In an email before my trip to Madison, Cathy reminded me to be careful, since it seemed that there was always something happening on every other trip we've taken..... Earthquake before our trip to Peru, riots before our trip to Thailand, and of course, having to fly through an eerie Mexico City Airport on the way back from Guatemala right when the 2009 Swine Flu Pandemic broke. Between those trips we visited Vietnam/Cambodia, I travelled to Madison, and of course our trip to China. So I guess I was due........
It wasn't anything too bad, just the strongest storm ever recorded in the Midwest. The rain and 60-70mph winds discouraged me from driving, so we decided to stick close to the hotel. A couple of those restaurants on my list would just have to wait until next time. Still, I really didn't see myself going all the way to Madison and eating at Denny's. On my first evening in Madison, during my drive back to the hotel, I noticed a pretty busy looking restaurant/bar, and the folks exiting looked local, not like folks from all the hotels in the area. The name of the place was Sprecher's, which I later found out is the same as that of a very well known Milwaukee County Brewery of the same name. According to the story, Sprecher Brewery was founded by Randal Sprecher who is originally from..... California. Sprecher had a degree in oceanography, but was unable to pursue a career in that field due to a little problem...... he got seasick! Don't know if it's true, but it's a nice story.
After making our way from the freezing parking lot we entered the dining area which looked like a Bavarian themed Rock Bottom, or something of the sort. The menu really didn't thrill me much either with items like Thai Lettuce Wraps, Crab Cakes, Seared Tuna, and Cajun Pasta on the menu. Until I found a couple of items more befitting of a place called Sprecher's.
The beer list was a bit more interesting. And I noticed that "tasters" were offered at three for $4.50 and six for $9. So I thought I'd go for the six, after all, I had envisioned 2-3 ounce pours.... but what I received seemed to be much larger than that.
Our server, named Anna was a joy.... efficient and cheerful, I had her choose my six beers, which she had arranged for me, from light to dark. She had also taken the time to list each beer in order by hand. Anna told me that they used to have print-outs for folks ordering the sampler but stopped doing that a while ago, she thought I'd like to know and remember what I was drinking.
This is the El Rey, a very effervescent Mexican Ale. My favorite was the Abbey, slightly fruity, perhaps edging on the sweet, but I enjoyed it.
If you've read my previous posts on Madison, you'll have a pretty good idea of what I was having as a starter..... it's Deep Fried Cheese Curds ($7) of course!
As Fried Cheese Curds go, these were just ok. Not even close in flavor or texture to those at the Old Fashioned, but serviceable. More gooey and stringy then other versions I've had.
And just because I'm so predictable, of course I had the Sprecher's Brat with Beer Cheese Potatoes ($9):
This was just ok, and really tasted like concept brew pub food, being very corporate in presentation and flavor. The brat really didn't catch my attention, and it was covered with a load of flavors....whole grain mustard and sauerkraut I can take, but the caramelized onions with what seemed to be bacon was a bit much. I really couldn't taste much beeriness in the beer cheese potatoes, in fact it was pretty bland as a whole.
Perhaps in the end, the corporate chain-like food didn't impress me very much; but the service was excellent, the prices not bad, and I really enjoyed the company. It sure beat being out in the wind and the rain.
Sprecher's Restaurant & Pub
1265 John Q Hammons Road
Madison, WI 53717