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Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company (Downtown)

Not Rated.
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company (Downtown)Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company (Downtown)
BA SCORE
94
outstanding

152 Ratings
Ratings: 152
Reviews: 106
rAvg: 4.23
pDev: 7.8%
Active Beers: 60
Beer Ratings: 730
Beer Avg: 3.65
Taps: 12
Bottles: 0
Cask: Y
Beer-to-Go: Y
[ Brewery, Bar, Eatery ]

123 E. Doty St.
Madison, Wisconsin, 53703
United States
phone: (608) 284-0000

visit their websiteWebsite view map and get directionsMap @greatdanepub

Notes:
None, yet.

(Place added by: BeerAdvocate)
Place: Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 152 | Reviews: 106 | Display Reviews Only:
Photo of Niniimaa
2.5/5  rDev -40.9%

Coming in to the downtown Great Dane, the indifference of the hostesses(3) was matched by the lack of a service person who showed about 5 minutes after seated.

The location of GD was good on the corner of the block with great wooden floors and expansive bar and seating (tables and booths). Was there when only about 25% full and was still deafeningly loud inside.

House beer selections did include a couple of cask conditioned which get points from me. However I found the cask conditioned English ale was lacking in both malt and hop flavours; would give ice tea a run for its money however. Also tried the award-winning Peck’s Pilsner which was far superior to the german pilsner (which had no flavour) but was still a re-branded High Life, lacking any apparent hops.

The menu significantly lacked cheese choices for a Wisconsin establishment. Avoid the pretzels that look correct but are similar to hotdog buns in the inside. The Brats&Mash brought GD up to an acceptable only; brats being on par to a good breakfast sausage, and the mash potatoes being actual potatoes (not whipped). Salads were large but flavourless; maybe seasonality an issue on freshness.

This is not a destination pub. Trying visiting if in Madison for a few weeks.

Niniimaa, May 30, 2007
Photo of Sconnie
3.93/5  rDev -7.1%

This is a great place to drink beer. The beers they have year round are all good, and they always surprise with their rotating beers. Good food as well, their artichoke dip and the beer bread with honey butter are particularly good finger food to have while drinking. Great atmosphere, always good people around. Whenever a friend comes into town or someone has a birthday or just about any other reason to go out, I often steer the group toward the Great Dane.
The only thing I don't like is their cask beer selection. I appreciate their attempt to replicate the British pub style, but the 3 cask beers i've tried there have all been sub par; the cask brown ale was the ONLY beer i've ever ordered at the Dane that I truly did not like. I've had cask ale's in England and I enjoy the style, so i'm not just some guy who doesn't like his beer warm and flat, but I just feel the Dane doesn't replicate them as well.
(Edit: I had there cask ESB the other day, and it was quite good. So maybe they've figured out the cask ales, or maybe I just randomly chose a couple that they didn't do well.)
That being said, this is a good brew pub and they always have tons of stellar beer.

Sconnie, May 07, 2007
Photo of happygnome
4.2/5  rDev -0.7%

a: very nice, more restraunt than bar a lot of wood, like an old pub very pleasant
q: the beer was truly very good
s: we were seated very quickly, the waitress was very knowledgeable regarding what foods went well with what beers
selection: they have a fairly good selection of beers and food items. even my picky father in law was able to find something to eat and drink that he enjoyed
f: i was very pleased with the wings that i had very tasty\
v: not too bad, reasonable considering how good everything is

happygnome, Apr 18, 2007
Photo of gueuzegeek
4.63/5  rDev +9.5%

The first thing I want to start with is how incredible the bar tenders were. I went my first night in town and then again my last night. I was only in town for 5 nights and spent 4 of them at the various GDs!! I think the first bartender was named Debbie (sorry if I spelled it wrong) and she was terrific. She helped me pick my dinner too and it was great stuff!! Her beer knowledge was also right on! I liked it so much I had to go see the others and then finally made my way back again, at which time someone named Ryan (some people called him Nolan at first, which I learned was not his name, just the obvious Nolan Ryan thing) was doing an incredible job in spite of the fact that all patrons, other than the 150+ people who booked the pool-room bar for a party, were crammed into the front bar!! I think many bartenders could learn a thing or two from him about service and about keeping your cool even when the pace is making you sweat!!

