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SteelTank Brewing Co

Oconomowoc, WI


Crusin’ Rating: C+

Booze Rating: C-

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Alcohol Beer Wine Blogger- Steel Tank Brewing- Exterior

This week we are checking out a veteran-owned spot in Oconomowoc, WI that takes its roots and passions seriously in terms of decor. Hannah and I hit this spot up with her parents after a family event as it was (more or less) on our way back from Milwaukee to Madison. Steel Tank Brewing Co. goes all out with bold color choices and plenty of metal (both literally and musically) as our next in the long line of brewpubs that we’ve reviewed.

Pulling up to Steel Tank, you almost think that you’ve pulled up to a Harley Store which is not what either of us were expecting. The trademark orange and black is easily recognizable amidst two waving American flags. Flags and Harley colors, we already knew we were in for something a little out of the ordinary before we even entered and I was excited to see what was in store for us. Outside of the color scheme, we were both surprised at just how large Steel Tank is. I could easily see this space being a former family restaurant with the patio out back, ample windows, and plenty of booths.

It immediately dawned on both Hannah and me as soon as we entered that the Steel “Tank” did not in fact speak to a humble nod to the equipment beer is made in, but rather full-on war machines. It all clicked into place. My own father, a veteran, loves his Harley, his freedom, and good beer. This space was built for guys just like him. Hannah and I are always down to support veteran-owned businesses, and while neither of us will probably ever end up owning a Harley, we could respect how hard they went into the color scheme, metal, motorcycle parts, military-style swag, and other details that showed some history on the owners. For instance, the flights all came in repurposed ammo boxes complete with a magnetic spent shell case to hold the flight cards in place. Those flights shoot right to the top alongside Cheezehead’s cheese flight holders. There were foam squares used in the ceiling decorations that were shaped like B-2 bombers and some sort of machine part was welded together to create all the tap pulls that also featured dog tags. Other more obvious decorations were a display area shaped out of sandbags that featured a full-on Harley for sale. A Harley for sale inside a brewery is definitely something new and something I doubt we will see again. There’s a mural along one wall as you head to the back patio of a tank in action just before you get to the swag wall which features plenty of orange, olive drab, and American flags. I really enjoyed, even though I’m not a fan of orange and black – unless cheering for my brothers in high school events – but I really appreciated how much they went into the theme here. I don’t know if Hannah was in love with it, but I know she also respected the uniform theme and I definitely know she appreciated the myriad of old-school rock and hair metal that was coming through the speakers. On top of the music choices, the drummer from Disturbed, one of Hannah’s favorite bands, is a partial owner of Steel Tank. Who would have ever have guessed?!

They had a full food menu that was a bit odd. I get that they are catering to a crowd, but I am not sure what crowd that is. First off, it was pretty pricey with burgers ranging from $14-16 which seems a little steep for not being in Madison or Milwaukee. Additionally, they had a section that I will call the supper club menu. If you know what I’m talking about, you’ll know why I was so baffled by the inclusion. There was a list of steak cuts, salmon, and some fish that are anywhere from $30-$50 an entree. The sides include sauteed mushrooms for an astounding $7. Supper club prices at a brewery. I just don’t know who they are catering to? I could see the steaks and fries for the crowd they are shooting for, but what is going on with the sides? How do they have wings and giant pretzels, pizzas, and then a steak menu that belongs in Door County? It was just a really weird choice that threw me for a loop. It looks like their menu is designed by a head chef, but the chef might want to pick what sort of restaurant he’s going to work at. I don’t like paying $8 for asparagus when I’m at a supper club but it just comes with the territory. It is just totally in the wrong place on a brewpub menu, as are fine steaks sitting next to taco pizzas. That all being said, Hannah and her family enjoyed their taco pizza and said the crust specifically was excellent. It’s clear the kitchen knows food, I think it could just do well to stick with the theme.

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Alcohol Beer Wine Blogger- Steel Tank Brewing- Flights

Back to those ammo boxes full of brewski’s. I did not partake in any food, being full from lunch, so I was not falling into old biases of “if the food is good, the beer probably isn’t” that seems to be the pattern that we so often notice. It was $10 for a flight of four and Steel Tank had wine for those who don’t partake in beer or non-alcoholic offerings, but no cocktails.

Iron Rations Hefe (6.49% ABV) - Named after the first emergency ration given out in WWI (today I learned) this Hefeweizen was cloudy but an unexpectedly, almost clear color. It was if you took a glass of water and squeezed some lemon juice into it and briefly swirled. I was expecting some deep gold or at least staw coloration. Ignoring its appearance, this beer smelled a little funky with just a smidge of clove. That’s two things not quite on the mark so I did not have high hopes as I tasted. Turns out I was correct since while a little bready and clove-y, overall this beer had a punch of hops at the end that was out of place coupled with a prevailing bitterness throughout. Skip this one.

Lock N Load Pilsner (5.0% ABV) - Phew. What is a Pilsner? While I will be abstaining from a beer rant this week, let’s just leave it as a Pilsner is a malt type and to name a beer a Pilsner can be vague and we’ve reviewed them before, guessing based on taste what style the beer is attempting to be. I’m going to guess here and say that this is actually an American Lager rather than a traditional German Pils or other such beer in the Pilsner family. Ugh, the more we learn about beer, the trickier it gets! I’d say this beer was also lemonade-colored but was easy drinking and light-bodied. I picked up sweet cereal on the nose and a little malt. I’d say the taste was pretty neutral really, not absent, just neutral, which, after constant bombardment of IPAs and fruited sours can seem like there’s nothing to the flavor but, in fact, there was a little bit of citrus in there and that corn-cereal flavor. Outside of the naming convention, this wasn’t unpleasant at all.

Punisher IPA (7.0% ABV) - I ordered this one on the flight solely because the pull was the Punisher skull, not because I wanted an IPA. This beer was the color of tarnished gold with mango, resin, pine, and even a little honey sweetness on the nose. Although the description suggested floral notes neither Hannah nor I picked them up. The flavor went from a thick sweetness, like raw honey and mango to a gentle, but firm branch of pine with a solid hop finish that stuck around almost to the point of being rude, but not quite.

Oktoberfest (4.91% ABV) - Yes, I know it’s not October, and yes I know Oktoberfest traditionally doesn’t happen really in October at all. But, Fall is in the air and I am ready for it to to be spooky season. This coppery-yellow beer had some toasted malt notes but also a little charred smell to it. That smell carried over into the flavor and while it started with some moderate malt sweetness there was definite aftertaste of what I would describe as the burnt husks of peanuts or almonds, not the shell, but that brownish skin. It was really a bummer for my first Märzen of Fall to be lacking.

Overall, I cannot say that I loved the beer and I didn’t try any of the food. With that very strange menu I am hesitant to recommend this place, but at the same time, torn because I’d hate to see a veteran-owned business fail. But, to stay impartial, I would not recommend this spot as of this time. I am going to keep it in my back pocket for Hannah and I to perhaps meet my Dad there as he might get a kick out of the theme. Plus, it’s definitely the only brewpub I’ve seen that features a Tuesday night seafood boil. That alone is enough to win Hannah over for a second trip and I’d be willing to give the beer one more chance. As it stands, unless you really want to see the space, I would not recommend making a trip out here.

To learn more about SteelTank Brewing Co. please visit their website at: steeltankbrewing.comor on Facebook: @SteelTankBrewing or on Instagram: @SteelTankBrewingCo

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