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Hubbleton Brewing Taproom and Grill

Watertown, WI

 

Crusin' Rating: C-

Booze Rating: C-

 

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Hubbleton Brewing Taproom and Grill- Outside

This week we are revisiting a brewery we’ve checked out before but this time we are checking out an entirely new location with a different vibe than the original space. If you recall, we weren’t actually huge fans of our first visit to Hubbleton Brewing Company. There’s been several times where we’ve visited a spot and not been fans of either the space or the beer but if you follow along with us you know that we’re almost always willing to give a space a second try. While the original Hubbleton Brewing location has tripled in size and added an indoor beer garden and secondary bar - we had visited before construction began on that space - that wasn’t quite enough to warrant a second visit. However, opening a secondary location that serves their beer on tap and features a fish fry was worth checking out. Hubbleton Brewing Taproom and Grill opened its doors in August 2022. What we hear used to be a pretty run-down and rough shape townie bar has since been transformed into a renovated taproom that serves up fish fry, trivia, brunches, and taco nights. For this review we opted to meet Chuck, Old-Fashioned Crafter Extraordinaire, Cercis Brewing Ex-Pat, and his friend out to check out the the new spot. A fitting addition to our review group since Chuck was with us on our review of the first location.



Hubbleton is located in a small, unincorporated community of Watertown, WI tucked right next to the Crawfish River. It’s probably the smallest little community we have visited thus far, at merely a block or so large with 3 bars being the only public businesses that we noticed. While small, the street was absolutely packed with cars upon arriving just before 6 PM. We could see through the windows of the taproom a brightly lit bar and patrons smiling and enjoying their fish fry. Walking in, the bar takes up the wall immediately to your left and features a chalkboard with the beers on tap. In typical Wisconsin fashion, there's a glass door beer cooler with options of other local drafts, seltzers, and bottled Hubbleton brews, as well as six packs to go. It was of course our own mistake for assuming that the taproom was a full bar but that was not the case here. Regardless, non-beer drinkers can enjoy hard seltzers and a makeshift old-fashioned made with seltzer, bitters, and fruit.



While we enjoyed a pint or two while awaiting a table to open up, Hannah checked out the large backroom that featured additional seating with several seating options. Hannah excitedly noticed that the new swag included an embroidered quarter-zip which, if you’ve been paying close attention, the two of us have been looking for those for ages. Looking around I saw plenty of glass mugs hanging on the newly wood-paneled walls for the mug club and took note of the various new tap handles, bar, and light fixtures. You know, so many bars have that familiar wood paneling but you never really see it when it’s brand new, which was kinda neat. Our table took a significant amount of time to get, two pints worth, and while we initially wrote it off as a busy fish-fry Friday, it turns out that it was only the first flag that we should have paid attention to.


Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Hubbleton Brewing Taproom and Grill- Beer Flight

Finally seated, I picked up a flight for $10 and while one was a repeat that Hannah ordered based on name alone, Crooked Judge, the other three were new to us. You can read all about our thoughts on the Crooked Judge IPA in our initial review, and we found that our tasting this time was very much in line with last time.


Amber Bock (7.1% ABV) - Right out of the gate, I had to do a little guesswork with my beer styles. I believe this is an iteration on a Dunkles Bock based on the fact that the dunkles is the only Amber Bock that I know of. This beer was the color of stained pine and had overtones of leaves and wet wood when smelling with a little bit of maillard and malt mixed in. We picked up notes of sweetness, nuttiness, and that same wood flavor but there was an underlying metallic tang which was a turnoff since it undermined any sweetness that the malt offered.


Scotch Ale (6.3& ABV) - With St. Patrick's Day around the corner I realized too late that I grabbed this Wee Heavy without noticing that Hubbleton had an Irish Red on tap. Shame on me. This dark ruddy-brown beer had a distinct smokiness to the smell which, while it may make sense since it’s a “Scotch-Ale”, I believe is actually an error here since the style does not typically use peat-smoked malts.

This is a common misconception, I’ve researched, that American producers associate Scotch Ale with Scotch Whisky. This leads to the beer sometimes involving smoked malts or peat-smoking. Traditionally, though a Scotch Ale (a Wee Heavy), is the meatiness and abundance of the malt used.