These people are all knowledgeable and even the brewer came out for a bit as he was putting on a freshly filtered keg of the Devil's lake Red lager (NICE!!) I cannot begin to list all the different things I tried, but heck, I thought everything was damn fine!! The Old Glory APA was fab and I would have loved to have seen that on the hand pump!! The porter and stout I tried was great as well.

My food was fab too!! Love this place, and can't wait to get back!!

Now, just in case I don't get to review the others seperately, the service and both Fitchberg (Dennis) and Hilldale (Didn't get the names, but at least three people attended to me while I was there so I was NEVER without a beer or anything the whole time!!!) were great as well. Food also great and the beer at both was fab as well.

gueuzegeek, Mar 28, 2007
Photo of NeroFiddled
4.33/5  rDev +2.4%

What can be said about the Great Dane that hasn't already been said? Not much. It's clearly the best brewpub in Madison. Now, I haven't been to the Fitchburg location (I'll get there next time!), but I have been to Hilldale, and the downtown location just has so much more charm and character in its looks and feel that there's really no comparison. I love the big booths! Anyway, I also love the food. They have several vegetarian choices, which I appreciate, and they're clearly marked on the easy to read menu. Massive choice of beers!!! Of course you'll want to try them all. And, they're all good. Very well-made, balanced beers - without question some of the best brewpub beer I've ever had; and better than many micros... these guys do a really good job. AND, they serve some of it cask-conditioned :) The service can be hit or miss (college students...), but for the most part it's just slightly above what has become the average. It's a perfect place for a first date, a night out with the guys, or even a place to bring mom & dad. Highly recommended.

NeroFiddled, Mar 27, 2007
Photo of BeerBelcher
3.75/5  rDev -11.3%

I visited the Great Dane while visiting Madison during the day with the family, and I was impressed by the selection of beers, the quality of the food on the menu, and the quality of the beers was also good.

The restaurant was very crowded, due in part to a Mary Kay convention in town (those ladies were sucking down some beers!). It took awhile for us to get seated, but in the meantime I was impressed by the dark-wood ambience of the place as I enjoyed a beer at the bar.

Eventually we were seated in a booth. Everyone ordered, and was quite happy with their food. There was a nice selection of pizza, salads, burgers, sandwiches, and entrees on the menu. Everyone in my party (we met some friends at the Great Dane, so altogether there were 6 of us) was quite happy with their lunch. Service was not all that attentive, but was OK.

This is the best brewpub I've yet been to in Wisconsin (Onopa/Stonefly, Milwaukee Ale House, Rock Bottom are the others I've been to in WI).

BeerBelcher, Mar 25, 2007
Photo of jdoherty
4.45/5  rDev +5.2%

Always a must stop when around the capital. This Madison bar masters the atmosphere a microbrewery and restaurant brought together. This place focuses on the beer, but the food is absolutely spectacular as well. Wooden walls and a mirror into the microbrewery make for some great decor. Tons of space, two bars, a poolhall, and restaurant space all in one, but it still feels really homey

The service is great and the waiters and bartenders know exactly which food goes with which. The beer quality is awesome, the Crop Circle Wheat is absolutely heaven during the summer. They have over a dozen of their own brews, including two casks.

