. Each batch, producing 600 bottles, is made with 7 pounds of freshly harvested sage. A local Madison farmer harvests the sage the morning of distillation. State Line Distillery is still waiting to release its whiskey, which takes three years to distill. The spirit will be fruity, light and complex, similar in style to a Highland Scotch whisky. 1413 Northern Court, 240-0099

The creative minds behind Vintage Brewing Co. have gone off on a tangent with a bold new brewpub on East Washington Avenue. Regional Manager Rory Nienajadlo says the family-owned company was itching for a location to try out unique options on an adventurous crowd. “It kind of shows our true colors,” says Nienajadlo. “We have these minds that think outside the box and we want to continuously do that, so Tangent can hopefully be that.” Adorned with a mural by a local tattoo artist and chandeliers, Tangent offers both VBC favorites along with exclusive new brews and dishes. Located near one of Madison’s newest music venue, The Sylvee, music lovers can stop by Tangent before and after the show to grab a brew. 803 E. Washington Ave., 819-6241 –CV

Two Tall Distilling
The story behind the name is no tall tale — two tall guys, Dave Farnia and Nick Hanson, were lab partners while attending the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Twenty years later, those two tall guys met and married two tall women — Stephanie Farnia and Amy Hanson. They started two tall families and then decided to try their hands at opening a distillery. Dave Farnia and Nick Hanson are engineers by trade who take a scientific approach to creating their spirits, which currently include a London dry gin, barrel gin, vodka, whiskey and a coffee liqueur. Special varietals and infusions you won’t find on shelves are available in the Two Tall taproom in Sun Prairie. 5353 Maly Road, Sun Prairie, 728-8255

Working Draft Beer Co. 
Working Draft Beer Co.’s floor-to-ceiling windows allow pedestrians to see a giant 200-foot mural creatively titled “How We Gather,” which was created by artist Jenie Gao, a Madison Magazine M List award winner in 2018. Inside the taproom, which opened a year ago, bartenders love to pour West Coast IPAs that are hop heavy, with piney, citrusy tones. When you lean on the bar sipping one of Working Draft’s cold Pulp Culture Hazy IPAs, know that you are leaning on repurposed wood from the Village Lanes Bowling Alley in Monona. The solid maple from Lanes 21, 22 and 24 create the bar tops and common tables in the taproom located on Madison’s east side. 1129 E. Wilson St., 709-5600

Mackenzie Krumme is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine. Editorial intern Claire VanValkenburg contributed to this article.

Madison Magazine Subscription

Get Madison Magazine delivered to your office or home.

Gift subscriptions now available!

Subscribe Now

The Dining Guide

Shopping & Style

Sign-up for our event newsletter

This Week's Circulars