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Giant Jones Brewing Company

Madison, Wisconsin

 

Crusin’ rating: D

Booze Rating: D

 
Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Giant Jone Brewing Co.

On the heels of our Hudson Series of reviews - plus a little break to check out Burial Beer Co. in North Carolina, we are back at it checking out a place closer to home, in Madison, in fact. Giant Jones Brewing Company sits on the east side of Madison and actually shares a wall and roof with Old Sugar Distilling. Right down the street from one of our favorite sandwich spots, Alimentari, and only two blocks from Working Draft Brewing Co., it’s one of those spots that we easily missed and have accidentally walked by more than once. In truth, we reviewed the distillery and didn’t learn until that day it was in the same building! I recruited the Thirsty Troll to assist me with this review as Hannah was previously occupied working a wedding.



It was an absolute scorcher at 86℉ degrees and sunny and definitely not the ideal tasting weather for a spot whose main entrance is a large garage door. This was, in all honesty, a sweaty tasting wherein we were a little fatigued from the heat, but we gave it our best. (To note, the Troll and I are at home at 65℉ with fall weather, conversely, Hannah’s preferred temp is anywhere 85-95℉). Only feet from South Brearly Street, Giant Jones is very much a working space with live-edge tables and high counter tops for patrons to sip on beer. Reminiscent of those taproom/work spaces in examples like Component Brewing or Pearl Street, Giant Jones does not trouble itself with too much in the way of trappings, other than some local art, but rather is a serviceable space to gather and drink beer, and that’s most of it.


The Thirsty Troll, when asked about the vibe, said

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Giant Jones Brewing Co.

“It feels like drinking in a garage.”

I thought that was a pretty apt description. There are places that have that warehouse or production space split with taproom that do it right, heck, there’s even a place that straight up exists in an garage (coming soon!). It can be done successfully, but that really wasn’t the case here. This was not a spot wherein we saw people laughing and having a good time (granted that might be due to the heat), it was really just a spot that you come in and drink some beer and leave from our observations. There really wasn’t much in the way of personality at all. Dogs are allowed, there are flights, and again, those live-edge tables were nice, but nothing really stood out to either of us here. We were hoping that some of the beer would make up for that!


This was a style that at first stumped me. I couldn’t really find much on the style itself. I even found others online saying it’s a difficult style to research and learn about. I eventually came upon the answer that this isn’t so much a style as it is a saison or something like that style with honey added. The BJCP does not recognize this style so I am basing my review off of a Saison with the addition of honey. Pouring yellow-gold with low clarity and featuring a white head, this beer smelled of wet banana, malt, and low earthy notes but they were tough to spot. Neither of us detected fruitiness but we did detect some breadiness, low sweetness, and a definite minerally tang toward the finish, which was bitter. With higher ABV than you usually find in a saison and it not really fitting the profile of the beer in general I was not sure what they were going for here. I’m also not sure they knew either as I found this to be a slightly malty, then hoppy, mostly unsweet conundrum of a beer.


Biere de Miele (9.7% ABV) - This was a style that at first sumped me. I couldn’t really find much on the style itself. I even found others online saying it’s a difficult style to research and learn about. I eventually came upon the answer that this isn’t so much a style as it is a saison or something like that style with honey added. The Beer Judge Certification Program does not recognize this style so I am basing my review off of a Saison with the addition of honey. Pouring yellow-gold with low clarity and featuring a white head, this beer smelled of wet banana, malt, and low earthy notes but they were tough to spot. Neither of us detected fruitiness but we did detect some breadiness, low sweetness, and a definite minerally tang toward the finish, which was bitter. With higher ABV than you usually find in a saison and it not really fitting the profile of the beer in general I was not sure what they were going for here. I’m also not sure they knew either as I found this to be a slightly malty, then hoppy, mostly unsweet conundrum of a beer.


Paint it Black (10.5% ABV) - This Braggot, a beverage of disputable origin and definition, is, from what I can tell, is a mead made with malt (not usually hops, but spices). Something like 51% honey as the base, and the other 59%being malt. What a braggot is not, is a beer with honey added post fermentation, it’s also not beer and mead mixed, but rather a beverage fermented as a whole with honey and malt. A braggot differs from mead in the fact that mead is made from fermenting honey, sometimes with spices, but not typically malt. I did see this described as “an extra stout with honey” which I think only serves to confuse the issue and muddy the waters, intentional or not. I would argue - after a few hours reading - that it’s the opposite of that and would be better described as a mead with black malt, roasted malt, etc.

That aside, I found low coffee notes and sugary sweetness here on the nose of this almost black beverage. Our up-and-coming stout expert found molasses, little to no coffee, and a piney hop presence on the back of the tongue after the finish. There was not enough of that dark roasted grain when tasting. With no honey sweetness detectable either. I would say this was another conundrum and we actually opted to not finish, despite Thirsty Troll’s penchant for stouts.


Dubbel (7.6% ABV) - You know I love me some Belgian Dubbels and seeing this one pour a reddish amber with an off-white head had me hopeful. Putting it to my nose I picked up caramelized sugar, clove, and fruity raisins and even some light toast. I expected the same and was greeted, at first, by some lovely dried apricot and low clove flavor but then it was soon taken over by an out of place hop presence, where I should have been experiencing a dry and malty aftertaste. I double-checked our flight to make sure I had the correct beer. The richness of flavor was also not as strong as the aroma and I had hoped for some complexity of plum and dried fruits but instead received a simple thing that ended poorly. And no, this is not some bias of hops, as you know they have a place in our beer tastings, and IPA’s do grow on us little by little. This was just a promising example of the style when smelling that really let me down in the taste aspect.


Ryewine (11%) - A Barleywine, except with rye. That’s what this is. Now, I like a good rye, and I appreciate the spice complexity it can bring when distilled. I can appreciate a barleywine, its strong, it's rich, it’s warm on a winter day, and is great for sipping. I assumed the addition of rye is going to add some pepper spiciness. Pouring mostly orange with low clarity I found the aroma here very faint and looking further, taking a break, and going back there was definite bready malt and even a little fruitiness in there, cherry to my nose. The flavor too was almost entirely bready malt but with no warming finish. I didn’t detect anything close to rye at all. I don’t think it was just me either as when the Thirsty Troll tasted and when through descriptors I found nothing resembling rye in his description either. I didn’t find fruitiness, bitterness, or any sort of spice, no warmth here, just boozy maltiness which made this a very unbalanced offering. I think it would have been easier to just offer a shot of rye.



Maybe it was a lot of creativity going on here. Giant Jones really dug deep to find some mysterious and vague beers. I’ve never run into a Ryewine and it’s not a style I recognize, Braggots are here and there, and Biere de Miele isn’t really a style. Is this a brewery going off the beaten path to try further and further fringe imbibements? Very possible. After discussing with the Thirsty Troll, though, we found ourselves in the camp of not really being in love with anything we tried, including the two different pints we opted not to review. I think this brewery would be better served going back to basics and nailing those styles down, otherwise they are heading out into the fringes and while, yes, that can be adventurous, based on our tasting, I would want them to stick a little closer to home as the fringes were not something we would go back for. Suffice it to say, where there is stiff competition just blocks away, I would not recommend a trip here. If you’re in Madison or live in the neighborhood, there are plenty of beer options and I encourage you to explore them all!


Better luck next time. Until then, keep on crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Giant Jones Brewing Company please visit their website at: giantjones.com or on Facebook: @GiantJonesBeer or on Instagram: @GiantJonesBrewing


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