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Montello Brewing Company

Montello, WI


Crusin’ rating: D+

Booze Rating: C-

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Alcohol Beer Wine Blogger- Montello Brewing Company- Exterior

This week we are heading directly north of Madison, just shy of an hour away to check out Montello Brewing Company! We had initially made an unsuccessful foray to Montello before they officially opened for the season back in April. This little mixup has highlighted an often-seen issue, especially post-COVID of different imbibement creators either having no easily-seen hours on a website or hours that directly conflict with what may be listed on a door. Our best solution to this is:

a) make sure you are checking all socials and websites for listed hours and

b) returning to a tried and true phone call to double check hours or reaching out on socials.

A hard lesson-learned and I may rant in the future but we know that not everyone is on the same level of comfort with using social media. That little mix-up aside, our first trip to Montello without beer led us to a little half-frozen waterfall outside a Kwik Trip parking lot of all places and some excellent views of what seemed like dozens of lakes. “Montello” is a bastardization of Mont et L’eau which is French for “hill and water.” I couldn’t think of a better name for what appeared to be a quiet, cozy town surrounded by water. We were eager to return and try some of the beer.

Our second trip was quite a bit different than the first. This time we triple-checked that Montello Brewing Co. was open, so no issues there. However, we only partially realized what we were walking into. We were aware that the brewery, from a message with someone at the brewery, mind you, shared retail space with a cafe. To us - clearly under what turned out to be a wrong assumption - that meant a sandwich/coffee spot with beer, some simple lunch food, and maybe the usual gift shop. What we walked into was something very different. Let me start out by saying that Montello could really use some better signage. Even on our second trip and following Google (google has led us astray before) we were not sure we were in the right spot even after walking into the space. We walked in to a full on family restaurant. I am talking diner tables, waitresses flitting about like harried moths, screaming kids, boisterous laughter, and the pervading smell of fry oil. There’s a glass display case off to the right with some Montello brewing sweatshirts that takes up quite a bit of space and it wasn’t until I caught sight of a small bar in the back that I even realized we were in the right spot. We had unwittingly stumbled into what seemed to be the only place to eat fish fry in all of Montello on a Friday night. Suffice it to say, that set the tone for the rest of our visit.

Hannah and I walked up to a six-seat high top near the bar and debated whether or not to take up an entire table to ourselves since the bar didn’t have enough space to write anything - which is fine, I don’t expect bars to cater to those of us taking notes - but as we were about to sit down a group decided to just help themselves without even asking if we were waiting. Guess that serves us right for not immediately seating ourselves. The bar sat around 8 and the kitchen oil was heavy in the air. Hannah decided to step outside just to get a little air from the overwhelming smell and discovered some outside seating. Outdoor seating with a peak at some water? Sounded great, and a great deal quieter on top of that. Another error for the evening. What we did not realize is that the outdoor porch not only sat right at the outlet for the kitchen exhaust but that the water we could see was stagnant and bred flies which were prolific outside. On reflection, this would maybe be a spot you visit in late fall once the flies are gone but that may be outside of their operating hours. Why a brewery located in a restaurant closes in the winter I’m sure I don’t know but they must have their reasons.

A highschool or early college-aged waitress took our order and though she was clearly under pressure she was very friendly, which Hannah and I could both respect. Her service was sort of the star of the show in what was turning out to be a not great evening. The beer prices were the other bright spot with a flight of four costing us a mere $5. Pints were also only $5 (price per ounce the same). We’ve been to spots that are rough but have good beer and we drove all the way out there, so there was nothing to lose, except perhaps some sanity to those damned flies. I will level with you, the flies were so bad that we were itching to get back in the car, we attempted to take diligent notes as we could but we were somewhat harried by not only the atmosphere but a lack of food as well.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Beer Wine Blogger- Montello Brewing Comany- Beer Flight

The beer:

Umm Blonde (5.6% ABV) - This beer, named for those who aren’t quite sure on what beer to settle on, was the color of cloudy, dead straw. I smelled malt and Hannah picked up a little bit of lemon. I thought this was fairly hop forward, not to the point of being an IPA but definitely up there in terms of hoppiness, being both earthy and floral. There may have been some citrus right towards the end that I wasn’t too sure of but Hannah picked up on it. This beer finished dry and had medium bitterness throughout. I thought this was too hop forward for the style, but drinkable.

P-Line Vanilla Porter (5.6% ABV) - Odd coincidence having a porter and blonde sitting at the same ABV, what are the odds? This brown porter had strong coffee up front when smelling and then tasted of a lighter coffee with just a bit of vanilla up front that sort of softened the blow of the coffee but I wouldn’t say it was present enough to call this a vanilla porter, more of an afterthought. I found little to no malt aroma here and we both found the flavor to be pretty harsh. Skip this one.

Hoppatoppamie “PMA” - (5.4% ABV) - This cheerfully-named “Pale Montello Ale” was the color of stained oak with medium clarity and had some pungent earthy-like notes of lake-shore weeds and sawdust. If ever there was a beer that tastes like toasted dandelion, this was it. The flavor went from dandelion to a lighter floral, but hoppy sweetness and wasn’t totally unwelcome. This was the one I enjoyed most of the bunch.

Weed Cutter Summer Wheat (5.7% ABV) - This beer was the color of hazy lemonade with a medium clove aroma and just a wee bit of baking spice. Featuring a syrupy mouthfeel, there was some banana impression in the finish but between the start of clove there was a middle bit that neither of us really didn’t like, funky well water perhaps? We are not sure if this was because of ingredients used or something going wrong in the brewing process, but we were not fans.

Bummer. This was a ways to travel to be met with something we were not expecting that was not really a pleasant surprise for a Friday night. We have run into one other brewery that left us smelling like fry oil, but in that case it was worth it because the beer and food were solid. While we can’t comment on the fish fry it was certainly packed at this spot, but I really feel the beer is an afterthought here. We were not really getting a welcoming vibe in this town, and would’ve actually felt totally unwelcome if not for our waitress and the guy who brought us out the beers. We couldn’t help feel uncomfortable like we were taking up space as out-of-towners. The flies, and leaving smelling like we were full-time line cooks made this trip one we would rather not repeat. I’d like to chalk the beers roughness up to being a newer spot at three years old and they are still working out the kinks, however this is a spot that, between the vibe and the drive, we won’t be looking at returning to in order to give it a second try. I would not recommend a trip out to Montello for the beer alone.

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

To learn more about Montello Brewing Company please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @MontelloBrewing

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