I recall the opening of the first Great Dane Pub. It was a dreary, rainy November day in 1994. A friend and I stopped in after class and found ourselves packed in like sardines and surrounded by middle-aged office workers. It was as if the G.E.F. buildings downtown had all emptied into the place. My companion and I seemed to be the youngest people there outside of staff. The beer was excellent but the massive crowds and the very naughty wandering hand of a woman who had probably worked at DWD for a few decades had us out the door after only a couple.
In the intervening 20+ years, the Great Dane has become a Madison institution with three more outposts having been added in the area and one up in Wausau to boot. Being our first brewpub, it became the template for those that followed. The Great Dane's lobbying efforts begat the so-called Brewpub Bill
or Brewpub Tourism Development Act in 2007. Great Dane brewmaster (current?) Rob LoBreglio is friends with Kirby Nelson of Capital/Wisconsin Brewing Company and the pair have collaborated on beers over the years. And I'm sure there have been brewers at the Great Dane who have gone on to careers in the industry.
The Great Dane is a cornerstone of the Madison-area microbrew/craft brew scene and it continues to evolve. Last summer the brewpub began canning two beers and six packs of Hopsconsin Red Ale and German Pilsner began adorning store shelves.
Also known as Verruckte Stadt (German for "Mad Town"), German Pilsner and has been pouring forth from Great Dane taps for ages. Sadly, the last time I was at a Great Dane the big board didn't actually say Verruckte Stadt for some reason.
German Pilsner pours a nice straw color. In my glass it had just an ever so-slight haziness to it. I got a nice, big, frothy, white head which was happy to stick around for a while. And true to form, there were plenty of bubbles inside the bier making their way upwards. Pilsners are truly amongst the prettiest of beers with their brilliant color and effervescence. They make you thirsty by just looking at them.
The aroma was a lesson in modesty with some moderate grain and grassy hop scents. Nothing extravagant, but it was like putting blood in the water. Except it was the air. And grain & hops instead of blood. Like IKEA's furniture, German Pilsner's taste was clean and simple. It had that light pils crackery graininess with just the barest malty sweetness. I found that those grassy hops had taken on a spicy/peppery flavor. The carbonation was evident and the bier was bubbly and slightly dry.
On the finish, the malt flavors faded while the hoppy ones kicked in a little bit harder. And so the bitterness was a bit more pronounced as was the dryness. There was some really nice Schaumhaftvermoegen
left in my glass with webbing everywhere.
I must admit that German Pilsner/Verruckte Stadt is the bier I drink most often when I'm at a Great Dane. It is not a big bier (5% A.B.V.) and can go well with just about any food that you'd order there. I really like the malt flavor which kept the sweetness at bay, something I appreciated. Being a German-style pils, the hops don't knock your socks off though they do more than simply play a supporting role. While there are times when German Pilsner/Verruckte Stadt tastes a little too laid-back and I wouldn't mind if there were just a bit more malt and hop flavor, it is, overall, a nice, easy-going brew.
Junk food pairing: Verruckte Stadt is a light-bodied beer that shows gustatorial restraint so take it easy on the food. Try some French Onion Dip Pringles or some light, poofy Cheetos Puffs with their fine, moderately sharp cheese flavor.
Labels: Beer, Great Dane Pub, Pilsner