From Texas to Beyond

Local, Near and Far: Our journey of exploring the world.

Category: Wisconsin (page 1 of 2)

In Case You Missed It…Madison, WI

Baumgartner's Menu

Baumgartner’s Menu

Every couple weeks we’ll be collecting links from past posts grouped together by location; we thought it handy to have everything in one convenient location as you plan your upcoming travels. Back in April we featured a series on Madison, WI, so here’s your recap:

Madison Trip Overview: Read about an overview of an anniversary trip Matt and I took to Madison, WI. Today’s post features the trip planning process and what’s ahead in the next few blog posts.

Monroe, WI: Join us as we highlight the Swiss town of Monroe, WI with a recap of Baumgartner’s Cheese Store & Tavern and Minhas Brewery!

New Glarus Brewery

New Glarus Brewery

New Glarus Brewing:  At New Glarus Brewing Co. the beers are tasty, the self-guided tour is free, and everyone raves about “Spotted Cow”.

Middleton, WI:  Touring our way through Middleton, WI, we enjoyed the Hubbard Avenue Diner, the National Mustard Museum and Capital Brewery.

Wisconsin State Capitol

Wisconsin State Capitol & Madison Museum of Contemporary Art:  No visit to Madison is complete without the Wisconsin state Capitol and the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. Both exhibit some of the best art and architecture in the entire state.

Marigold Kitchen & The Old Fashioned Restaurants:  This post highlights both Marigold Kitchen and The Old Fashioned, two Madison restaurants we thoroughly enjoyed on our weekend trip.

Ale Asylum, A Brewery Tour Review:  If you’re in Madison, and interested in a delicious pint of craft beer, check out Ale Asylum’s Madtown Nut Brown Ale or the Bedlam! IPA.

Ale Asylum Brewery

Ale Asylum Brewery

Ale Asylum: A Brewery Tour Review

Ale Asylum BreweryOne 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.

Ale Asylum brewery tourOther 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.

Marigold Kitchen & The Old Fashioned Restaurants

For us, it is an obvious choice–when we spend a couple days in a new city, we want to try to get a good mix of the unique and local favorite restaurants–no chain restaurants for us!

I already shared a little about the couple fun places we found in two previous posts–Baumgartner’s in Monroe, WI, and Hubbard Ave Diner in Middleton, WI, but the places I want to share today are right in the heart of downtown Madison.

If memory serves me correctly, we visited these two places on the same day, Marigold Kitchen for breakfast, and The Old Fashioned for dinner. In between dining at these two fantastic places, we hung out in downtown Madison visiting the Capitol, a couple museums, and enjoying the downtown area.

IMG_0496Marigold Kitchen is seated about a half block East of the Capitol on Pinckney Street, we saw that it was pretty popular among locals, so we thought we’d try it out. They only serve breakfast/brunch and lunch, and based on our plans for the day, we decided the night before that we should get there early. Upon entering, it was slightly confusing how the operation worked, but we took our cues from other patrons and got in line to order. After placing our order, we found a couple chairs at the counter. We both love omelettes–I opted for one with zucchini, roasted red peppers and goat cheese, while Matt chose one with chorizo and a corn relish. Major fail on my part for not snapping a picture, but Matt’s will have to suffice! The omelettes were served with “Marigold potatoes” and toast. Despite our attempt at getting there early, things seemed like they were starting to get chaotic; the busyness made for a loud environment, but the food was delicious, the servers were kind and helpful and we would definitely go back again!

The Old Fashioned is also on Pinckney Street, but it faces the Capitol, so if you’re lucky enough, you end up with a view! My word of IMG_0523caution about The Old Fashioned–it is a VERY popular place, be prepared to wait. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that it was so popular, so we ended up waiting for a very long time–at the time I don’t believe they took reservations, but that may have changed. So, what makes The Old Fashioned such a hotspot? They pride themselves on being quintessentially Wisconsin–their food sources are all from within the state and they love to share it with anyone who will listen. So, of course we had to start with a cheese plate–remember, WE’RE IN WISCONSIN! Matt ended up with a Sheboygan bratwurst with beer-batter cheese curds, and I straight up went for the carbs and had the Grilled Cheese with both Swiss and Cheddar (I probably had a side salad too out of guilt, but it was not memorable). Everything was absolutely delicious and aside from the wait, this was by far my favorite restaurant we went to during our trip.

After stuffing ourselves finishing our meal, we went for a nice long walk around the Capitol and surrounding area–what a great way to end our day!


