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2021 Year in Review

Happy New Year Everyone!

We are bringing you our top picks of 2021 in 9 different categories. We opted to do a single winner for each category and there were some very close calls that took a lot of debate back and forth between Hannah and myself. As our Crusin' continues to more and more places the categories may expand, change, or feature a top three. For now though, check out the top picks for 2021!

Favorite Beer

Crusin for Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Favorite Beer 2021- The Runway Brewery

We visited 20 breweries this past year and have tried over a hundred beers. It’s tough to pick just one to win and there were some definite standouts and I know there will be a collective eye roll from at least one of our readers, Mr. Tin Fox, but my favorite beer, and the one I look forward to getting a growler of each year they have been open is Pharmacy Phountain (Mango) from the Runaway Brewpub and Micro Distillery. It’s the one that really sticks out in my mind with both taste and mouthfeel, even aroma, and it’s one that makes my mouth water. There are a few beers that do that for me but we haven’t reviewed those spots yet. Pharmacy Phountain is the Crusin’ for Booze beer of the year! Honorable mentions go to the incredible slow-pour Pilsner at Working Draft, Bone Orchard IPA from Second Salem Brewing Company, and Jorts Hefeweizen from Hillsboro Brewing Company, among others. We look forward to hundreds of more brews in the coming year!

Favorite Wine

We tried a lot of wine this year with the 8 wineries we reviewed. Of those 8 wineries, we have returned to five. Of those five, we have only brought one wine home, time and again. The winner of our favorite wine is Timber Hill Winery’s Jalapeño Wine. We honestly won’t make a Bloody Mary without it, after discovering it, and it’s a must-have for our home bar. While it may be a little strong to be drunk alone (unless you’re quite brave), it was the only wine that we liked enough to buy on more than one occasion and the only wine we will go out of our way to purchase directly from the winery. Admittedly, other wineries had fantastic views like Bailey’s Run or Wild Hills, we just did not like the wine there enough. As we head into winter it will be tougher to find wineries that are open to review but you can bet as soon as spring rolls around we will be back on the hunt for a Marquette that Hannah loves or some Wisconsin varietals to bring home.

Favorite Other Imbibement

This one, partnership aside, goes to Waterford Stillhouse. Of all the handful of cideries and distilleries we visited this year and reviewed, the Stillhouse has become our favorite local vodka to keep stocked in our bar with that clean, smooth profile that I look for in a vodka that can easily disappear into a cocktail and at the same time can be drunk on the rocks as the Prankster prefers his. We have several distilleries planned already next year, so expect this category to be a much tighter race in 2022!

Favorite Patio/View

Crusin for Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Favorite Patio 2021- Lone Gril Brewing Company

This one goes to Lone Girl Brewing Company in Waunakee. We gushed over the rooftop Biergarten in our review of their space and while the beer was middling and the food passable, the space outside was amazing. Live plants, a fire pit, a rooftop view, an outdoor bar, and even a glimpse of sunset give you everything you could ask for (other than a lakefront beach, of course). We thought this outdoor space alone was worth the visit if you’re in the Madison area.

Most Engaging Staff

Perhaps our toughest category as we have met some incredible people along the way. Hannah and I discussed at length which staff member really brought service to another level, made us feel at home, and truly enhanced our experience. It was not easy and please do not think we are picking our favorite person. Three individuals really came to mind that enhanced our experience and we will absolutely be going back to each place to revisit each of these great folks.

Mike at Commerce Street Brewery is doing great things and is innovating in ways I have not seen by creating his beer and breakfast. He supports the LGBTQ community whole-heartedly in Mineral point. He gave me an incredible tour and is the reason I didn’t write off Commerce Street as a spot I would eventually get back to, but instead made it a place I look forward to revisiting.

Brandon Begotka at Waterford Stillhouse embodies everything we stand for at Crusin’ for Booze by giving back to the community, making a uniquely Wisconsin product and giving us here at the blog the chance to delve into partnerships in creating their cocktail menu. He is patient, accommodating and doesn’t shy away from letting us taste straight from the barrel, which is an experience everyone who gets the chance to, should take.

