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Capital Brewery

Middleton, Wisconsin


Crusin’ Rating: A

Booze Rating:  C


Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Capital Brewery

This week, we are checking out a spot in Madison that is the closest brewery to our home, Capital Brewery in Middleton, Wisconsin!  Capital Brewery is close to us and it’s a spot I feel like we don’t always get to enough since we are usually so busy traveling to other places.  Tucked into a corner of downtown Middleton at the end of a quiet street and across from a skate park, Capital Brewery is a little urban oasis, complete with beer garden, music venue, and a little bit of German influence inside.  

Founded in 1984 Capital is - to our knowledge - the oldest functioning brewery in Madison (previously Sprecher held the title).  Capital Brewery has always focused on traditional German beers but also offers ever-popular IPAs and sours - though don’t plan on finding anything too far into left field from Capital.

When arriving at Capital, the first thing you notice, and it’s hard to miss, is the large patio, partially covered, complete with permanent stage and a plethora of wooden picnic tables.  I don’t know if I’ve ever seen that patio empty when the weather turns above fifty degrees and there are dedicated customers well into the late fall that are out there as well.  Part of that is definitely the location, outdoor space on Madison’s west side, and, moreover, Middleton, is at a premium.  Capital absolutely - er - capitalizes on that outdoor space as much as it can.  They’ve got two full sets of outdoor taps and even that isn’t enough when mid-June hits and there’s music on the stage.  While it may not be as green as The Hop Garden or quite as serene as Heart of the North - Capital really does come in clutch when wanting to spend some outside time sipping beers.  Captial does not have food but you can easily check out the Village Green, Longtable Beer Cafe, or stop in for some Poke, Noodles, or even order a pizza and walk right over to the biergarten- all within a short walking distance.  I think the only quibble we really have is that it could use some updates.  Maybe some TV’s to take advantage of game days, definitely some more plants or green in the courtyard, maybe a fire pit or two and a general refresh would go a really long way at Capital Brewery.

Inside, down a hallway adorned with medals bestowed on various beers and past the restrooms is the indoor bar, through archways guarded by wrought-iron gates.  If you’ve ever been to der Rathskeller at the the Union in Madison, the influence from Germany is definitely there.  While not quite as antique as the Rathskeller, it is a cozy space complete with an extended bar that serves one of the side rooms.  Seating about 80 people or so, Hannah, the Artist and I all agreed it could either A) use some more natural light or B) definitely benefit from a fireplace or other touches to make it seem like a cozy German-inspired tavern.  There is a glass fridge featuring make-your-own six packs which came in handy for the Artist to bring some of her favorites home - really a neat touch.  Swag hangs above your head on one wall, and there are a handful of TV’s spread throughout the rooms.  If anything, a little more decor would really make the space feel welcoming - especially in those side rooms.

The three of us snagged a flight that ran $10 for what came out to be 2.5 pints of beer spread across six samples - really an affordable flight that lets you have a varied tasting - of the 6 I had, I reviewed 5.

Awesummer Ale (5.0% ABV, 14 IBU) - This dark gold ale featured a fluffy white head with good retention and had low clarity.  If you were to close your eyes and smell this beer you’d almost think it was a Blue Moon - muddled orange peel and some grainy malt on your nose.  A creamy mouthfeel features a touch of orange and soft maltiness and finishes sort of half-sweet, half of just a kiss of hop bitterness.

Orange Blonde Ale (5.0% ABV 18 IBU) - I got this one specifically to compare to the Awesummer Ale since the ABV and IBUs were the same and this one was supposed to feature orange.  This beer poured the color of light straw, cloudy, and with a solid white head with medium retention.  Sour orange, lemon, and citrus juice greet your nose first and then similarly some muddle malt sweetness.  Bitter orange up front when greeting your tongue, but then quickly turns quite malty - bordering on bready with light to no hop character.

Berliner Weiss (4.0% ABV, 5 IBU) - This beer was cloudy, October straw-colored with a white head and low retention.  Low ABV as suits the style, this beer smelled sharply sour (again as it should) and briefly of uncooked pizza dough.  What I would describe as a straightforward, cleanly sour character dominates the flavor with a little bit of grainy malt and dry finish.  I think this was a textbook Berliner Weiss, which, strangely, Hannah tends to dislike.  I thought it was a solid example of the style.

Maibock (6.2% ABV, 25 IBU) - This Helles Bock poured light amber - almost orange, with medium clarity, and an off-white head with good retention.  Smelling strongly of sweet malt aroma.  I found definite sweetness - almost fruity (which wouldn’t belong).  Instead I was looking for some maillard reaction, toasted-ness, and some spiciness.  I thought the flavor was sweet and fruity as well and the Artist aptly pointed out that it was cloyingly sweet.  I definitely agreed.  I really don’t think that fruitness belongs in this style and it almost, at times tasted of strawberries.  Delafield Brewhaus remains king in terms of that particular style.

Mighty Eagle (7.3% ABV, 74 IBU) - This American IPA - strangely not an APA - but I don’t want to do too far down the IPA rabbit hole as this one was tough to call.  Probably a Hazy IPA that trends more New England IPA rather than a straight East Coast IPA - confused yet?  Sometimes I still am!  This beer poured mostly opaque pale yellow and featured pine, mango, and definite woody-bark notes when smelling.  With strawberry and passionfruit coming to the forefront for me and a slightly resinous finish with a little bit of woody-herbaceousness to boot.  I think this beer reminded me of a forest wherein  you might see it’s namesake eagle.  Hannah said it was akin to licking water off of a wet tree - to each their own.

You know, every year Capital Brewery puts out a Doppelbock that I absolutely stock my fridge with.  I might feature that in a future article when October rolls around - for a beer that reminds me of fall.  As I said, we don’t get out to Capital Brewery enough for how close it is, and I think we more go for the space and convenience, unfortunately, as opposed to the beer.  I think Capital Brewery beers are mostly “okay” and my experience behind the bar definitely backs that up.  Some of the seasonal beers can be good ranging to great, but I think, on the whole most of them are just okay - not bad, but just okay.  Which sometimes is a bummer because you want to go to a biergarten that’s close and has solid food options around it.  I would say, it's a great spot to meet coworkers who aren’t wildly adventurous in their beer preferences and want to stick close to styles that are tried and true.  I would say go and have some beer and see some music if you’re in Madison - heck we might add it to a booze cruise for convenience of location alone but on the whole, I think there are some breweries that are pushing out some better beers around the city.  

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

To learn more about Captial Brewery, please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @CapBrew or on Instagram: @CaptialBrewery

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