Located in the heart of Wisconsin, Madison is Mad Town for a reason. With 25 craft breweries dotted in and around the city, a lot of beer flows in the state’s second-largest city. Locals take great pride in this and celebrate with events like the Great Taste of the Midwest, Craft Beer Week, and Isthmus Beer & Cheese Festival. These events draw crowds from around the country to try everything Madison offers, from traditional ales to funky new concoctions. Here a brewery is more than a place; it’s a way of living where beer-loving patrons come together to love, laugh, and share a pint.
The breweries that serve some of our favorite brews are Ale Asylum, Capital Brewery, Young Blood Beer Company, Funk Factory Geuzeria, and One Barrel Brewing Company. And breweries that also serve food are the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company and Karben4.
Check out our recommendations to help you taste the best the city offers. Let us know what you think and which breweries have become your new favorite.
Founded in 2005, Ale Asylum is all about high-quality classic beers that are now an upper Midwest staple. In 2012 they expanded their operations and moved into a massive new warehouse on five acres of property. This new space fits a 33-barrel brew house with automated bottling and canning line. With all their production and packaging on site, Ale Asylum maintains its sustainability practices while making all-natural traditional beer with complete dedication.
There is something for everyone, with five year-round ales and many seasonal brews. Patron favorites include Hopalicious, a refreshing APA with bold citrus flavor without the intense bitterness, and Ambergeddon, a West Coast style malty amber.
Established in 1984, Capital Brewery produced its first keg in 1986 and sold its first can in 1997. Here, the specialty is German-style lagers. Beers that are so good they have won over 240 medals. With six house brews and yearly seasonal/limited releases, this brewery is cranking out the good stuff on a regular schedule. Their facility has an indoor Bier Stube, open to the public in the colder month, and a spacious Bier Garten with a stage, waterproof tent, bar, and picnic tables that can easily host up to 1,200 people. Guests can enjoy live music while they sip their German brews.
Classics to taste include the Wisconsin Amber, an American lager that balances roasted caramel malts with hops, and the Supper Club, a traditional malt lager.
This experimental microbrewery is the one to watch in downtown Madison. It is a testament to the three founders’ friendship. Each from entirely different backgrounds, these buddies found a way to merge their perspectives and create this amalgamation of humor and fun. Their taproom is a tropical oasis of greenery, with the hanging plants providing the perfect curtain to hide away from the commotion of the city. Paired with the community atmosphere and rotating tap offerings, it’s no wonder customers keep returning for more.
Try the Motivational Hippie Robot, a double IPA with fruity, juicy notes. Or, if you are in the mood for something more exciting, try the Marconi Plays the Mamba Tropical Sour, a blend of plums and oranges with notes of rose petal and blackberry.
This brewery is founder Levi Funk’s love letter to the Lambic and Lambic-derived products such as Geuzes. Lambics are traditional Belgian beers that use spontaneous fermentation and are aged for about three years to create a unique brew. Worts sourced from breweries all around Wisconsin are brought together to be transformed. It sounds crazy, but Funk Factory must be doing something right because their releases are some of the fastest selling in the industry.
This niche brewery loves to educate its patrons about the ingredients they use and all the different kinds of brews out there. So come ready to expand your beer knowledge as you explore all the funky offerings this factory has on tap. Start with the traditional Belgian Lambic, the Meert, a metamorphosized brew that is a delicate balance between earthiness and citric tartness.
In honor of their lowly backyard brewing barrel, Madison’s first nanobrewery is still doing things one barrel at a time. Inside the brewery is the tasting room so patrons can see how approachable craft brewing really is. The bar is all about the beer where you can get an assortment of drinks like the house brews, seasonal offerings, gluten-free beers, wines, and canned cider.
Try their Banjo Cat, a dark IPA that is black in color but smooth without the bitter maltiness. Its strong fruity aroma and rich flavor make it a balanced Cascadian Dark Ale.
A trip to Madison is incomplete without some good food (preferable cheese) to go with that good beer. Here are some favorite brewpubs to stop by on the craft brew trail.
The Great Dane is the brainchild of two college friends who wanted to fuse their love of beer and food. They set up shop back in the 90s and have become a community favorite. Stepping into the Victorian building is like traveling back through time, and the beer garden is a pleasant surprise in the heart of downtown Madison. There is quite a collection of brews to try, with over 14 in-house brews like the German Pilsner and Oktoberfest and an ever-changing rotation of seasonal and specialty brews.
The food menu is just as extensive as the beers. With a mix of Wisconsin classics and internationally inspired dishes, your tastebuds can travel around the globe with treats such as Old Glory Cheese Curds, Szechuan style dumplings, Mediterranean Falafel bowl, West African Chicken Peanut Stew, Malaysian Laksa Noodle Soup, and Tandoori Chicken Naan. The Great Dane is no “show puppy”; it is a purebred master brewer aspiring to give the best to its customers.
Founded in 2012, this microbrewery on the east side of Madison specializes in English-style malt beers. The obsession with malted grains is obvious, with most of their offerings using some version. But that is not to say all the beers are the same; each has its own unique flavor profile, which proves how good Karben4 is at developing its brews. They even offer tours of their distillery so you can get a closer look at how they do their magic. The food menu is small but flavorful, with taco kits, nachos, quesadillas, chips, and dips. Karben4 ticks all the boxes; kid-friendly, pet-friendly with indoor seating, a games section, and an ample outdoor beer garden where live music lifts the atmosphere. There are even several heated igloos outside that patrons can reserve in the winter. The Karben4 is a great place to hang out with friends and family.
Sip on a Fantasy Factory, a malted barley American IPA, while you munch on an Adobo Chicken Taco, pulled chicken with avocado, street corn, and cotija slathered in adobo crema. Simple and satisfying.