History lesson aside, there were plenty of toasted nut and malt notes to be had when tasting but a little too much bitterness present in the finish for the style.


Bourbon Barrel-Aged Stout (11% ABV) - I picked this one in honor of the Thirsty Badger’s tendency to go straight for the highest ABV offering that’s barrel-aged on the menu. This oily-black beer had a little bit of that maillard-corn-caramel nose of bourbon on the nose with some coffee and cheap chocolate. The residual bitterness leftover after tasting this beer was appropriate for the style and I found notes of rich brown sugar and a slight bit of that bourbon. Although the bitterness was appropriate I did not find enough of the barrel here to warrant it anything other than an unremarkable stout.


As you can see, the beer has not had a huge improvement from our previous tasting, but I figured I would give it a shot anyway because places can change, they can improve, and they can exceed expectations, it just wasn’t the case here, unfortunately.


Furthermore, and where we don’t typically go into too much detail, I want to touch on something that we ran into at the taproom. Hannah and I are not food bloggers and we aren’t any sort of fish fry experts outside of trying to hit all the spots on wisconsinfishfry.com. But, Chuck is a pretty experienced fish fry guy and we consider ourselves foodies. The issue at the taproom was not the fish itself. In fact, the fish was better than we expected since we were expecting fairly average fish from a bar kitchen. The issues really came in with the service. I’ll reiterate, Hannah and I both work part-time in the service industry and have worked full time in the industry in the past. Chuck is an avid worker in the industry, as well, so we all know what it’s like on a busy Friday night where you just can’t get ahead. So please don’t take this as some sort of ill-informed Karen rant.


If it had just been one thing, it would have been something we could’ve let slide, but we were already all slightly on edge after being noticeably passed over for a table on more than one occasion. We got a brand new waitress so of course we knew to be patient and honestly I didn’t mind explaining my flight more than once. Everyone was new at some point. What happened though is that we got our beer and never saw the server again. Someone from the kitchen brought out our fish and our order was correct, but we had a hard time even finding someone to bring us beverages. We politely asked a waitress that was not our own if we could get some drinks refreshed and then did not see her again until we were brought our bill.


Now, we were out on a Friday night, not only doing a review, but catching up with some friends. As industry members - really, as humans in this economy - you know we are going to tip well. As Wisconsinites, one of which is three pints in, another who has a flight, and another who is on his fourth frankensteined old-fashioned, you should know that we are there for a good time and I could not help but think that we could have easily cleared a hundred dollars in imbibements alone, nevermind food, on a Friday night. Now, maybe they wanted us out of there for other patrons, but, really, it had taken us so long through this whole ordeal that it was going on 8 PM as we were waiting on our bill. The rush had passed by and things were winding down and still no one came to check on us. Chuck’s friend even had a tough time getting a pint up at the bar. We all discussed it amongst ourselves and Chuck really put it best:

“If someone had just given half a damn about us as customers, this would have been a successful night and someone would have made some cash.”

I really think that sums it up. We didn’t need someone to wait on us hand and foot, we didn’t need top-notch service. Just the bare-minimum of service would have kept us there. And that service can have far reaching consequences. Another beer or two and maybe we would have pulled the trigger on some swag, maybe I would have gotten lucky and found a beer I really enjoyed to turn the review higher (though after 7 out of 12 over two reviews, it’s unlikely). We all were in hard agreement that you can have crummy food, you can have crummy beer, but if you have good, great, or even fantastic service that can have a major impact on your entire evening.


Another thought to leave with. We can all do this at home. We can sling drinks, we can buy beer to take home, we can cook. A lot of people can. The reason you go out to dinner is to have that service and take some of the burden off of yourself, so when that service isn’t there, it can just be one of the worst feelings.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Distillery Blogger- Hubbleton Brewing Taproom and Grill- Mikey with empty beer glass

Really was such a shame. As it stands, if you’re in Watertown and looking for a place for fish you can risk it, but it’s going to be a long time, if ever, for Hannah and I get brave enough to try the taproom again. I wouldn't recommend going out of your way to try it. If you really want to give the beer a go yourself, maybe try the brewery location instead.


Until next time. Keep on cruisin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Hubbleton Brewing Taproom and Grill, please visit their website at: http://www.hubbleton.com/ or on Facebook: @HubbletonBrewingCo or on Instagram: @HubbletonBrewing

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