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Sunshine Brewing Company

Lake Mills, WI


Crusin’ rating: B-

Booze Rating: C-

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Blogger- Sunshine Brewing Company

Just over thirty minutes east of Madison on I-94, in the same town as Dog & Shrub Distillery as well as the sister winery of Stable Rock is our Crusin' For Booze stop for the week. Sunshine Brewing Company is a nice little space in downtown Lake Mills, Wisconsin. This humble little spot isn’t flashy but is chock full of trendy beer choices. It was the first really warm day of Spring, 70 degrees and quite windy, but better than the unseasonably cool Spring it had been when we decided to visit. Although we were aware Sunshine has food available, Hannah had really been craving a hot dog ever since I told her about a spot in Monroe that’s supposed to serve some unique treats. It turns out, traveling to Milwaukee often enough we have come across a sign for Doyle’s Dogs and have always wondered, but didn’t chalk it up too much. We finally decided to give it a try and actually based our brewery visit on somewhere nearby to the hot dog stand.

For anyone who’s ever had some of the best frozen custard on earth at Adrian’s Frozen Custard in Burlington, WI, Doyle’s Dogs had a very similar vibe. A small-town spot that seemed to be a great spot for high schoolers to hold down a Summer job. While the service was excellent here, the hot dogs ended up being nothing incredible. I don’t know much about hot dogs, but am pretty particular about my brats and let me tell you, there’s just no substitute for a beer braised brat on the grill. Still, if you don’t feel like eating at the brewery and it’s a nice day outside, I’d stop by here if you’re in town for a small town Wisconsin experience.

After partaking in a late lunch we hopped in the car (really we could have walked) and just three or so short blocks away was Sunshine Brewing Company. On the outside, Sunshine doesn’t look like much and is easy to miss. There is a sign hanging above the door but it doesn’t jump out from the other small bars and businesses it sits next to. The logo has always reminded me of an 80’s summer camp shirt in it’s color scheme and I don’t know if it’s the guy who had clearly been partaking in some Cheech and Chong shenanigans at the taps or the close proximity to the water but Sunshine always has a similar feel to a surf shop. There are surfboards on the walls, brightly colored merchandise and a menu full of Mexican-inspired bites. It really feels like a spot you might stumble into while in Southern California. It’s a small space, with maybe six seats at the little bar and a few tables up front. Down a small ramp is the back garage/production floor which has enough seating for 15-20 with a large garage door that opens to reveal a small patio that seats about the same as the back room. Thankfully, on warm days that door is open and you get a small peak of some water.

The staff is welcoming and friendly, albeit slightly spacey and not very knowledgeable about their beer. If cell phone service or internet are things you seek, look elsewhere. Even connected to their WiFi you’ll be nostalgic for the days of dial-up speeds. While they have food and beer, the bar is not full service so no cocktails or wine available. A community water cooler with cups is always a welcome addition to any brewery and while we see it here and there we were very grateful for it on a warm day.

Crusin' For Booze- Wisconsin Travel Blogger- Sunshine Brewing Co- Beer Flight

Savoy IPA (5.7% ABV) - This IPA was the color of damp hay and smelled of pineapple, lemon, and some floral notes. It tasted bright and tropical with a little lemon essence and pineapple. Hannah and I both agreed that this was easy-drinking for an IPA as it was not overly hoppy but definitely sported a resinous note at the end. Hannah dubbed this a “Spring Lakeside Sipper” stating that it wasn’t quite bright or light enough for a full-on Summer boat beer.

Mango-Habanero Seltzer (4.9% ABV) - Seltzers are usually pretty lackluster we’ve found and, unfortunately this one was not exception even though Hannah sported dubious hope that it would impress her. This seltzer was, in its defense, on draft, as opposed to having the flavor added at the counter. It smelled of sweet, thick, sugary mango syrup, close to a store-bought syrup for your home bar. Picture a mango popsicle, if you would, when talking about the smell. However, on taste, this seltzer really missed the ball. There was zero habanero heat and no real mango to speak of. It tasted like a La Croix that you left open over night and then that La Croix glanced over briefly at a sultry mango ripening on the counter, then chickened out completely when seeing that the mango was dating a pretty buff habanero already. This seltzer was also off-putting in it’s cloudiness, rivaling Madison’s city water, which no one drinks unfiltered, in case you are wondering. Hard pass.

Putin Khuylo (9.4% ABV) - This beer, whose name translates roughly to Putin is a dick head, is a Belgian Strong Ale. I’m pretty sure Belgian’s Prime Minister condemned Russia’s actions back in February so, for once, a current events trendy name actually makes sense. Enough of the news though. This Belgian Strong was very cloudy, with a light shade of caramel to it. I find the categorization of this beer as a “Belgian strong” objectionable as Belgian Strong can refer to a Saison, Belgian Golden Strong Ale, or Belgian Blonde Ale. Simply naming it after the category leaves things too vague. From what I can guess by my own tasting notes, this is going to be a Belgian Blonde Ale. The aroma was full of banana and wet, soggy cloves, a little overripe orange and a definite smattering of peppercorns. Both Hannah and I got banana, crackery-butter malt, and some spice complexity but really it had a profile so close to a Hefeweizen beer that you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference. Our experience with Belgian Blonde’s, unlike Austin Powers, is limited so this seems to have missed the mark for its intended category.

Willow Creek (4.85% ABV) - Always appreciate an accurate ABV percentage [down to the one hundredth of a percent], this dry-hopped Saison again falls into the Belgian Beer category (actually the same category the above is supposed to encompass all at once) and this is a style Hannah and I both have ample experience with. Dry-hopping is a process in which hops are added late into the brewing process in order to give a beer that big punch of hoppiness. Many beers do it and there’s nothing inherently wrong with it, but that’s a deep, nerdy discussion for a later date. This Saison was stained wood-orange in color with a general citrus aroma. I couldn’t quite identify the hop varietal(s) used but my guess would be Mosaic and something other with some more herbalism to it. This was a very hop forward beer on account of that dry-hopping. The hops really took over here while any spicy or fruitiness characteristically at the front of a Saison took a back seat. There was a a definite dry finish as there should be but Hannah and I both thought this was quite close to an IPA overall and the average joe would write it off as such. We would have too if not reading the menu. Pass.

Damn. You know, of all of the breweries that end up on the “not-too-great” list this one is definitely one of the most crushing. We enjoy the laid-back surfer vibe, the atmosphere is always relaxed and friendly and it’s just a good spot to while away an afternoon on a sunny, but not too hot day. We really, really want to like this place and we always give it a try once a year but it always stays at about the same rating for us. We checked and our last visit was a year ago in the month of April as well. We like the branding, we like the space (though unpolished in a good way), and we really want to like the beer. Here’s hoping we show up in a year and end up wanting to take some home. We will keep a sunny disposition that the beer will improve.

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

To learn more about Sunshine Brewing Company, please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @SunshineBrewCo or on Instagram: @SunshineBrewCo

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