Fearful Symmetries

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31 August, 2013

Next Door Brewing Is Now Fully Armed and Operational

Next Door Brewing had a soft opening yesterday and The Dulcinea and I availed ourselves of the opportunity to check out the latest purveyor of brews in Madison.

Unfortunately, The D forgot her camera so no photos.

Next Door's layout was very open and spacious. The bar and dining areas are separate yet connected via an expansive opening in the wall. It was well-populated and the brewhouse was off of the bar's seating area. Communal seating is the order of the day in the dining room with a couple long tables and one very large raised one. There were also a couple smaller tables for those parties not feeling particularly social or perhaps not wanting to inflict a small child onto undeserving strangers.

We were seating at the raised table and were soon joined by a friendly older couple. The ladies were denizens of the neighborhood and keen to check out the newest addition to the area. The crowd here was mostly older and seemed to be comprised of locals. There was also a smattering of families with young children. The D remarked on how different the atmosphere was in contrast to that of Karben4's opening night. A lot fewer 20 and 30-somethings looking to overdose on hops. There was no music playing and televisions were locked in cabinets awaiting a sporting event. Less of a bacchanalia vibe and more of a sense of people wanting to relax and usher out the work week.

We had originally planned to sample Next Door's beer and then head out for a repeat performance at La Taguara but opted to sample the gastro-grub. I'm a complete sucker for onion soup and so ordered the white version on offer. It was a bit lighter than the more familiar version made with beef stock but still tasty. The D began her meal with the sauerkraut sausage balls which were comprised of pork sausage and Stalzy's kraut. The nuggets of porcine goodness were then breaded with what appeared to be panko and then fried. Very tasty stuff. The kraut added just a touch of tartness.

The pork shoulder sandwich had an Asian twist with kimchi sauce while the chicken sandwich looked to North Africa for inspiration with housemade harissa. Both were delicious. For dessert Next Door offers Calliope Ice Cream and we went with the Hot Peanut Butter which was tastilicious.

The menu isn't staggeringly huge by any means but is goodly-sized and offers a fair variety of dishes. Bonus points for using dark meat chicken in the Chicken and Tarragon salad. Samara Kalk Derby will no doubt be disappointed. More bonus points for not offering pizza or deep-fried chicken strips.

The beer list featured four brews: a cream ale with oats, a pale ale, a mild, and a golden ale. The D went with Wilbur!, the cream ale, while I had, Les, the mild. Wilbur! was similar to Spotted Cow although a bit smoother and less fruity. Les was a real treat. Smooth and malt forward yet with English hops accenting the whole affair. I was impressed because A) it was a wonderful change of pace to taste earthier English hop varieties instead of the ubiquitous citrus/pine resin flavors in fashion and B) it was a true session beer at 3.8% ABV, if memory serves. It was a hot day, I was eating a meal, and Les was not bashing me across the tongue clamoring for attention. Brewmaster Keith Symonds gets kudos from me for not coming out of the gate with a beer menu that is the equivalent of a Zak Snyder movie. There were no C-hops lying in wait to drown you in alpha acids nor was there a Belgian quintuple Pan Galactic Gargle Blaster. Instead the brews were light and easy going - wholly appropriate for the weather - and complemented the communal ethos of the place which Symonds says is about chatting with people you don't know. Who wants to sit next to and try to strike up a conversation with someone getting shit-faced after a few sips of bourbon barrel imperial barleywine?

From food to beer to ambience, Next Door is carving out its own niche in the both the food and beer scenes. With opening day apparently having gone off without too many problems, we can now look forward to finding out how well breastfeeding fits in with the communal atmosphere.

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|| Palmer, 9:44 AM


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