We drove to Madison, WI for dinner at Great Dane Pub & Brewery where I failed to take any notes. And, in reality, it wasn’t a noteworthy experience. That’s not to say the location was unacceptable or that the beer wasn’t decent. Even the food, and the menu, overall, was noteworthy, but our service was extremely poor and the entire experience was simply “ho-hum.”
Great Dane Brewing Company is located in an old corner hotel building, and has retained much of the historical charm on both the interior and exterior. It is just one block down from the capitol building, which sat up on the hill, well lit and rising above all other buildings.
We ordered four beers from the selection of 15 (two of which were on cask) along with dinner. I was highly interested in the IPA, which on the printed menu, stated that the style varies from time to time – sometimes an English IPA, sometimes an American IPA. So as instructed, I asked the server. She was terribly confused by my question and couldn’t really help answer, so I just ordered it. I figured something called Texas Speedbump IPA would probably be American, and it was. In fact, it was a very solid IPA – extremely hop forward with a strong citrus nose and powerful hop flavor.
The other beer I had was Black Watch Scottish Ale on cask, and this was a deep copper color with an incredibly smoky finish. The smoke flavor was too much for me, and I gave this one up to D.
My trade was for his Black Earth Porter, which also had a smokiness to it – a sort of burnt malt quality, but I found it to be more smooth and drinkable than the Scottish.
D’s other choice was the English Special Ale on cask, which disappointed him quite a bit. It was a dull choice, and the beer delivered on that note. There was very little suggestion of hop flavor, which was balanced with the lack of malt body.
As for the food menu, everything read like an appealing dish. Vegetarian items were indicated with a carrot icon, and I only read the carrots…with such an extensive range of choices, I never got to the others – my mind was already swimming. And our waitress never filled us in on the specials, which in the end may have been a good thing because everything sounded great to me!
As much as I wanted the Inner Warmth Peanut Stew (butternut squash, tomatoes, onions, garlic, ginger, Habanera Pepper and cilantro with a zesty peanut sauce, served over rice) I went with the healthier alternative – Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Salad (handcrafted fresh Mozzarella with asparagus tips, yellow and red tomatoes, roasted peppers, virgin olive oil and cracked black pepper blended with sea salt, all on a bed of spinach.) I ordered the balsamic vinaigrette on the side, which was a wise choice. D had the Brats & Mashers, which were a pair of beer-and-onion-marinated bratwurst over Scotch Ale sauerkraut with smashed red potatoes and hot apple “sauce” (which was really super-cooked apple chunks with cinnamon…)
Great Dane is certainly a place we’d like to try again – maybe with a different waitress or at one of the other two locations we will have an improved experience. As I said, it wasn’t awful, but the experience didn’t leave me wanting to send a friend to Madison.