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Bullquarian Brewhouse

Monroe, WI


Crusin’ Rating: A-

Booze Rating: B

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Alcohol Blogger- Bullquarian Brewery- Exterior

Taking a trip just under an hour almost directly south of Madison, we hit up Bullquarian Brewhouse in Monroe, Wisconsin this week! While we’ve been out to Monroe a few times, mainly to tackle the Minhas Trifecta (coming soon!) we had never spent a huge amount of time exploring the town! Monroe is a classically Wisconsin town with a town square that serves as a public space for what was once a Courthouse. If you’ve been to downtown Baraboo, you’d be looking at a spitting image of downtown Monroe. Something about these little square towns is familiar and welcoming because you usually know most of your points of interest have a good chance of being within walking distance of each other, which is always a good thing after an evening of tasting beers.

Bullquarian is no exception, sitting a mere block away from the town square. We didn’t have any expectations walking up to this spot and hoped for the best. Opened since 2017, we had the pleasure of being served by the owner and master brewer, Ethan. We were able to ask him questions as he served us his brews and get a decent idea of the story of the brewhouse. While initially, the plan was to open in 2016 Ethan said it took over 9 months to get the correct approvals. Initially opening as a two barrel nano brewery that also served up frozen pizzas, “Bullquarian” comes from the mixture of Ethan and his wife’s zodiac signs of Taurus and Aquarius. While the bull aspect was clear to me, I would not have been able to piece that name together without the explanation. Ethan started as a home brewer his free time while initially working as a mechanical engineer with a background in music but always wanted to brew beer full time. In 2017, that dream became a reality for him. He takes inspiration from breweries nearby in Illinois and the great New Glarus Brewing Company and that comes through with his own flair in what turned out to be some unexpected but solid creations.

While we chatted back and forth for the better part of two hours, we felt right at home at Bullquarian. As soon as we walked in the door we knew. It was a quiet place, with a few people at the bar, and that sort of stayed steady throughout our time there. There’s seating enough for maybe thirty people inside and it appeared to be a bit of a slow Saturday but we counted ourselves lucky to get some time to chat amicably with the staff and some wonderful folks from Illinois who sat at the bar (I know, Illinois, but they want to be in Wisconsin permanently one day so I gave them a pass!). That solidified, down-to-earth feeling that Bullquarian has can be really refreshing to us. We go to dozens of breweries and wineries as the year passes and so many times we get friendly service, but not quite the small town welcome wherein anyone that walks in could just as easily be a neighbor as they could be a complete stranger. That feeling is something you can’t quite put a price on.

Bullquarian is down-to-earth not just in that abstract sense, but in the decor as well. Everything inside is functional. There’s wooden tables, metal chairs, a wooden bar, and photographs on the wall that hint at Ethan’s musical background. There’s a small wooden stage up near the front window, a small spot for swag, and various bull sculptures hidden throughout that is a neat little “I spy” game. It isn’t overly fancy, but it didn’t need to be. Ethan is a straightforward, no frills kind of guy that tells you like it is and it was great to see his personality shine through in the space. You could tell just from walking in that this was a spot that’s owned by someone who’s passionate about music, beer, and the people that those things bring together.

The brewhouse serves up wine and features a small featured cocktail menu. There are options for coffee, soda, and other non-alcoholic beverages as well. I don’t know if they are a brewpub or not. They have a menu of simple pub-fare but you can tell the focus is on beer. We talked about this with Ethan and he’s always wanted to have food for nothing other than the simple fact that once folks start boozin’ they either need something to eat or they’ll start Crusin’ in search of grub. The menu primarily featured all-beef hotdogs and pizzas that once they came out, were highly tempting for Hannah and I to stray from our diet. I think if we go back, there’s a good chance we won’t be able to resist!

As for beer, we were able to snag some samples in the form of a flight.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Alcohol Blogger- Bullquarian Brewhouse- Beer Flight

On to the beer!

Lemon Bars! (6.6% ABV) - This Milkshake IPA is brewed with Nilla Wafers, Lemon Forward Hops (type uknown), lactose, and Meyer Lemon. This beer was golden with medium clarity with a bunch of citrus, primarily lemon, on the nose along with some floral notes. My off-the-cuff guess as to what hops were used are Amarillo or maybe Motueka, but I don’t know for sure. I haven’t honed my nose to pick up distinct fruit flavors from hops quite yet. There was a little acidity when tasting this beer along with some nice, bright lemon flavor right away which transitioned smoothly into a lemon-curd sweetness, finishing with medium attenuation and just a kiss of hop bitterness. A little sweet, a little tart, a little hoppy. I think this was a wholly enjoyable IPA for those of you who aren’t wild about hops.

