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Second Salem Brewing Company

Whitewater, WI

 

Crusin' Rating: B-

Boozin' Rating: B-

 
Wisconsin Blogger- Second Salem Brewing

For our Halloween Edition of Crusinforbooze we visited Whitewater, WI, a city that has been called “Second Salem”, after, of course, Salem, MA, infamous for its Witch Trials. Speaking of Witches, this town is said to have seen it’s fair share who gather around a watertower named “The Witch’s Tower.” We figured the local brewery there, aptly named Second Salem Brewing Company, was the perfect spot for the week of Halloween.


I grew up a mere 45 minutes from Whitewater and had always heard stories of there being haunted spots and claims of the most haunted city in Wisconsin. Growing up in Burlington, I had always been fascinated by our own urban legend, the Beast of Bray Road.


Let me set the stage for our visit to this spooky libation station.


When I was younger and just barely able to drive I was heading up to Madison. My mother had always spoken of the beast that lived out near Elkhorn, and since it was on my way, I drove down the road on a whim. I remember it vividly, just after sunset, it had been raining all week and there was still just enough light so see low-hanging mists creep through the late corn. Driving down the road, I couldn’t help being on edge as my window was cracked and I could hear a light wind creaking through the trees as I drove leisurely through, fully convinced these were tall tales told to scare me when I was younger.


It was just past the woods, after turning off of HWY 11 that I encountered the beast. It slunk out of some corn and missed, and crossed right in front of my headlights. To this day, people insist it was probably just a wolf, but I know that wolves don’t move like that, wolves are not that big, and wolves don’t stand upright when climbing out of a ditch. It looked my way at the car for a moment, completely silent, eyes aglow with the reflection of my headlights, lowered back down onto all fours, and trundled across into some trees. I, of course, immediately called just about everyone I knew and told them what I had seen and everyone wrote it off as my mind playing tricks on me.


But if you’re ever traveling through Wisconsin on a misty night, preferably as autumn sets in, looking for the next brewery we’ve written about, take a trip down Bray road and you just might find the beast.


Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Beast of Bray Road
The Beast of Bray Road, Photo Credit: Wisconsin Frights

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Second Salem Signage

Now that you’re in the right headspace, let's get to the actual brewery we choose to spend our spooky time at. Second Salem is an unassuming space in downtown Whitewater next to the river and train tracks. There is ample parking on all sides, but since we had been driving past the university on HWY 12, we didn’t see a ton of signage, it exists, it’s just from the other direction, perpendicular to the road we were traveling on. Luckily, Google was there to assist.


If there is one thing I can note, the inside of Second Salem is foggy with cooking fumes and smoke. I wanted to get that out of the way because some may not be bothered by it at all and I don’t want to take away from a new space as I am sure they are working to address it, just be prepared that if you go in there at all, you will most likely come out smelling like you’ve been flipping burgers for a full shift.





Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Second Salem Brewery Event Space
The Event Space, behind the dining space

That aside, the space is cozy. This may be due to COVID but there was an entire back room and event space that was not in use. That being said, the dining room seats about 20 and they have a full menu as well as beer. Yup, Brewpub. Now, before you jump to any conclusions, I can understand why they did it. In our last article we described this sort of Goldilocks mentality of not being a brewpub, but having to have some food. Now, I am not familiar with Whitewater outside of it’s spooky history, so I was glad I did not have to run and find food immediately following our tasting. It was actually a pleasant surprise that this place had a fish fry and full menu. This ended up being pretty great because it seemed Second Salem was a craft brewery first and had some awesome food to pair with their brews.


The artwork and references to urban legends is what really drew me to this place. Seeing the artwork on their website and the names of their beers (which the Brewers state have spooky stories behind each), I was really excited to stop here. I was ready, or perhaps dreading to unlock all of the memories that I have repressed filled with Evanescence, Rob Zombie, H.P. Lovecraft, and Edgar Allen Poe. The fact that Halloween was fast approaching was icing on the cake. I fully expected to be swept up in what should have been a Tim Burton-drenched space but, alas, it was nevermore, nevermore.


While the space does sport some full posters of the artwork used for their brews and some eerie paintings, I was really let down by the lack of theme here. This brewery should look like Beetlejuice, Jack Skellington, and Michael Myers attended a Halloween party hosted by Freddy Krueger, got-black out drunk, and vomited Wes Anderson in every corner of the room before passing out in in the elevator from the Shining. Instead, what we received was a few standard cutesy Halloween decorations in what is otherwise, a standard tavern layout.


The lack of commitment to the theme really bothered me and has stuck with me after the fact. Talk about missed opportunities. If you have a brewery named after a haunted past and epithet for your city, have beers named after local urban legends, and ghost stories then your space should be Halloweentown, spooky city, 24/7 365. You can change up the decor a little, the black lagoon or Texas Chainsaw in the summer heat and then right back to Halloween in the Fall. The branding practically creates itself. It was just such a letdown and really gave the Crusin' Rating a hit. Hannah and I agreed, this should be a place that’s memorable for the theme, so much so that you should think twice about bringing your kids in there for fear of nightmares. I know you may think that’s a little much, but you’ve got a space named after a city famous for burning women alive, and beers named after man-eating monsters. Lean into it!