Visit Madison: Wisconsin State Capitol & Madison Contemporary Art Museum

The Wisconsin State Capitol

An absolute must when you visit Madison is to visit the Capitol. This is a beautiful granite building that sits in the heart of downtown and displays some of the finest architecture and furnishings in the state, including 43 different types of stone from around the world. The Capitol is open to the public throughout the week. There are also free tours available every hour that last about 45-60 minutes. The Capitol does max out the tour size at 130 participants but unless you are planning a school trip, you shouldn’t have any problems. If your group is over ten, the Capitol’s website offers an online registration system that is helpful. There is paid parking available in various garages around the area, none of them are too far but will require a small walk of a couple of blocks.Capitol Dome and marble

Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to think when we planned on going there. I love architecture but I didn’t get my hopes up. Upon arriving on Saturday morning, we went in one of the side doors and weren’t necessarily sure where to go, so we just walked toward the middle under the dome. The signage for the tour wasn’t great, but we finally found the information desk which is where the tour starts. We ended up being on a tour with a group of Boy Scouts. At first, I was a little bit worried about being on a tour with a bunch of kids, but it worked out and furnishing of wisconsin state capitol

The tour guide was fantastic and very knowledgeable about the Capitol and its history. One of the Wisconsin representatives was a special guest on our tour so that was nice to hear about his proceedings in the building and how decisions are made. We were able to go into the different areas like the Supreme Court, the Governor’s conference room, and the various chambers. Each room tells a story and you can almost feel that sense of history that goes on. I was so impressed with the various artwork and furnishings that are throughout the Capitol. Each room is adorned with various stones, marble and woods from all over the world, yet still celebrates the unique resources and gifts of Wisconsin. The Capitol does display a replica of the Liberty Bell which is a must see. For those who love Italy, it is worth checking out the council chambers as they are modeled after the Doge’s Palace in Venice. Atop the Capitol is an awesome bronze statue called “Wisconsin” that perfectly fits the building.woodwork inside the wisconsin capitol

Overall, I really enjoyed the Capitol and highly recommend checking it out. It is worth the hour or so of your time to see the art and furnishings that adorn the building. The tour was super educational yet also entertaining. While we were not able to go to the observation deck because it was closed, this is a must see! It is a great way to see the Madison isthmus. Be prepared to climb some stairs though. The weekend is a good time to go because it is substantially quieter and less popular than during the week. This is a great family friendly thing to do because it is good for the kids and entertaining for the adults; best of all, it is budget friendly since it is free.the capitol dome

The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Located a few blocks away from the Capitol on State Street is a true Madison gem, the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), it is one place that is worth checking out when in the area. From the title, the MMoCa collects Contemporary Art which mainly focuses on pieces beginning as early as the 1970s. Many will define this period as Postmodern Art with some similarities to Modern Art but is more confessional and autobiographical. The art does not necessarily have a center and it reworks and mixes various past styles. Some of the main artist of this time are Gerhard Ricter, Cindy Sherman, Anselm Kiefer, Frank Gehry, and Zaha Hadid. Enough of the art lesson, let’s get to the MMoCA.

The building is absolutely beautiful and has a fantastic glass exterior with exposed beams that lets in natural light. If you are a fan of architecture or just want to see a wonderful building, you must go check this place out. The layout is a little weird but it isn’t confusing and celebrates the Postmodern style that allows visitors to chart their own course. Admission to the museum is free which is always fantastic (donations are suggested) and is open every day but Monday, so plan accordingly. There is no photography allowed at the museum which is a bit of a bummer. There is plenty of parking located in garages around the area, but you will have to pay for it and you will have a slight walk but nothing too bad. The museum also has a restaurant, Fresco, located at the top that features a nice, although slightly obstructed view of the Capitol and the surrounding area, including the museum’s sculpture garden.

The museum itself offers a pretty good variety of Contemporary works from artists such as Romare Bearden, Deborah Butterfield, John Steuart Curry, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Cindy Sherman among others. There are the typical offerings of paintings, sculpture, photography, prints, and drawings that offer a great look into what Contemporary Art is. The museum also offers traveling exhibits that showcase Wisconsin artists, young artists, and other predominant Postmodern Art collections that will appeal to lovers of contemporary works of art. For those who enjoy Postmodern Art, the museum has a permanent collection that is pretty substantial but of course not all of those are displayed.

The museum overall was ok for me and I enjoyed most of the collection. It was nice to see a few pieces from noteworthy Postmodern artists that I otherwise would not have seen or known about. My favorite part was the sculptures that were absolutely fantastic. One piece to check out is the sculpture by George Segal called “Depression Bread Line.” The artistry and skill to do this piece was amazing. The details and capturing the mood truly exhibits what storytelling is in art. You can feel the depression, hurt, and pain on these men as they stand in this line. Truly a must see!