However, there was one staff member (not owner mind you, just a bartender) who not only enhanced our experience, but will be the sole reason for returning to a brewery that was otherwise just decent. If you read the article, you know that our most engaging staff member of the year was Chuck and his Old Fashioneds at Cercis Brewing Company. The experience we had, the knowledge he imparted, and the drinks he made us changed a mediocre spot into one of our fondest memories of the year. Chuck is an employee that made us feel welcome and sort of hinged our entire review with his incredible stories and dedication to service.

Best Food

While we always say that we are not a food blog, we will almost always try the food if it’s available and, as you know, there are a lot of places that do beer and serve sub-par food. However one place really stands out to us and that’s Potosi Brewing Company. Not only do we think the brewery is worth the 1.5 hour drive from Madison to check out the beer museum and the operation, the town is cute, close to the mighty Mississippi, but it has our favorite fish fry of 2021. This was a no brainer for us since fish fry is such a natural and Wisconsin-y pairing for beer.

Honorable mention, and best general menu goes to Commerce Street Brewery in Mineral Point. We’ve been there twice and had different items on their menu and each time has been fantastic in both quality and price. When we were there last, as you can read in our post on them, the beer was still in the works so we didn’t feel it would be fair to give them the win. You can bet though that once beer is in production we will be going back to try what they have to offer!

Most Unique

Hannah and I went back and forth on this one, but since Hannah is our resident vibe evaluator, I deferred to her expert opinion! Our pick for this category is City Service Brewing Company. The decor here was so on point with the reclaimed gas station theme that, in hindsight, we really couldn’t pick any other spot. Industrial-themed breweries are a dime a dozen. Breweries featuring original brewing aesthetic are also more common than you think. While I thought Commerce Street had a really unique i

dea of the beer and breakfast, it really is City Service that has the most unique theme all around and they leaned into that them all the way. The beer may not be the best but it is the cheapest beer of 2021 coming in a $3-4 a pint for craft beer.

Best Location

Crusin for Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Best Location 2021- Hillsboro Brewing Company

This year this goes to Hillsboro Brewing Company. If you read our recent post on them, you know that we loved the vibe, the decor, several of the beers, the gift shop, and even the food was decent. While we didn’t get to explore much of the town, we really enjoyed the drive out through La Valle and Wonewoc. Hillsboro really has something for everyone whether it’s a cozy booth near a pool table, a cocktail table near the bar, or a large family table near the gift shop. They have a wide enough range of beer that everyone can find something and are spread out enough that you can have a conversation without it being too loud. Between the drive, the beers and the giftshop this was our all-around choice for best location and a place we are definitely looking forward to revisiting.

Best Hangout Spot

This category goes to the place that we could easily see sitting, sipping beers, talking, playing some games, and enjoying a nice afternoon in the company of friends. Our recent trip to Topsy Turvy Brewing deserves an honorable mention here for a winter place to relax, but our gut feeling says that it is packed during the invasion that is summer in Lake Geneva. Our winner in this category is Ooga Brewing Company in Beaver Dam. We have whiled away a summer afternoon here listening to live music with the prankster. We’ve also sat and watched it snow here and discovered the amazing idea of having a rentable ice-shanty in an old parking lot as a COVID-safe way to hang out with some friends. Hannah and I like enough of the beers here to go back and visit and, if memory serves, they have her favorite (thus far) Jalapeno beer. If you start to get hangry, there’s a wall-mounted tablet to order delivery from nearby restaurants which, now in hindsight, seems to be the best alternative to going full-on brewpub. We will definitely be revisiting to see if the ice-shanty program is still going on and crank out some of our new Christmas board games.

Thank you to all our readers, both old and new for helping support us in making what we love into a reality. It has been a year for the history books in so many ways and we figured if we could do it amidst COVID, it will only get easier from here on out. We look forward to 2022 and all it will bring. So keep an eye out for our weekly articles and many more big things to come!

Until next time, keep on Crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.

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