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Hillsboro Brewing Company

Hillsboro, WI

 

Crusin' Rating: A-

Booze Rating: A

 
Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Hillsboro Brewing Company Outside

For our very special Christmas Edition of Crusin For Booze, we decided to treat ourselves to a bit of a present. This spot was our first ever Instagram post for the blog and, coincidentally, the first spot that we visited with the Prankster as our journey was just beginning. It has been nearly a full year since we were at this brewery last but our first memories were fond. I distinctly recall all three of us finding a beer that we enjoyed here, decent food, and an awesome space. With almost a full year in between, we thought this would be an ideal place to revisit to see if it holds up. Welcome to the Christmas Edition at Hillsboro Brewing Company.


We have The Pankster to thank for turning us on to this place. He, by chance, had attended a music festival pretty deep inside the Driftless wilderness. He and his music festival friends had decided to check out what was in the area and he stumbled upon Hillsboro Brewing Company. The catch was, when he told the story, he couldn’t remember the name. On a whim, I picked Hillsboro as an adventure one day in January 2021.


I have got to tell you, the drive to Hillsboro from Madison takes about 1.5 hours and the first part takes you through the Wisconsin Dells, which isn't that spectacular of a drive. However, once you exit onto Highway 33 you start to hit towns that maybe you have heard of such as Reedsburg, WI and some you haven’t such as La Valle or Wonewoc. I have to tell you, going through Wonewoc is like something that might be something worth seeing. Although the town boasts about 800 souls we didn’t see a single one driving through. It is a town that looked about as old and run down as an old camper we passed by. To me, you see towns like that up in the North woods but to know there is one this close was wild! A slightly foreboding feeling of being abandoned or uncared for permeates the place. Once you get through Wonewoc ignore anything google says unless the route takes you out of town on County FF. County FF will take you into what we all picture when you say the word “Driftless”. On top of that, it’s a short ten-minute drive to Hillsboro and takes you directly to the brewery. That ten minute drive will afford you some spectacular views of rolling hills and a picture we took in January 2021 that truly took our breath away with its silent beauty. Our most recent trip had us take a different route into town and we were disappointed we missed the view. Instead we had to settle for a stunning sunset on the way out of town.



The Brewery is, essentially, a huge warehouse that used to serve as a condensed milk canning factory. Here is one place I’m not going to care about the industrial chic since it all comes so naturally with the space. There is so much space on the ground floor (the second floor is an event space) featuring several games: a golf simulator, pool, shuffleboard and a plethora of seating options: booths, high tops, couches, and low tops of varying sizes. Despite the size of the space, we found it to to be quite cozy, if slightly dark (the overcast winter skies didn’t do us any favors). Hillsboro also sports a large gift shop that granted Hannah and The Pankster hoodies on our first trip and I’m kicking myself for not picking one up at the time. This time around we picked up the perfect backpack cooler to bring with on a picnic or when traveling with a cocktail kit to a party as well as some pricey pint six packs ($22/pack). While I did find spot a quarter zip (which our readers know we've been looking for since the blog started) this one didn’t quite fit right. The search will continue!



Before we get to the plethora of beer that we will be reviewing I want to talk briefly about the food.



We had an attentive waitress throughout our two hour review which was very much appreciated. It should also be said that we have eaten here on each trip. This is partially out of necessity since it’s the only place that we saw in Hillsboro that had food and partially because we needed food to offset the prodigious amount of beer to try. On both trips I got chicken wings with pub chips. The chips are fresh enough, but are never really seasoned. The wings have decent, if not amazing, sauces that didn’t necessarily leave me wanting more but ensured I wasn’t still starving. Hannah had a burger that she enjoyed but we are also a little let down by the cheese curds there. The curds are named “half naked” so you expect partial or minimal breading and a lot of exposed cheese. In practice, they are just normal cheese curds. We also attempted a “secret menu” item, fried olives. I don’t know what I was expecting, but these things were saltier than the dead sea. I heavily advise against them. In all, the food is decent, but we chalk that up to it being more of a brewery than a restaurant (which is why we go there!!).


Now for the beer, buckle in, because we tried a whopping SIXTEEN samples at $8/flight which is cheaper than our average flight price ($10/flight).


Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Hillsboro Brewing Company- Beer Flights

Badger Sweat (6.5% ABV) - This Vanilla Bean Stout is dark and roasty, creamy and smooth. As a stout, it’s almost black in color and tastes distinctly of dark chocolate and milk (not milk chocolate). It smells of dark roasted black coffee with just a touch of vanilla which combines to give the overall impression of a coffee milkshake. Low carbonation.


Caramel Apple Seltzer (4.5% ABV) - This seltzer is described as being inspired by the sucker, a comparison we’ve made several times before but we disagree in this case. There is a hint of granny smith in taste but a clear smell of grain mixed in with the apple. I would say this was closer to a candy-apple Lacroix (obvious, you may think, since it’s a seltzer) but the idea is that it was lightly essenced rather than in your face. Neither of us caught any hint of caramel. I thought it was okay but Hannah wanted nothing to do with it.


Currant Mood (5.0% ABV) - This fruited sour is garnet in color and smells strongly of currants and cherries. There is a tartness from the cherries and blackberries that is balanced by a sweet hint of strawberry that ends in a pleasant pucker from the currants. High carbonation and light mouthfeel give this beer a bright and refreshing quality. Hannah and I both enjoyed this beer a lot!


Thank You for Being a Friend ( 4.6& ABV) - This Watermelon Gose has a point of comparison in one of my favorite beers, American AF (a watermelon Kolsch) from Karben4. While the styles are somewhat similar I found that this beer was another winner for my tastebuds. I enjoy the Karben4 for it’s low alcohol content (3.3%) and its pleasant tartness which allows me to sip them all day by the lake. I found this Gose, with it’s trademark saltiness that gave this beer a more savory characteristic. This beer tasted like salted watermelon which is one of my favorite summer treats. If you have never sprinkled some salt on fresh watermelon I need you to give it a try. If you like it, then this beer is that in liquid form. I found this beer both unique and surprising in an excellent way. With a light pink color, hint of coriander on the nose that mixes with sweetness, and low carbonation. It's an excellent summer beer to try.


PB & J (5.8% ABV) - Yes, you read that right. A peanut-butter and jelly porter. This beer is black as night and smells almost exclusively of strawberry preserves with just a faint hint of roasted hops. Tasting this beer revealed rich chocolate notes, and a hint of strawberry and roasted peanuts. I thought it was understated. It had a smooth, thick mouthfeel with low carbonation and almost gave the impression of having some peanut-butter stickiness in your mouth. I wanted the peanuts to come through stronger to really hit home the fruit and peanut combination. Hannah disagreed on the understated aspect being good. She wanted full-frontal PBJ on the nose and tongue, with absolutely no doubt in your mind of what this beer should be. We agreed to split the different and say this is probably the closest you will get to that sandwich in a beer.


Breakfast at Tiffany’s (6.5% ABV) - Does anyone even watch that movie anymore? Furthermore, do Zoomers even know how good that song is? (Send me my check Deep Blue Something). Anyways, this French Toast Inspired Milk Stout is pretty accurate in its name. Decidedly inspired by French Toast, rather than a ham-fisted attempt to force french toast into a beer. Like with PB&J, I would say less is more. It was creamy and roasty to taste with notes of vanilla and butter on the nose. There was some definite sweetness hidden in this beer that reminded me of vanilla icing. Dark brown in color, low carbonation, and a thick mouthfeel. I thought it was decent.


Saison’s Greetings - A brand-new addition (in chalk) to the tap list this Saison was coppery-gold with medium clarity. Definite hop presence on the nose but the fruitiness was subdued. I caught some definite earthiness on the nose with hints of pepper and orange zest. The taste featured a soft malt character and medium bitterness. There was a slight fruitiness mixed with some biscuity-ness and a dry finish. I didn’t love this one but couldn’t really place why. Guess it just didn’t wow me.


Spicy Pineapple Seltzer (4.5% ABV) - This clear seltzer with high carbonation smelled very strongly of corn and tasted strongly of the same with a brief kick of spice at the end. The pineapple was so clearly absent that we wrote this one off as a pass.


