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O'so Madhouse

Madison, WI


Crusin’ Rating: C+

Booze Rating: B-


This week we are checking out a spot that just recently opened up a second location right here in Madison. O'so Brewing Company, based out of Plover, WI, opened up their newest

taproom, the Madhouse, on the East side of Madison. A taproom only, the Madhouse leaves all of the brewing to the massive space in Plover, WI - and though we haven’t been to review the original location yet, we hear they have a massive former department store shell as a space.

A taproom we’ve admittedly driven right past several times on our way to other Madison imbiberies, we decided last minute to review the taproom after a fantastic lunch at Dexter’s Pub, we even had the chance to meet up with our newest reviewer, The Operator, for a relaxing pint after the review had wrapped up. While the outdoor patio was still a little bit too chilly for Barlow, dogs are allowed on the sidewalk patio in summer. The Madhouse sits beneath one of dozens if not a hundred new mixed retail/apartment developments that have popped up around Madison and honestly there are so many, Hannah and I have stopped keeping track of their corporate trendy names. O'so sits within easy walking distance of Parched Eagle Taproom, Old Sugar Distillery, One Barrel Brewing Company, and several of our favorite eateries - Bar Corallini and Mint Mark - and other than being on a noisy thoroughfare - really has a fantastic location if you’re looking to go on a booze cruise on Madison’s near east side.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Wine Beer Distillery Blogger- O'so Brewing Company Madison- Inside at the bar, showing all beer taps

The front of O'so is almost all glass which allows for tons of natural light to stream in once you get inside. Although the parking is limited on East Washington Avenue, the complex has free indoor parking for the businesses it houses, which is a nice touch - just make sure to be prepared to walk back outside in order to get into any of the retail businesses. Inside of the taproom you’re met with the tingling of 6 different Pinball machines, which gives the space a bit of character. An “L” shaped bar, takes up most of the smallish space. The bar seats about eleven patrons and there’s seating for up to thirty two in the rest of the space, if you were willing to get cozy with strangers. With space on the east side of Madison coming at a premium, the Madhouse fits about the same number as the other breweries within walking distance. There’s plenty of those rehashed iron beams and Edison light bulbs which we’ve seen dozens of times and a single TV for those who want to sit awkwardly and look up and slightly behind them to watch a game- kind of an odd choice for TV placement really, with only patrons on the small part of the “L” able to sit and face the TV without craning their necks - but at least you’ll be able to catch the game if it’s on! What Hannah and I both noticed though is just how incredibly beat up the bar wall and chairs are. They look to be almost rescued or bought from a yard sale, which is fine, the beat up finish just doesn’t match anything else in the space as it all still looks fairly new.

Our beertender was friendly and it was a quiet Sunday afternoon with the only other three customers ingrained in playing pinball. There were a whopping twenty three beers on tap, with four and six packs to-go. For those non-beer drinkers, there was seltzer, as well as non-alcoholic beverages- but no wine or spirits. Flights were on the higher end, by our guess between 12 and 14 dollars (our receipt was not itemized) and pints ran anywhere from $5-7, so the flights came out to be about the cost of two high-end pints.

Groovy Smoothie (5.0% ABV) - This sour featured lactose, passionfruit and guava in its making and was a cloudy gold with sweet oranges, tangerine and guava when smelling. That guava came through when tasting along with the noticeable lactose sweetness and a sharp, acidic sour. Hannah thought this beer was good enough to get a pint of later after the review, but I thought it tasted just a bit too acidic. Hannah, being our sour specialist though, wins out.

The Big 2.0 (4.7% ABV) - Despite the orange imagery used on the menu we found no citrus anywhere. We incorrectly assumed it would be a citrusy answer to Blue Moon. Nope, this was an American wheat beer through and through with no clove or banana to speak of when smelling, just some muted doughy smells. This beer had a chalky mouthfeel to it, not quite fluffy, but rather a drying, dustiness in your mouth. I’d also argue that the mouthfeel was too light for the style but finished neatly dry. Neither Hannah nor I were wild about this one.

Brawndo (3.1% ABV) - What could be a crushable ABV actually was one of the more odd beers we’ve gone for in the past year. Avoiding all copyright infringement this beer poured a lime Frankenstein green, a sort of sickly mellow-yellow color, if you will. Exactly the color of something that gets dumped out on coaches and that I, unfortunately, associate with what I use to re-hydrate when I have the flu. What can I say other than this smelled like you poured that yellow [not] Gatorade directly into a lager beer. Full of fake lemon-lime and plenty of sweetness this beer is the closest a beer will ever get to doing a yellow Gatorade some justice. It was so out there, of course we had to try it. I even ventured a second helping with one of my pints and while I really only drank the pint as a challenge to myself, and to revisit this intriguing specimen, I don’t think I would recommend downing a few of these. It’s definitely neat to try once but I will leave you with this thought, oddly reminiscent of Frankenstein and Mary Shelley:

“They were so concerned with if they could make a Gatorade beer; they never stopped to think if they should.”

Red-Headed Step Child (5.0%) - Probably a joke in there somewhere that I won’t attempt! But this beer was definitely some sort of a bastard child. A first for Crusin’ For Booze, this Sour Amber Ale poured a slightly caramel-amber color, when held to the light, and smelled of floral, nutty bread which suggests almost an amber lager rather than amber ale. However, this is all speculation since the flavor is really taken over by the sour character of this beer. If I had to nail it down I would say that this beer had low bitterness, some grainy characteristics, almost nutty, and definite sour character which sort of defies categorization but this was one I hadn’t seen before so I tried it for the novelty!

We did some additional tasting and got a pint or two to relax with The Operator and decided that O'so seems to shine when working with some out-of-the box sours but, with one exception, falls under par with most of their stout and porter offerings. We, of course, have another review to do when we visit the original location and will definitely make it a point to revisit some of those weak points to see if there is anything that changes our opinion on the second round. For now, I would say this is a decent spot on the east side of Madison if you’re looking for a spot that has some sours. I think we will leave it on our optional slot of a Madison Booze Cruise depending on if we are strictly staying within walking distance or have a designated driver. If you are in Madison and are looking for some above average sour beer, then the Madhouse is your spot! For now though, we wouldn’t recommend a trip to Madison just for the taproom alone but could recommend it as part of a tour of several of the other spots within walking distance.

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

To learn more about O'so Madhouse please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @OsoBrewingCompany or on Instagram: @Oso_Brewing

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