The food is top quality for Madison and is made to go with their beers. Prices are reasonable, especially considering how high quality it is. Finally, a beer bar worthy of taking someone on a date to.

jdoherty, Oct 30, 2006
Photo of Tbone
3.54/5  rDev -16.3%

This is my first review of the Dane, even though I have gone their about 8 times over the past 10 years. I used to be impressed with the Dane. In fact, the wife and I took a weekend trip up to Madison in part because of my past respect for the Dane. However, I tried 8 of their 14 beers on tap and was not inspired to order a pint of any of them.
The first dissapointment was seeing that out of 14 beers, they had nothing bigger than a rather modest Scotch Ale. The suppossedly german hefeweizen was thin, overly citrusy and lacked much bannana-clove. If they would have called it a Wit I would have been more impressed. The Belgian pale was way over hopped for the style and lacked any notable belgian qualities. The Octoberfest was only average and lacking the big malt profile. The Speedbump IPA and Potters Run IPA were largely indistinguishable and more like a good pale than American IPAs. The Devils Lake Red Lager had a very pleasing creamy moutfeel but not much going on tastewise other than a more than expected hoppiness. The Cascade Porter was a good solid porter with notable hop qualities. The Stone of Scone scotch was also pretty good but not a wee-heavy by any means. Both the porter and scotch were worthy of full pints, but with Come-back-Inn and Maduro still before us, I was hoping to (and did) find beers more worthy.

The atmosphere and service were good, and I have enjoyed their food in the past. I will still hit the Dane when I'm in town and hopefully they will have something more interesting. But I won't consider them a destination worthy of a road trip as I have in the past.

Tbone, Oct 08, 2006
Photo of badbeer
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%

We got seated almost immediately in a nice booth. Nice solid wood tables and a great bar atmosphere. Plus no smoking was going on around me, that was awesome. Service was out of this world, waiter was very knowledgeable and cared about the food, beer, and keeping the customer happy. Selection was nothing to scoff at either, and they had their Dark Mild on cask. Food was great, ordered the reuben, I highly recommend that. The other selection of food looked awesome too, I wish I could have tried more but I was quite limited on time. This is a must hit spot if you're in Madison.

badbeer, Sep 05, 2006
Photo of Erdinger2003
4.47/5  rDev +5.7%

We showed up got a seat and a beer in like two seconds. It was great beer and great food and the service was outstanding. Looking around it was like a nice old pub, but mostly a restaurant that served some really nice food. Made with an old world style that was new, fresh and fantastic. It was a personal relaxing experience. The selection was good sized I could see just under a dozen beers there and some even on cask, hand pump, and nitrogen keg. Overall it was a great experience except for the Madison traffic is a killer.

Erdinger2003, Sep 04, 2006
Photo of objectivemonkey
4.3/5  rDev +1.7%

8-21-2006: Came here with a buddy and a Madison local, went straight downstairs to the cellar-like basement bar. Really cool space, good bar, good atmosphere, it was like this underground vault-like bar in Prague I was once at. Pretty sweet. Didn't order any food, but the beer was just great. Ordered a sampler of their whole selection, something like 15-20 beers in all. Was a little upset that I they didn't have the porter in, but they had quite a few really good beers. From wheat to scotch ale to a lite, an impressive array of good beer. Sitting at the bar, had pretty good service. Overall, just a damn cool place, will have to hit it up several more times.

RE-REVIEW: 7-21-2008: Swinging through Madison on my way to Chicago on Sunday evening, sat in the bar area. Upon entering, there is the host stand to greet you, the bar to the left, some more island bar seating behind the host stand, some booths to the right, and the brewing equipment in view toward the rear. Lots of wood, a healthy does of stone, and a used, well-worn look to it all.

I sat at the island bar top and ordered from the bartender, as I didn't get a server to talk to after several mintues. The menu come in news print form, "The Dane Dispatch," which was pretty cool. On the back, it actually listed beer prices, which you don't see too often. Priced out in pint, pitcher, samplers in several quantities, happy hour, etc.

There were 9 beers on the wood-carved boards (standards), 6 on chalkboards, and two on cask and another few getting pulled. Pretty wide selection, to say the least. Ordered the Nakoma Nachos, which came in a whopping heap of their own tortillas made that day, with cheese, guacamole, sour cream, black olives, and jalepenos, and i ordered some spiced chicken with it. It was good, could've used more guacamole and more cheese, but still, yum. Had the cask scotch first, not too fantastic but hella good sessioner. Then the pulled Devil's Red, also pretty good. The food was average priced, the beers were cheap.