The MMoCA offers different events throughout the year so when visiting or living in Madison, see what is available and go check it out. If you are not a fan of Modern art or Contemporary art, you may not really enjoy the artwork that is offered, but it is still worth checking out. This is a great way to spend an hour or two looking at an impressive collection.

Middleton, WI

Just West of Madison is the suburb of Middleton; had we not arranged for our hotel to be in Middleton I think we likely would have missed out all we were able to enjoy there. Middleton is home to a number of little treasures, I’m going to share about three that we were able to visit.

After traveling up to Monroe, visiting Baumgartner’s, Minhas, and New Glarus, we drove up to our hotel in Middleton. Not wanting to venture into Madison proper yet, we searched for a place to grab dinner close to where we were staying. Yelp recommended Hubbard Avenue Diner, and it was all of three miles from our hotel so we said yes! Stepping in to Hubbard Ave Diner, you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. It has the quinntessential vibe of an old-timey diner with the menu and love of pie to prove it! Little did we know that they are all about the pie there! After waiting close to 45 minutes to get a table (it is a popular place on a Friday night!), we were seated and served quickly. When we visit a new place that we know we’ll only try once, Matt will always ask “what is the one dish we should have at this restaurant?”. Thus, he ended up with chicken pot pie and warm applesauce and I had the pot roast with veggies. We thought the specialty dish would have been a burger, but not here! The servers and clientele were all very friendly–an attitude we almost always experienced outside of Chicago and the suburbs! Unfortunately, we didn’t save room for pie but thought/hoped we might return another night when we were needing a snack.

Hubbard Avenue Diner Menu

Matt enjoying his last bites of applesauce.

The National Mustard Museum was by far one of my favorite parts of our trip. When I had been researching things to do I didn’t come across it–I think we actually discovered it via a brochure in the Hubbard Ave Diner. Just a block from the diner, we decided we had to check it out; the claim to fame was something along the lines that there were hundreds of different types of mustard and the museum was FREE. The upstairs of the museum is a huge mustard store and gift shop. Throughout the store, there were samples of different types of mustard with pretzels. or you can take a particular mustard to the counter and one of the helpful employees will pull an open jar from the refrigerator case and allow you to try it. The employees were so knowledgeable knowing the different styles and telling us about the different tasting notes–who knew mustard was so involved! Mustard and different gift boxes are available for purchase as well–we stocked up on Christmas gifts for our parents and they loved it! The downstairs is the actual “history of mustard”, everything from when it was first used, to when it started being mass produced as French’s. There are mustard jars from all parts of the world that line the walls, along with other memorabilia and even a little space to watch a film. I know that this was a random little museum, but I loved learning and sampling(!) the mustard.

Vending machine mustard at the National Mustard Museum.

Capital Brewery is also located in Middleton, just a few blocks from the diner and museum. For $7 you get to go on a tour of their facility, receive a commemorative glass and get to sample four of their beers. This seemed like a pretty good deal, so we arrived early and were able to purchase tickets, receive our four tokens for the beers, and glass, and go on an afternoon tour. They have since changed their process and you must reserve/purchase your tickets online, so be prepared for that. The start of the tour included an informational session in their lounge where you could start your samples while listening to the history of Capital Brewery. The tour then moves through their hallway of awards–we were surprised to learn of their achievements and awards–not because the beer wasn’t good, but because we hadn’t heard of them! As the tour moves into the warehouse where the beer is produced, they share their brewing process; the tour guide we had was very proud of their product and passionate to share with the group; it was a great way to spend $7 and 90 minutes.

Capital Brewery

Logistics: 3 Now that they have moved to an online reservation system, this seems like it would be easier because you have a guaranteed spot, but it does mean you have to plan.

Atmosphere: 2 There was at least one bachelor party in our tour group, along with several other obnoxious patrons that made the tour not as enjoyable.

Value: 4 $7 for a long tour, four samples and commemorative glass make for great value.

Beer-Taste: 4 There was a seasonal beer available that had pumpkin notes, along with their year-round beers, we were impressed and enjoyed all that we tried.

Beer-Variety: 4 There were 8 different beer options available, so you really had to choose your samples carefully!

Tour: 3 The tour was informative, but I think the guide being a bit over the top made the tour just ok for us.

So there is Middleton in a snapshot, I think we captured the highlights, but also wish we had more time to explore. What are some of your favorite unexpected places you’ve visited (like The National Mustard was for us) and why?

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