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Tumbled Rock Brewery and Kitchen

Baraboo, WI


Crusin Rating: A-

Booze Rating: C-

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Tumbled Rock Brewery

This week we are traveling a mere stone’s throw down the street from last week’s Balanced Rock Winery, in Baraboo, WI. It may or may not be a coincidence that these two spots opened within six months or so of each other in 2019. I’ve also thought often about the coincidence that both spots are named after rock formations (one natural and the other man-made) that you see at the nearby Devil’s Lake State Park. This week, we are visiting Tumbled Rock Brewery and Kitchen. A brewery and restaurant that certainly does not shy away from the pub part of a brewpub. As we delve deeper into our review we will have to see if this spot falls into the trap of delivering mediocrity on the brew and pub side of the phrase or perhaps, like Commerce Street Brewery, it wildly succeeds at one of the two aspects.

Tumbled Rock Brewery sits nestled right outside the basin that hides Devil’s Lake from plain sight so when we say it’s a spot easily visited after a day at the park, we mean it. We’ve visited Tumbled Rock on more than one occasion, but this was the first time we sat down to review the beer. Tumbled Rock is a unique space for the fact that there is a main building that features a full bar and the restaurant, an outdoor space that hosts a fire pit, patio, and artificial turf space, and then a separate outbuilding that is used, from what we can tell, solely in the warm months as a bar. Since we visited in February, we will be focusing on the main space but know that the outdoor patio is filled with seating and tables and the small bar that serves beer and cocktails; giving another outlet for foot traffic to get drinks easily when enjoying some sunshine.

The main kitchen features a full bar that dominates the space, with seating on three sides of the square. If you’re facing the bar, booths line the left wall, with small four tops scattered in the front, and then the right side of the space has this curious lounge area with couches and plush chairs. This lounge space is just odd. It’s only half-separated from the rest of the restaurant by a floating wall that features a wood-burning fireplace which is nice, but it really should have just been more standard seating. Considering the tight fit already and how busy the place is, a lounge area seems quite impractical especially if you take into account the outside area in summer. The decor is modern industrial, as so many other spots are and you can tell that it caters to the tourism that the area sees, even in the colder months, there are always hikers at the park.

A quick note on the food. A lot of it is good. I’d say it tops any of the brewpubs in Madison but isn't going to take away the top seat of Commerce Street Brewery. The menu is full of trendy hipster choices from smoked salmon crostini to bison marrow bites; from wood-fired pizzas to power salads. You can tell they are going for elevated food and you can bet your ass that you pay for it. Our tab was easily a hundred dollars with two entrees, two flights, and “bread service” (bread with roasted garlic and butter). I like the bread, but why am I paying six dollars for it when any supper club or even an olive garden will bring it to the table with the cost baked into the entrees? Honestly, if you’re looking at anywhere from $22-$33 for an entree they should just bring bread to the table.

I get what they are doing. There are a lot of rich FIBS that come up to the Wisconsin Dells and plenty of tourists with cash to spend so I can’t really blame them for squeezing out every last dime. The food is solid and each time we’ve been there I’ve been happy with what I ordered. BUT. This is one of the contributing factors that keeps a lot of native Wisconsinites away from the Wisconsin Dells. Ask any Wisconsinite and they will say the Wisconsin Dells is nice, but what? That’s right, overpriced. Always has been and always will be. Maybe one day I’ll opine on just why locals stay away from the Wisconsin Dells but, for now, I can say that spending that kind of money is a lot and the food better be phenomenal. It’s not here. It’s good food, but it’s not a 100-dollar-date-night-good. Will I eat there again? Probably. Will I think it’s worth the price when I see the bill? Probably not.

Crusin For Booze- Wisconsin Blogger- Tumbled Rock Brewery

So, how about the beer? $11 for a flight of beers puts it slightly above average but they do come in a little muffin tin with a cup of Chex Mix. The Chex Mix isn’t enough to keep you sober, so I’d rather just have the sixth beer. We got one flight of 5 beers, plus three additional samples I really wanted to taste.

Devil’s Doorway IPA (8.7% ABV) - This double IPA was the color of wet straw with high clarity and low carbonation. We got pineapple and pine on the nose and overall it was bright-tasting with a strong hop presence to start, full of rich earthy notes and wet soil, then Resinous hops on the end with a dry finish that lingers. We were surprised at the syrupy mouthfeel this beer touted. It was okay, but I am not in love with the earthiness. I love the smell of a spring rain, but not the mud in my mouth.

Salute (6.7% ABV) - This Black IPA was brewed with “a special blend of hops from Yakima Chief Hops”. Yakima Chief hops is a hop distributor that has like, 100 different kinds of hops. I was instantly turned off this beer by the vagueness of the description. Countless other beers tell you which hops were used, why is this a secret?