Pretty much, I'm a bit jealous of Madison with all its beery goodness. And I'll say, whenever I'm in Madison, I'll probably be hitting up the Dane at least once.

objectivemonkey, Aug 21, 2006
Photo of shivtim
4.15/5  rDev -1.9%

With an excellent location, great beer, and great food, this is definitely a stop to make when traveling through Madison. Inside is bright and airy with brick and wood everywhere. Kind of typical brew pub, but classier and brighter. I wish it were a bit more original though, as we've all seen the brick/wood brewpub before. The food is excellent; I had a crazy peanut/squash stew that was unique and tasty. Service was good, but not very beer knowledgeable. Overall the impression is a slightly up-scale restaraunt that's not stuffy and happend to have 15 beers on tap. There were 6 seasonals and even the bizarre watermelon wheat; so a nice variety of available brews. I imagine the atmosphere here varies wildly from lunch to dinner to late-night.

shivtim, Aug 17, 2006
Photo of expatsteve
4.45/5  rDev +5.2%

One of Madison's gems, the downtown Dane offers great beer, great food, and for the most part a great atmosphere. Decked out in the wooden trim that's become typical for many brewpubs, the Great Dane manages to create atmosphere with this rather than appearing cliched.

The downtown Dane is a sprawling place, with a beer garden, a downstairs bar, a dining room upstairs and a more casual bar area. This last area features pool and lounges for watching one of several TVs. All areas are spacious and comfortable, and conversation remains possible even on a busy night.

There are normally around fifteen different beers available on tap, with six regular beers (pilsner, porter, scotch ale, stout, an APA and a light) and an ever-changing array of seasonals and limited releases. There is also very little the brewers won't try, and for the most part there is always something to appeal to nearly everyone. My only criticism is that during the summer (and at the time of writing this) nearly all there seasonal capacity is taken up with Mallards Ale, which they produce for the local baseball team. While this isn't an awful beer, it certainly isn't good enough to bump seasonals for as long as it does. The weekday happy hour special is $2.75 imperial pints, which is as lethal an offer as it is good.

The menu is also a winner, with good offerings in nearly every category - try the Southwest Tortellini, any of their sausage offerings, or their pot pie. The appetizers are also really good, and aren't badly priced ($6-$9). Service is good for the most part, with a fairly knowledgeable waitstaff. This doesn't always flow over to the bar staff, but for the most part they're pretty good too. While staff don't always know all the beers (hard with the constant changes), they are nearly always friendly and fast to the table.

If you're in Madison, be sure to check this place out - arguably one of the best brewpubs in the Midwest.

expatsteve, Jul 25, 2006
Photo of soulgrowl
4.3/5  rDev +1.7%

If there's one thing that makes me want to live in Madison, it's the Great Dane. Good beer (and plenty of it) at good prices with good food in a cool place. The first time I went, I didn't try any of their beers because I was sick, but this time, I tried the Watermelon Wheat, the Black Earth Porter, the cask-conditioned Extra Pale Ale, and the Scotch ale, all of which were delicious, especially the porter and the Extra Pale. Our waiter was a little slow at times but very friendly, and the food was a notch above standard pub food - I had the Great Dane burger with artichoke dip and also tried the fried walleye and the hummus plate, all of which were quite good. The atmosphere is pleasant, smoke-free, a little boisterous but still family-friendly, with a cool cellar area. Overall, a very enjoyable beer servery with fresh brews that were noticeably more gutsy and robust than what you'd normally get at a brewpub. Highly recommended.

soulgrowl, Jul 22, 2006
Photo of tavernjef
4.68/5  rDev +10.6%

Madison is one lucky city to have such a wonderful brewpub. This place is very well thought out. Not sure where to start. Atmosphere is good, I can see this place getting pretty busy and wonder what it would be like then. Both my stops were for lunch which is a totally different crowd and feel then what I think the night crowd would probably be. The music being played within the walls is alternative mostly so it plays more for the college crowd I think more then anything.

