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CheezHEAD Brewing

Beloit, WI


Crusin’ Rating: B

Booze Rating: C+

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Blogger- CheezHEAD Brewing

Perhaps two blocks north of the border between Wisconsin and Illinois lies what seems to be a final stronghold of all that is Wisconsin. Adorned in Green and Gold, Cardinal Red and White, with cheese curds on the chalkboard menu and friendly laughter leaking out the door. When Hannah and I entered we were not sure, despite the sign, that we had walked into a brewery at all. To us it looked like a slightly quirky sports bar filled with home-crafted sports decorations and that warm feeling that comes from any tavern you find on main street in town. You know, that feeling where you know some of the regulars have been coming here for years and years and welcome anyone who walks through the door.

Walking in, the space is dominated by a “U”-shaped bar so common in taverns. Chalk boards dot the walls with snacks written and noted drink specials, and various price points. A fridge, opposite to the side of the bar we sat on held various beers from around Wisconsin, wines, and most importantly, jell-o shots! When’s the last time you saw a brewery with jell-o shots? Or any tavern really? While we didn’t push our luck with trying one, we just found that a pleasant bit of nostalgia from past holidays. There were a few flat screen televisions, a mixture of classic rock and county playing on the speakers, and an every-busy bartender who was all smiles. Did I mention that they had their own swag styled in green and gold? This really was a dive bar that up and decided to start making their own beer and their casual approach was refreshingly relaxing.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Blogger- CheezHEAD

As mentioned before, this is a full bar with wine, their own beer, and other beers from around Wisconsin, cocktails, snacks, and Jell-O shots. The flights come in hand-crafted cheese-head flight holders which, yes, we waited our turn to be served in one specifically. Don’t worry, we are told more are on their way.

We tried a flight of six beers. [Don't worry, the glasses aren't dirty, they are frosted!]

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- CheezHEAD Brewing- Beer flight
CheezHEAD Beer Flight

Barley Wine (9.2% ABV) - With strong notes of malted barley (of course) and some spices to boot, this dark muddy brown copper was fairly mellow smelling for a Barley Wine. While it was sort of lacking the warmness of the alcohol I usually get in a Barley Wine, there was definitely a fruity depth to the beer with some caramel and biscuit dough sweetness. The characteristic they really nailed was the sort of “chewiness” that you get with a Barley Wine where you feel like your mouth is slightly sticky, as if you ate some caramel moments before. All around, it was a decent Barley Wine, but these types aren’t for everyone.

Fruity Seltzer (4.0% ABV) - So, CheezHEAD has a base seltzer that they add their flavors to in-house. I think that’s how a lot of breweries are doing seltzers and while it’s nothing too complex, I can see the appeal since seltzers have become so big over the past few years. Their rendition is light pink in color and slightly cloudy with sort of a general fruitiness, some red berries and it’s hard to pin down specific flavors. I thought it smelled of Flintstones Chewable Vitamins (blast from the past) but Hannah disagreed. There was nothing too memorable here so unless you’re really craving a seltzer I would suggest skip it or order a locally made canned seltzer.

Dairy Air Farmhouse Ale (5.8% ABV) - The beer I was most impressed with (less so for Hannah) their Farmhouse Ale was slightly cloudy, rich gold in color and smelled of sweet malted grain, not quite a bread dough, and not quite straight wheat and spice, but perhaps somewhere in the realm of semi-sweet malt and some wheaty heft. There’s a little fruitiness like a hint of orange essence (sweet rather than acidic) and some sweet wheatness with a little bit of the banana. I think this is the closest that someone has come to a 1:1 replication of Spotted Cow I have tasted. There was some definite differences as the Cow is was heavier in comparison, bolder in funk, grain, and that sweetness but this was a really valiant effort at replication. Hannah described it as slightly skunky but I disagree, instead tasting that funkiness that is common to so many of the Farmhouse-styled beers we see today. Do we need a Spotted Cow copycat made in Beloit? Probably not. However, this was a solid Farmhouse ale.

Picka-Pepper Mango Habanero (8.0% ABV) - Easily Hannah’s favorite out of the bunch this beer smelled of mango juice with an after sense of singed nose hairs, but just slightly. Once you get a few sips into this beer the mango flavor builds on itself but isn’t apparent on the first taste. Hannah and I figured a mango puree or additive was used. We agreed that this one was probably too spicy to drink more than a pint of but it was leagues ahead of another Habanero beer we recently tried which wasn’t spicy enough. It wasn’t so hot that it was unpleasant or made you start to sweat, so it fell into almost the perfect spot. Ideally you’d want a beer with enough heat to notice, but be able to drink a few throughout the afternoon. We thought it was interesting that two versions of this beer were offered “Hot” and “Mild”. The Mild was not noticeable enough. Again, the sweet spot being somewhere just slightly less spicy than the Hot version they offer. This definitely made it onto Hannah’s list of favorite spicy beers. Definitely worth a try!

Cherry Wheat (5.2% ABV) - This beer smelled of straight cherry pie filling sans any sort of spices and tastes like cherry syrup. We both found it lacking body and full mouthfeel usually associated with a wheat. Being in Wisconsin there’s at least 3 other Door County Cherry Wheats that we could think of off the top of our heads so there is some competition. We both expected a little more heft to the mouthfeel and felt that this was closer to a cherry lager with the little hop character at the end and the overall light mouthfeel.

State Street Stout (6.3% ABV) - Being from Madison, of course we had to try a stout that embodies State Street, picturing something pronounced,vibrant, loud, yet familiar. Maybe we read too far into the name. We smelled dark, bitter, roasty coffee beans and bakers chocolate, coffee grounds primarily in the taste with an aftertaste of roasty or perhaps charred malt that really stuck with you. Oddly closer to amber in color and I felt the amount of hop character brought the finish closer to an Irish Red Ale. It should be noted that pints of this guy are $8, rather than $6 of the rest of the beers on the menu.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Blogger- CheezHEAD

Hannah and I found that the entire vibe felt down to earth and humble. There was no pageantry, just some people that really loved Wisconsin. The owner was slinging drinks and serving beers next to the bartender as business got busy and everyone, patrons and staff were welcoming and friendly. Hannah and I really appreciated the lack of pomp and circumstance that some of these places can have as it’s clear the owner appreciates and remembers his roots. While I might not suggest a journey from Madison, if you are going from Madison to Chicago along I-90 and want to stop in one last Wisconsin spot before entering the void, I’d say stop in for a beer.

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

To learn more about CheezHEAD Brewing please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @CheezHeadBrewing

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