One of my favorite breweries while visiting Madison is Ale Asylum. The brewery tour is one of the better tours around. When in Madison, or in a two to three hour proximity, a craft beer lover needs to come check this place out. The brewery is growing in popularity as they produce more barrels each year and as they expand throughout Wisconsin and Illinois. To those who love good quality beer, this is a place you have to visit.
Let’s take a deeper look at Ale Asylum going by our brewery rubric.
Logistics: 4 Tours are only offered on Sundays between 12 and 5 and generally last between 30-45 minutes depending on your guide and group. The tour size is capped at 15 people and currently tickets must be bought in person, starting at 11 AM on Sunday. It would be nice if there was a reservation system, because the last thing you want is to travel to the brewery only to find out that all the spots are taken. We showed up at 11 on Sunday morning since we were not sure how popular the tour would be. The later the day gets, the harder it is to get on a tour as it becomes more popular throughout the day. Upon entering the establishment, you are greeted by a person at the host stand and you can either tell them you’re there for the tour or to eat. You sign a waiver, show your ID, and you are good to go. About five to ten minutes prior to the start of the tour, they will make an announcement telling you to get in line near the back of the restaurant. Overall, a simple process. The brewery itself was immaculate and you are able to see everything, including looking in the tanks and the manufacturing line for the canning (probably won’t be running). One last benefit that is a plus over other breweries is that there is plenty of parking.
Atmosphere: 4 Ale Asylum does celebrate the asylum aspect but overall it is above average. Depending on the time you go, you will probably have to deal with a group of annoying college students acting a fool, but the tour guide does a good job of keeping things in check. The tour guide does a good job of keeping the group entertained while providing a great educational time. The brewery is awesome and the fact that you get to see their whole operation is a major plus. It is located in an industrial complex with the brewery taking the back part of their building and the restaurant taking up the rest. Depending on the time you go, it could take a while to get a beer, but we didn’t have any problems as there were plenty of servers.
Value: 4 This is a tough one to grade. The cost of the tour is only $5 which is a huge deal because the tour is worth that itself. But you only get one pint, and you don’t get a glass to take with you; it has to be purchased separately. There are other tours that cost $10 where you get more beer and a glass, but the tour has fallen short. So you still pay the normal price for a pint, but you get a tour to go along with it. Also, please be aware that the tour is cash only.
Beer-Taste: 4 I thought the taste of the beer was fantastic. Obviously, depending on the beer you get, there will be different notes. I tried the Madtown Nut Brown ale that truly had a nice caramel taste but was also smooth. The different malts that make up this beer (7 in all) bring great life to this. The Bedlam! IPA is another great choice that has a nice hop flavor and hint of fruit. Ale Asylum does like hops and most of the beers will taste a littly hoppy compared to other beers that are in the area, so if you love IPA’s or the taste of hops in general, this is a great place to try.
Beer- Variety: 4 Ale Asylum offers 6 different year round beers with maybe one or two rotating seasonals offered. A major plus is when visiting the brewery, they will offer an experimental or limited beer that is a great choice.
Tour: 5 Plain and simply one of the best tours that I have ever been on. The tour guide was not some waiter they pulled off the street. The tour is by one of the people that work in the brewery. Ours was done by the head brewmaster and he did a fantastic job of telling us about the beer, the company, and their mission. The tour wasn’t too short but it also wasn’t too long. They showed the whole process and told about how the company was doing. The group got to see how they operated and where all the ingredients came from.
Other Noteworthy Items: The tour guide and staff were all super-friendly and so welcoming. The restaurant has a nice selection of food but mainly focusing on pizza and sandwiches. More importantly, it tasted pretty good too! Ale Asylum offers at least samples along the tour of a particular beer. But what is noteworthy is that you can actually see and taste the wort if you wanted to. As most other Wisconsin breweries we have visited, Ale Asylum does a great job at supporting the local farmers and business by giving their grains to the farmers or even making pizza crust out of them. They have even started using solar panels for a more earth-friendly appeal.
Overall, this is one place you have to visit. The beer is great as it is brewed by real people who love beer and love what they do.