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One Barrel Brewing Company

Madison, WI


Crusin' Rating: B+

Booze Rating: B

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Alcohol Blogger- One Barrel Brewing Co- Bar Back

This week we are reviewing our first brewery that will be a 2 for 1! This brewery has two locations in Wisconsin currently, and, although they serve the same beer, the locations are vastly different in vibe and location as well as the food that’s served so we decided it warranted reviewing both locations separately. Especially since the location we are reviewing first is a little more accessible! One Barrel Brewing Company has one location right on the east side of Madison, WI and the other in one of our favorite vacation spots, Egg Harbor, WI, located in Door County. Both of these places have a very different vibe about them that fits in with their location, but really makes it feel like you are at two totally different breweries.

We will be looking at the location in Madison this week. Located only a few minutes drive or modest walk from Starkweather Brewing Company or Working Draft Brewing Company as well as several other booze spots, One Barrel is located near tons of other places and is a staple of any Madison Booze Cruise for us. We’ve stopped at both locations several times, and, as far as the Madison location is concerned, have been confident enough to take friends and family from out of town to enjoy a cold one, knowing that One Barrel is always consistent in their offerings.

Newly renovated, the Madison location sits in the Schenk’s Corners neighborhood that, for all we know, is literally on the so-named corner. One Barrel in Madison, and it’s sister location are unique in that I wouldn’t call them a brewpub at all, but both locations offer food. The Madison location (as of just this past year) newly started to offer their own in-house boutique barbecue. I’m not sure if it’s made or only prepped on site but Hannah and I were both really impressed with this food. She went so far as to say it was a solid tie with out other favorite BBQ joint, Smokey Jon’s. I thought it wasn’t quite that good but the smoked wings were a full on trip to flavortown. They only offer barbecue, and its served in a way that reminds you more of a permanent food truck – think metal trays, plastic silverware, and paper food boats – but boy do they do it well.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Alcohol Blogger- One Barrel Brewing Co- Open Air Seating

As for the space, and we’ve been there pre-pandemic, mid-pandemic, and now post-pandemic, the new renovation that we were most surprised by and absolutely the best seat in the house is a new open air counter and window near the front of the brewery that lets you people watch, right in the action. On the overcast, slightly breezy and 78F day we visited it was absolutely perfect for offering plenty of natural light and some open air to go with our review. Usually this location has a distinct lack of natural light with plenty of exposed brick, a long-thin bar that dominates the space, and minimal lighting. The taproom has a distinct cocktail lounge vibe, maybe even supper-club level lighting. The addition of the garage door and open air seating near the front was a huge step up if you want that sunshine, while still offering plenty of coziness in the back, which is an aspect of the space we always enjoy. Not to go on too much about the food, but they have excellent specials, from three sliders and three beer samples for $15 bucks to $1 beer (your first of the night) on Thursdays if you bike there with your helmet. We happened by on a Wednesday, which featured half off wings and was enough to tempt me for a second order, but trust me, they are worth the full price. We’ve found that the space is cozy and warm, and never too busy, I’d say just the right amount where we are always able to find a table on a weeknight, and even on a Saturday. While this might not be great for business, it’s an excellent spot to enjoy a beer and have a conversation with whoever you choose to bring with you.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Alcohol Blogger- One Barrel Brewing Co- Beer Flight

This location does not offer flights, instead you can a la carte samples (5 oz) which seems odd that they just wouldn’t offer flights themselves since they already have the glassware. The beers are affordable, and although the food can get a little pricey, it’s not any more expensive than anything else in that neighborhood and it’s better than a lot of the stuff around it.