The staff was nice, the food was solid and I would definitely stop there again, but man, the theme just leaves you with this bummed out notion of all the things that could have been.


Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Second Salem Brewery
2 Beer Flights at Second Salem

Let’s see if the beer holds up. Crowlers are $8-11 each, while flights gets you four 2oz. tasters for $8.



Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Bloggers- Second Salem Brewery
Beast of Bray Road Beer Label Photo Credit: Second Salem Brewery

Beast of Bray Road ( 6.66% ABV) - The amber that I made the trip for because I absolutely had to try the beer named after one of my favorite local legends. The art for this beer is also my favorite, although they are all pretty sweet. This beer is smooth and light up front, lightly toasted with a strong hop finish. It smells of toasted nutty caramel with a copper color and high clarity. The taste sports some complex malts mixed with clove that gives way to a strong, herbal hop finish. I found this amber to be approachable and pleasant, enough to get a crowler to take home.










Wildman of La Grange (5.4% ABV) - This Hefeweizen is named after an urban legend I had not heard of before and can’t seem to find anything on in my research, so if anyone can point me to a source, that would be great. This cloudy wheat beer smells of baking spice and is smooth and mellow with doughy banana bread notes on the tongue. The color of dried corn stalks, this is a solid Hefeweizen I would drink again since I enjoy how rich it is in it’s malt character.


Bone Orchard IPA (7% ABV) - This IPA was made with Centennial and what I can only guess to be Citra and Mosaic hops. A bone orchard is a clever way of referring to a cemetery which Whitewater is betwixt three of, making for a very haunted geographical location. I’m excited to see a triple IPA that is not some tongue-in-cheek reference to a threesome. This beer is the color of golden straw in sunset, with a slight orange shade. It starts nice and bright on the palate and you really pick up orange notes and then moves to some light dry bitterness from the centennial hops. I found that there was some maltiness to this IPA which made a world of difference in drinking it and really made it an easy sipper for fans of IPA’s or those who don’t enjoy them as much. This was our favorite beer here and we’ve since picked up crowlers more than once.


Witch Tower (5.3% ABV) - This American Pale ale sported a floral aroma and maybe a touch of grapefruit. Maybe. I couldn’t be sure. I found this ale to be dry through and through with low malt character and medium body which I wasn’t a fan of, but it wasn’t a bad beer. I don’t have a ton of love for that piney, resinous flavor of some hops and while the color was cloud straw and the carbonation was medium high, I wasn’t smitten with this one like I was with Bone Orchard.


Old Man Golden Ale (4.4% ABV) - This golden ale sported a strong hay aroma with a touch of sweetness. Golden color with medium-high clarity this beer tasted like the final bites of a honeyed greek yogurt parfait. With light body, medium carbonation and a clean mouthfeel it was middling for me and was just okay.


Oktoberfest (6.1% ABV) - This Mӓrzen was full of toasted malt on the nose with a nice creamy head. The color of stained walnut, this beer had hints of spice to the aroma as well. It tasted deeply nutty, with notes of spice and caramel and ended with strong hop character in a brisk manner. Again, this one was just decent. I found the woody notes to be odd and out of place in a festbier such as this.


Black Mass (5.3% ABV) - This American Stout had the strong aroma of coffee beans but tasted of charred oats (or perhaps barley) and burnt malt. I definitely picked up on the slight hop character they described in this beer that stood the color of black walnut. This stout featured low carbonation and a medium body. It was exactly how this style is supposed to taste, smell, and feel which is something important to note, it’s a prime example of the style, but the style is not for us. Solid pass, but if you like American Stouts, then give it a shot.


Apparition (6.5% ABV) - This New England Hazy IPA is, of course, very hazy and sports Denali hops that we definitely picked up on the nose. This IPA is light and playful in body with shades of cloudy yellow color and notes of orange and mango taste, with a little bit of pineapple. I enjoyed this IPA and Hannah likes it quite a bit. We would both drink this one again.


Wytche’s Brew (6.0% ABV) - This Coffee Porter was midnight black with a very creamy mouthfeel. The scent boasted coffee and roasted oats, and it definitely tasted of coffee on the front but then faded. Neither Hannah nor I care for coffee but we were disappointed that this Coffee porter didn’t seem to have enough of that coffee character to deem it a coffee porter and we were left with just that dark malt character which in essence, is well, a porter. This beer finished just slightly hoppy-sweet and left us wanting.


This is a spot that has a beer for everyone no matter their taste and there were some beers that I wished I could take home in a six pack. I loved that they stuck on theme with the beer labels and names and that their are scary stories to tell in the dark behind each beer, that’s awesome and the reason why I wanted to go so badly in the first place.


If I was living in Whitewater, I think it would be the lunch spot I would take family that comes to visit. Although you may come out smelling like you fried the fish yourself. I could easily see this getting to the top of our list if they went harder into the spooky theme, worked on the ventilation, and polished up one or two of their beers. We will definitely be stopping by on our way through next time.


Until then, keep on cruisin’, don’t stop boozin’.


To learn more about Second Salem Brewing Company please visit their website at: secondsalem.com or on Facebook: @SecondSalemBrewing or on Instagram: @SecondSalemBrewing

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