As anyone who knows me can attest, I can get pretty obsessed with things. My latest obsession is beer.
Luckily, Michelle was just as eager to get out of town this past Sunday–a beautiful, roll-your-windows-down kinda day–and we decided to head to two breweries that we were pretty unfamiliar with; Ale Asylum and Capital.
We left Milwaukee a little after nine with some Starbucks coffee and the new Vampire Weekend album on my iPhone. Ale Asylum, unlike Capital, did not take reservations, but offered hour-long tours from noon until five.
We arrived at the Ale Asylum brewery, northeast of the isthmus, a little after 11 a.m. The strikingly new, large building was in an industrial area. Though Ale Asylum is seven years old, this location opened in September 2012.
We walked in the main entrance of the brewery into a large, fancy restaurant area. We secured a place on the noon tour. The cost was $5 each and included a free drink at the bar.
Since we had an hour to kill, we each ordered a beer. The ball above the bar featured all of their beers and the lit up beers were the ones they had on tap that day. Sadly, their excellent new belgian IPA, Bedlam, wasn’t on tap.
Ale Asylum’s tagline is “Fermented in sanity,” and they call their drinkers inmates. I was impressed to learn from the bartender that all of the design work, which is rather attractive, is done in house.
When it came time for the tour, our guide was Dean Coffey, who is one of the founders of the brewery. Our tour wasn’t full, but there were eight of us.
All the equipment in the brewing room was manufactured locally.
Among the impressive things about the Ale Asylum brewery was their commitment to working with local companies and a strong desire to be green (the heated water for brewing is the same heat that makes the water in the bathroom sink warm.
Their new fermenter (to the left) is the biggest they have.
Though the tour featured many of the trappings of normal brewery tours–like a chance to taste the barley–what really set the this experience apart was the guide. Dean eagerly took our questions and offered plenty of interesting anecdotes (including that nothing in beer can make you sick) and insights.
At one point, to illustrate the mysteries of fermentation, we tasted Ale Asylum’s flagship beer, Hopalicious, five days after fermentation (when it was sweet and mostly characterless) and then after full fermentation (when it was delicious). That was a nice touch.
What really came through was the love and commitment the brewery has to the process, the ingredients and the beer drinkers. I will seek out Ale Asylum’s beer (especially Bedlam) from now on and recommend it (and this tour) to beer lovers.
Our ride to Middleton (home of Capital) brought us west along Lake Mendota. Since we didn’t have our tour until 3 p.m., we had a hour and a half to kill. We arrived in the downtown and saw the National Mustard Museum. We had been there several years ago when the museum was located in Mt. Horeb, so we decided to explore the new location.
There is no cost for admission to the museum and each guest is encouraged to select three of the hundreds of varieties to taste. We tried a couple different beer-flavored mustards and a cranberry mustard.
The basement was filled with mustard from the world over. After purchasing a couple of bottles, we headed to find some lunch.
Just up the road from where we parked was The Free House Pub. What really sold Michelle was the option to sit outside, one of the first times that was possible in Wisconsin this spring.
They had a great beer list featuring a lot of local brews and the menu looked appetizing.
Michelle selected an A.B.L.T. (the ‘A’ being avocado) while I chose the ahi tuna sandwich. We split the sandwiches in half and each took one half.
Both were excellent, and eating outside was delightful.
Unlike the new facility of Ale Asylum, Capital Brewery is in a former egg storage warehouse. Nevertheless, in their decades at the site, they have made improvements including an indoor bar and outdoor bar and a party space that includes a covered pavilion and a stage.
We arrived about 10 minutes before our 3 p.m. tour (which we registered for online) and paid the $5 per person fee for the tour, which included three small samples and a free tasting glass. We sat under the covered pavilion and enjoyed the beautiful weather. When it came time for our tour, we learned we were the only two signed up.
Capital started out making German-style beer, but recently expanded their line to include an IPA and Supper Club, a lager with some fantastic packaging, including the words “Not Bad.”
Their design work is done by a local artist.
This sign, which depicts the brewing process, was purchased from the Pabst Brewery. Capital doesn’t bottle on site, instead, they pay Point Brewery in Stevens Point, Wis., to do their bottling.
Former milk-storage tanks are used in the fermentation process. Each one is named after a Frank Zappa song.
The tour was a breezy half hour and our tour guide was very friendly. While we were on the tour, the weather turned–dark clouds rolled in and rain began to pour. We decided to sit under the cover by the bar and I enjoyed a cigar.
The weather cleared up and before heading home, Michelle wanted to see the lake, so we drove to a little park, walked up a path and took in the natural wonder.
It was the perfect ending to an excellent day of beer, food and fun.