Anyway, $3 per pound of hops are donated to charity. Does that sound confusing? It’s because it is. What we assumed this means is that $3 of each pound of hops purchased went to charity from the vendor. Like the vendor of hops had a special wherein they said they would donate to charity if you bought this blend of hops. So it sounds like Tumbled Rock is patting themselves on the back and taking credit for a charity event that their hop grower was featuring. Yay?! I guess? Why it’s even in this description I’m sure I don’t know because the hops are already paid for and for all I know they only bought 3 lbs of hops.

The beer was black though, so that’s different for an IPA in my experience. Well, dark chocolate in color and was bitter on the tongue with medium-high carbonation, a smooth mouthfeel, and a dry finish. The hops here didn’t linger at the end and I didn’t get any of the tropical or citrus notes the description suggested, just more earthiness. I suppose it smelled a little tropical. Either way, buying a sample won’t donate to charity and this beer had too much baggage. Skip it.

Seein’ Dubble (7% ABV) - The Belgian Dubbel was copper-colored and smelled of barley and corn with a little bit of baking spice. Definite bubblegum flavor, heavy malt and just a little bit of spice in the middle with a boozy finish. I didn’t mind this Belgian but I have tried so many that I think this one played it safe and was a little too pronounced with the boozy taste. I like me a Belgian that sneaks up on you in the night.

Sunset at Fitz’s (5.1% ABV) - This was just canned pineapple juice that they called beer. It was a clear-yellow color, almost like a Mexican Lager that started with huge amounts of pineapple on your tongue but ended in a dirty sock funkiness that we didn’t relish. It smelled of canned pineapple and it was interesting that there was zero sourness or any of that acidity you get from pineapple (the kind that cuts your tongue!) and it even mimicked the metallic tang you get from Dole. How they did that was impressive, but we did not love it. With some serious work, this could be a great summer beer.

Udders Up (5% ABV) - This cream ale was yellow with high clarity and smelled slightly of sweet cream. It didn’t taste overly creamy or even smooth like many others have but rather just tasted like an unhopped Lager. It was overall flat and failed to really make an impression on me.

Dutch Farmer (5% ABV) - This is a Dutch Lager which is really just a Lager made with Dutch yeast, as far as I can tell isn’t really a style of beer so much as a qualifier of where a Lager is made. In this case, the Netherlands, which is home to the second largest brewer of beer (who knew?!), Heineken. If Heineken is the cheap, albeit premier Lager of the Netherlands, then this is not a Dutch Lager. Maybe a beer made with Dutch yeast or hops, but I digress. There were distinct tasting notes of chamomile, ginger, lemon, and coriander and you could fool yourself into thinking this was tea rather than beer with all of those flavors. It’s a very busy beer and I think we both enjoyed the uniqueness of this, regardless of the possible misnomer.

Copper Falls (5.9% ABV) - This Munich Dunkel was the color of wet copper and reminded me of fall since it smelled of decomposing leaves (a smell I happen to enjoy). It was a little toasty in malt and ended hoppily. I thought the flavor was closer to an Irish Red because the hops were so pronounced at the end instead of the sort of more low-key bitterness that other Dunkels I have tasted. It reminded me of fall which is always nice as that’s my favorite season but really this was one I might skip in the future.

Glacial Drift (4.3% ABV) - An Oatmeal Maple Stout that I simply had to taste before we left. This beer smelled squarely of maple sugar on pancakes and featured a very light mouthfeel for a Stout. I thought this Stout tasted too bright, if that makes sense with a crisp finish. I like my Stouts to stick around a little in my mouth especially with one that tastes so strongly of maple syrup and boxed pancakes. It was also pretty low on the ABV end for the style (4.2% is considered the lowest, FYI). It just did not fill me up like some breakfast beer should.

Will I go here again? Yes. Because:

1) There are only so many places to eat in Baraboo and sometimes you don’t want to wait three hours for Ishnala Supper Club.

2) It’s so conveniently located near Devil’s Lake that it’s hard to argue stopping in for some food after a long hike or day kayaking.

3) The food is tasty.

4) Our server was super attentive.

5) It’s a good spot to eat after you’ve spent time at Balanced Rock Winery and want some hearty food instead of wine snacks.

However there are several caveats. The price of the food is high but in line for the Wisconsin Dells; which can be a pretty big negative especially when you are just looking for lunch and a beer you don’t always want to drop forty bucks. While they have a great outdoor space, it’s always busy regardless of time of year which is great for them, not so great for a laid back space to drink with friends. The beer was also nothing outstanding and while we may eat here again, I will probably just opt for a cocktail rather than one of the beers.

If you’re out at the State Park or in the Wisconsin Dells and want a place to eat with solid food, yes, I will suggest going here. If you’re at either of those spots and looking for solid beer, I’d say keep looking. I can’t really recommend a trip from Madison out here just for food, but chances are you’ll find yourself passing either through the Wisconsin Dells or staying there at some point in which case, yes, stop in for a bite to eat, if you can afford it!

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

To learn more about Tumbled Rock Brewery and Kitchen please visit their website at: or on Facebook: @TumbledRock or on Instagram: @Tumbled.Rock.Brewery.Kitchen

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