Pantheon Star (8.5% ABV) - This sour brown ale is fermented with Cabernet Sauvignon Grapes. Now, brewed with grapes made this sort of a wine-beer hybrid, distinct from a barleywine (which has no grapes involved and really isn’t a wine at all, just a beer). This beer poured a dark brown garnet with low clarity. Hannah and I both picked up on the grapes right away and there was a distinct sourness mixed in, almost as if you were smelling Cab grapes off the vine in early July when still young and sour. The overall flavor was that of a mixture of a typical sour but then some tannic dryness from the grapes. There are those red fruit notes that come through mixed in with sweet maltiness and it really threw us off that there were hints of wine but the carbonation of beer right into the slightly nutty finish. This beer was definitely something unexpected but Hannah and I both enjoyed it.

Schweizer Weizen (5.5% ABV) - This Hefeweizen was the color of dead straw. I picked up a bit more hop character when smelling this beer mixed in with clove and just a tad bit of banana. That hoppiness carried through to the flavor and there was a fair amount of bitterness in a beer style that I don’t typically expect that from. A hefe should typically have low bitterness but that was not the case here. It did have the dry finish typical of the style but I guess I found this one to be too overly hoppy and closer to an standard American Wheat beer rather than a traditional German Hefeweizen. It was a decent beer, just not what I was expecting. Hannah thought the banana tasted closer to banana runts and forced rather than natural.

You’ve got M@il! (7.3% ABV) - This Maibock was gold with brilliant clarity. This was a malty, beer in nose and taste. I picked up strong grainy-sweetness here and a little bit of herbal-ness when smelling. While this beer was well attenuated with a clean finish, it was tough when I just tried such a fantastic Maibock not so long ago (Frülingzeit Maibock at Delefield Brewhaus). I would say, again, this one has a little bit too much hops. Usually a Maibock has moderate hops and I would say this had high hop presence, although it might be a fine line. There was definitely a dry finish but I felt the hops were strong enough to stick around quite a bit after the finish. This was a tough one to critique as it hit a lot of the boxes that the style should, but it left me with the feeling of being just a little too hop-aggressive.

While I will not go into too much detail, after our tasting, I tried a pint of the Bourbon Barrel Scotch Ale that is aged in Yahara Bay Distillery bourbon barrels and clocks in at 8.7% ABV. I actually had more than one pint since I was such a fan of it! Hannah, for her part, tried a Micheleda (her first), and two Goses featuring pickle brine in one and peach/salt in the other. The pickle Gose was, as promised, exactly like drinking pickle juice and the Peach Gose was just a little too salty but still decent. In all, there wasn’t a single beer we tried that we would never have again as is the case with some places and it was a decent showing throughout.

A small note on the kind of guy that owns this joint. We had a unique encounter where a man rode up to the brewery while we were there with a cat container strapped to his bike, other contraptions and a tall tale of biking all the way from Maine while washing windows for the bargain price of 15 dollars and the promise of a beer. Now, coming from Madison we’ve heard our share of tall tales from all manner of grifters, panhandlers, or even just eccentric characters and it’s easy to ignore them and I would not have been surprised if this guy was turned away for his solicitation. However, Ethan poured the guy a beer, paid him $15 dollars cash and we all watched, surprisingly that his traveler brought his cat into the spot to sit on the couch as he did a solid job washing the windows. It was a pretty unique interaction and exercise in faith in humanity that was a welcome sight for both Hannah and I on top of making a unique story. Just one of those downhome interactions which will ensure that we will definitely be stopping back in to say hello to Ethan one of these days.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Alcohol Blogger- Bullquarian Brewhouse- The Cat waits for his owner to wash windows in a comfy chair
The Cat waits while his owner washes the windows

If you’re in Madison, make the drive south and make a day out of Monroe. It’s well worth the hour drive.

Until next time, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’!

To learn more about Bullquarian Brewhouse please visit them on Facebook: @BullquarianBrewhouse

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