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The Runaway Brewery

Updated: Feb 16, 2023

Burlington, WI

The Runaway Brewery Sign

I’ve been waiting for my hometown to get a brewery long before I started this blog and even before I started drinking beer. I grew up with a bottling plant down the street that had closed before I was born. Nevertheless, many a night was spent atop the “brewery” rooftop hanging out or watching fireworks during a summer night. Eventually that old plant would be bought and put back to use by none other than New Glarus Brewing Company. A small world indeed. Imagine my surprise though, twenty or so years later (who’s counting?) when our small town premiers not one, but two breweries in the span of a year. With the blog just getting off the ground, I was in heaven.

The Runaway Micropub and Nanobrewery is part of a much larger revival of the loop in Downtown Burlington and the first of the two breweries to open.

Now, right off the bat, I’m going to level with you. My parents went to high school with the owner of the Runaway and I went to high school and played soccer with the owner of Low Daily (the other brewery located in Burlington). As both breweries are doing great things I will review their beer and give fair grades but know that I am going to be a little biased toward both and would have a rough time saying a slanted word toward either of these businesses. The brewery seen in a town like Burlington should hopefully be collaborative rather than competitive and I think they both have pros and cons which I will do my best to write on as objectively as I can.

Armando (aka the Prankster) and I were a pair on our second trip to The Runaway right on the heels of our successful interview at the soft opening of Waterford Stillhouse. We had the chance to talk to an Assistant Brew Master, two Beertenders, and the owner, Bernard Peterson. I had the chance to discuss with them just about anything from tasting notes, to their favorite beers, brewing process, and everything in between. My first question, of course, was why had it taken Bernard so long when he had been home brewing for years and had been itching to open a spot and the answer ended up being the right place and the right time. A space became available, funds had been saved, and Burlington as a city had started going through a renaissance of investing in itself and it’s own businesses.

It always interesting when the first trip to a place is in the middle of a pandemic and then our second trip is post COVID-19. There’s something special about a quiet beer on a winter’s night, fire tables blazing outside and a few friends around a table. BUT It’s also awesome to be there while live music is crooning, conversation is buzzing, and umbrellas are up to keep that sweltering sun from your eyes. Regardless of what’s going on outside, every time I go into the Runaway I feel right at home.

The Runaway Taps behind the bar

The music can get a little loud in a space that cozy, but it was never so loud I couldn’t hear the bartender or Armando as he sat next to me. While the decor is that urban industrial, I think that it’s done tastefully enough to not be overwhelming, there’s plenty of wood furnishing mixed in with the black metal.

The space is clean and honestly it doesn’t fit a ton of people. Maybe (and this is a big maybe) twenty could find seating inside with that number outside on the patio as well. Speaking of the outside, there are several fire tables and a few picnic tables in their small biergarten. You forget you’re downtown and unless you’re staring straight up you don’t notice neighbor building invading your line of sight. It’s not a perfect space and can feel cramped, but it does stay fairly peaceful back there and can give you a break from the music inside. Thanks to the fire tables and the lack of wind from the enclosed space you can find it comfortable out there long into November, which is a welcome surprise.

While I am not in love with the idea of music for both days that they are open (Fridays and Saturdays currently) I know it brings people and business in.

Speaking of pints, let’s talk about the beer. The Runaway calls itself a nano brewery, which in my experience means the beer is made one batch at a time. states that the most widely accepted definition of a nano brewery is a brewery that produces beer in batches measuring three barrels or less. We have only come across two nano breweries, The Runaway and Starboard Brewing (located in Sturgeon Bay for those wondering) and both have made some really exceptional beer. I realize that two is not a pattern but in my head I associate those small batches to a lot more attention and care going into the brewing process and until I’m proven wrong, that’s going to be my association: Nano brewery = Good Beer.

6 Beers in a flight

The Runaway had upwards of a dozen beers on tap to try, of which I sampled six. They do offer flights of four for those interested.