Treat Yo' Self (8.3% ABV) - This Double Dry-Hopped IPA was sunset orange in color with medium high carbonation and just slightly cloudy. I could only guess at perhaps El Dorado and Mosaic hops but it had a pleasant, fruity smell full of juicy citrus with a smooth and pleasantly understated hop bitterness. Tropical flavors dance about your tongue when tasting though we couldn’t nail down anything in particular. For neither of us enjoying IPA’s we actually both enjoyed this one.


Jorts (4.7% ABV) - Another solid winner in this Hefeweizen. This cloudy gold beer smells like a banana pulled directly from a tree (think that slight greenness you get before they are ripe as well) and tanstes of liquid mango-banana juice with strong undertones of guava. Additionally full of that delicious breadiness and hint of clove this is another excellent summer beer and alternative to the more conventional offerings of Leinenkugel. Low carbonation leads to an overall softness and full mouthfeel. I enjoyed this beer enough to get a six pack to bring home.


Blue Jefe (4.7% ABV) - This Wheat Beer smells just like a blueberry muffin which gave us pause since we’ve run into blueberry beers before that are entirely too sweet. This bright straw colored beer featured low carbonation and medium clarity. Tasting exactly like fresh blueberries, we were both impressed that it wasn’t fake flavoring. Neither of us love blueberries but I think you should definitely try it if you’re a fan of the fruit.


Dreamshake IPA (5.5% ABV) - This was a standard IPA to us that missed the mark of tasting like an orange creamsicle that it promised. Cloudy straw, high carbonation and a little orange when smelling, the taste did not deliver even on that slight bit of orange that my nose promised. There was hop character but we missed out on that pretty distinctive flavor of that frozen dessert. We’d suggest skipping this one.


Blonde Walks into a Bar (4.6% ABV) - This Blonde, which may not be the blonde you see in the store with the Tiffany Blue label, was light gold in color with high clarity. It was light and easy drinking but had some definite hints of cornflakes in the taste. Medium carbonation and malted sweet corn led us to passing on this one.


Cashmere SMASH (4.9%) - This Ale brewed with a single hop variety (can you guess? It’s Cashmere!) from Tomah, WI reminded me of a smoother Pilsner. It was straightforward and unobtrusive, simple. Golden with medium clarity and high carbonation. This beer offered little fuss and would be great for the old school guys in the crowd.


Nutty Monkey (4.0% ABV) - Pale but cloudy straw with low carbonation and high clarity this beer smells of sweet cream and vanilla. Fun and light hearted, this beer tasted of malted pistachio ice cream which isn’t for everyone, admittedly, but neither of us found it unpleasant. It is definitely a niche beer but for the four of you out there that love pistachio ice cream, I can’t imagine a better one.


Big Hefe (4.7% ABV) - Cloudy gold and smells of clove and banana (typical) this Hefeweizen tastes of rich malt and has a wet mouthfeel full of juicy clove and bread. I thought it was a little too wet, which may sound strange when talking about a beer but trust me, it’s a thing. As much as I enjoy Hefeweizens, I was not an overt fan of this one. Skip it.


Both Hannah and I mused that Hillsboro Brewing Company may be the only thing keeping the town alive, but if that’s the case, they are doing a good job of it. We know there is a hotel nearby that gets most of its business from the events that take place in the upstairs event space. It may be the exact thing the town needs to breath some new life into it.



The owners really did a fantastic job with the space and offering food that’s different than your typical tavern fare. The drive to the town is wonderful and we must say that overall they have strong beer offerings with some great ones sprinkled in. We brought home six packs of Jorts and Treat Yo Self. We would’ve brought home Currant Mood and Thank you for Being a Friend if they had it in stock without hesitation. That’s four beers we were willing to bring home which puts this as a solid win for our grading scale. We absolutely recommend a trip out to Hillsboro, along County FF as you come out of Wonewoc for an excellent adventure regardless of the season.


As you settle down for the season and take some time off of work, look forward to our end-of the year review coming out next week with some of our top picks of libations and stations we’ve visited this past year.


Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from the team.


Keep on Crusin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Hillsboro Brewing Company please visit their website at: www.hillsborobrewingcompany.com or on Facebook: @HillsboroBrewingCompany or on Instagram: @HillsboroBrewingCompany

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