Commuter Kölsch (4.8% ABV) - This richly gold beer with medium clarity has a smooth, subtle sweetness to its aroma, almost fruity but delicate, kind of like a pear and cherry combined with a touch of citrus along with a slightly spiced and floral finish. A Kölsch, to me, is a delicate beer that is all about combining malt, fruitiness, bitterness, and hops that has a clean finish. This one has it all. There’s that little bit of fruit and malty sweetness upon smelling, and it carries over into the flavor. Medium graininess leads to what is a definite breadiness that has some underlying sweetness of what could almost be a watered-down honey but also seems to be that little bit of fruit sweetness coming through. Medium-low bitterness that sort of toys around with some herbal and spice notes that then move into a gentle breeze of hop bitterness that leaves a dry and crisp finish that isn’t too forward or biting. Just another note on that sweetness, it doesn’t actually taste like fruit. Don’t go into a Kölsch thinking it’s a fruit beer (although I’ve seen fruited versions) but instead expect a sweetness that reminds you of the natural sugars found in the juice of ripe cherries (again, not the flavor, just the sweetness). It’s a subtle yet distinct difference that really makes this style one of my favorites, although it has taken many years to appreciate it. This may be the best Kölsch available in Wisconsin as of this writing, out of the places we’ve tried. Look and see if it makes it to our best of list at the end of the year!

One Barrel Brewing Company Logo
One Barrel Brewing Company Logo

Super Penguin (6.5% ABV) - First off, the One Barrel Logo features a penguin, often a penguin skull Jolly Roger, and their flagship IPA has always featured a chubby, smiling penguin. It makes sense then that this penguins has gone into superhero mode for an IPA style that is, essentially, a super IPA. This tarnished golden beer features medium clarity and I could definitely pick up the telltale scent of Mosaic hops when putting it to my nose. I was ready for stone fruit, grapefruit, and some mango when smelling this beer. What I got though was a mouthful of Warrior hops that were also used. Warrior hops are known as a go-to for big bitterness while having a background aroma which was the perfect pairing for this ol’ bait’n’switch between the aroma and the flavor. No surprise, considering a West Coast IPA is typically known for lots of bitterness, among other things. This beer started sweet, almost like a homemade mango simple syrup but then quickly morphed into an insurmountable wall of hop bitterness made from dry pine needles mixed with grass.

Peach Punch (5.0% ABV) - This Sour was that yellow-orange color of peach juice and about the same level of clarity. It smelled entirely of citric acid, I’m talking about the coating of Sour Patch kids and it overpowered any peach fumes that would have been present. As for flavor, this could have been a slightly overly sweet, but still enjoyable peach beer; however, it came off as sour just for sour’s sake and tasted a little disingenuous after the numerous other sours we’ve tried. Hannah, the sour connoisseur, said that it was one of her least favorites she’s had thus far. Really was a shame.

Gentry's Blackberry Cider (5.5% ABV) - One of their canned house cider’s, we decided to mix this review up just a little bit. Hannah and I are both pretty fond of cider and we’ve seen cans of One Barrel’s cider so we tried to give it a go. This cider poured slightly purple-pink with high clarity. It smelled vaguely of blackberries and plenty of sugar. The flavor was exactly like a purple freeze pop and there’s that little bit of juice at the bottom and you taste it and its sweet, but you know it’s not the right kind of sweet. You know as soon as you drink the juice out of the bottom of that plastic tube that once held your freeze pop that nothing about that flavor and sweetness was natural (unless you’re a kid, in which case it’s the best part of the freeze pop). This was absolutely like one of the homemade seltzers we’ve seen at other breweries in which there’s a carbonated base malt beverage and then some sort of fruit syrup is added in after the fact. Hannah and I both had higher hopes for this one.

One Barrel is consistent, that’s for sure. That Kölsch has consistently impressed me the last few times I’ve had it. They have other beers we are saving for the second edition of this review that are also tried and true decent beers. The barbecue was worth the trip, so much so that Hannah has suggested we go back there just to give it a second try. In all, One Barrel did have a few misses, but we’ve learned from multiple trips there that the good outweighs those misses and there is usually something there for everyone to drink. We look forward to review some of their other offerings the next time we are in Door County!

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Alcohol Blogger- Beer Glass with Plant over looking road

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

To learn more about One Barrel Brewing Company please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @OneBarrelBrewing or on Instagram: @OneBarrelBrewCo

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