Honey Run (6.1% ABV) - This Braggot (a beer/mead mix) was made in conjunction with another stop on our upcoming list, The Hive Taproom, in nearby East Troy. Featuring a savory honey nose mixed with hefty malt, it was made with a 50/50 split of honey and malt. Perhaps not making it a true Braggot, malted honey is as smooth as it sounds. While it was sweet, I expected there to be a little more of that signature floral sweetness of honey to come through. It was enough for Armando to order a pint for himself, being the mead fan that he is, so out of the gate that was a positive experience.

DanD Runaway (5.25% ABV) - Another collaboration, this time with Duesterbeck Brewing Company (yes, we will get there!) outside of Elkhorn, WI. This fruited sour was heavy with Guava, grapefruit rind and citrus on the nose and pale straw in color with medium carbonation. A mixture of pineapple and guava on the tongue was juicy and tart but honestly still pretty drinkable. There was a bit of an aftertaste of orange juice, which I actually didn’t care for but I think this can serve as a great introductory sour if you don’t typically love the style.

Pharmacy Phountain (6.2% ABV) - This mango Milkshake IPA is my favorite beer at the Runaway and something I look forward to getting a growler of each summer. As you know, I am not a fan of IPA’s and much less so hipster milkshake IPA’s but this one wins me over every time. Beautiful deep orange in color, low carbonation and a punch to the face of straight mango with a slight apology to your nose from Citra and Mango Hops. It does taste a little too strongly of mango puree but I love mangos so much that I don’t mind. It would actually be my suggestion (not that the bartenders asked) to have those hops shine through a little more to balance out that sweet mango. I think if they could find that balance, this might become a contender for the best fruited IPA in the state. Given how I feel about IPA’s and how I keep coming back for this one, this beer receives a coveted "Crusinforbooze seal of approval and recommended imbibement".

Jones Block (6.2% ABV)- This wheat beer has a sweet grain nose, low carbonation and straw color. The mouthfeel was noted as creamy, heavy and smooth and I think this beer would really benefit from the addition of fruit in order to become a shandy. As it stands it wasn’t too exciting tastewise with just some slight hoppiness. I didn’t detect any fruit esters as the description read. This one is a beer if you don’t want any fanciness, a beer man’s beer.

Friar’s Retreat (8.5% ABV) - A Belgian quad, Friar’s has plenty of sweet yeast on the nose, deeper copper color. Rich and full of malt with a hint of dark fruit and a pretty brief hint of herbal spice but I would have liked to see more, perhaps some Star Anise or Nutmeg. The mouthfeel was syrupy and this beer had low carbonation. I go back and forth on Belgian Triples or Quads. While that high alcohol content is nice if you’re looking for that, I feel like many of them are heavy handed and not complex enough. I wanted to find that dark fruit while tasting the spice. A beer like this can be near the complexity of a wine and I just did not find that here. This one was a miss for me.

Miner Dill Pickle Gose (4.5% ABV) - Yes you read that right. Dill. Pickle. Gose. Definitely not for the faint of heart. I love dill pickles, love them. I love them so much I make my own and am constantly testing the boundaries of how much dill you can get away with. However, just because I love dill pickles, doesn’t mean I want things that aren’t dill pickles to taste like them. I don’t want my chips to taste like dill pickles, I don’t want my popcorn to taste like dill pickles and I definitely don’t want my beer tasting like dill pickles.

Credit where credit is due, it was a bold move but it did not pay off. This beer had a heavy dill smell and heavy dill taste with some cardamom and malt mixed in. I can see why they went for a Gose, since a Gose traditionally features coriander and salt characteristics. A Gose at its core is a wheat ale that has restrained, but notable sourness. I tasted dill, but I did not taste that sourness. What I got was rich and salty. Without that sourness to cut in and balance it out, I found the dill to be overwhelming.

Overall, the Runaway is one of my favorite spots, not just in my hometown, but in the state. I can fully encourage you to make the trip to Burlington to try some great food, breweries, and even high class cocktails, finishing the night on some of the best custard there is. I’m always going to be biased toward my hometown, but neither Hannah nor Armando are Burlington natives and they whole-heartedly agree that Burlington is worth a trip. Head over to the Runaway to get a taste of what Cruzinforbooze considers a little slice of home.

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

To learn more about The Runaway Brewery please visit their website at: or on Facebook at: @runawayburlington

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