The place is huge, an area bar with a large spread with 6 pool tables, an area for darts, and a leather seating lounge is impressive. And thats just one area. There's the main bar area in the center entrance which is average in size with bar seating, a few tables, and a wall section divided by tall booth seating. And to the right of that is a main dining area with room for many. The bar is itself, when seated, is very cool. Spacey from front to back. Nicely varnished dark wood in a browned mahogany tone. Taps with dog heads on them, and in the other bar area where the billiard tables are, the taps there have the various billiard balls on them. Nice touch. I could go on and on in some detail, but it could take awhile as this place has it all. Including some damn good beer.

Something like 15 beers always ready for the imbibing. They have 5 or 6 rotational offerings; seasonals and the like. And a brigade of standards including a Scotch ale, 2 pils (1 German styled), a Hefe, a Red, a Pale, a Porter, and a couple others. The names for escape me at the time as I didn't right them all down during my visits. Many, many, freshly made brews can be had here thats for sure. I got myself some growlers of course. But had a few pints during each visit and everything I has was damn solid. My favorite was the Mallard ale, named for the minor league baseball team in Madison. It was a perfectly tasty treat for the heat. I wanted to get to the Scotch and the porter but it just didn't seem fitting. I stayed with more of the standards and lighter beers this trip. The servers let me try a sample of em, and they were promising; so next time those will make the bill.

And speaking of servers, their service here was solid, very knowledgable of the beers they were serving and more then happy to let have a quick sample of something if you weren't sure what you wanted. The food came quickly too. Not long after ordering the food was at the bar.

Food was good. A good menu, lots of choices, solid grub for sure, sandwiches hot or cold, salads, and some entrees in about 8 to 10 other choices including soups. However, the portions of a few items that the group shared should've been bigger for the price. Which is the only downfall for the place. Prices. Food on the menu is a little high, especailly for what ya get. Burgers hovered around $7.50 and up and they weren't much of a burger for that price. Plus, the beer is $4.00 a pint, not what I'm used to with $2.50, $3.50, depending where and when (Great Waters and Town Hall), perhaps they run special prices on beer here and just missed em due to the whole lunch time thing? Other then that, no complaints.

One very nice brewpub! I'll be coming back.

tavernjef, Jul 17, 2006
Photo of bedwyr
4.43/5  rDev +4.7%

The Great Dane in downtown Madison is Heaven on Earth for me. They always have some new beers available and they never seem to go for average...they go for the gusto. Every beer there has been a love it or hate it experience and even the ones I hated I could tell were quality beers, just not to my palate's taste. The food at Great Dane can nearly match the beers, as well. Great food, great beers, and just a fun place. What more can a guy want? The ESB and Crop Circle Wheat are always great, very drinkable beers and if you want, they'll have something ready to knock you on your can, too. If you're anywhere near Madtown, don't miss it!

bedwyr, Jul 08, 2006
Photo of edmundfitzoil
4.58/5  rDev +8.3%

On my 23rd birthday as my fiance and I traveled the long and winding road, which we chose to make long and winding, from Oregon to Ohio, we stopped in Madison to see the Great Dane, eat dinner, and for me to have a beer or two.

Inside the building the place is large. Packed and loud with conversations of the customers. The walls were decorated with plenty of pictures of old historic Madison, and in the main pub room, the brewing tanks were visible behind glass windows. There was a large room with pool tables, another large dining room, and multiple porches or patios that we saw. The tap selection proved to be a choice of 17 beers available along with multiple cask conditioned ales (a changing choice of IPA's on cask). Highlights from the beers were an American style wheat, which I sampled and was impressed by, a dark mild, a porter, and a dry Irish Stout. I had the Scotch Ale. The large, newspaper style laid out menus featured much of the expected pub fair favorites and plenty of vegetarian selections (exciting for a carnivore who occasionally plays with the concept of being a vegetarian). That being said, I ordered a grilled sausage platter with a selection of mustards and garlic mashed potatoes. The food was of good quality. My fiance loved her choice, and with the sheer number of selections there you could return again and again and not eat the same thing multiple times. The female server knew her brews very, very well (she distinguished between a glass and porter and stout by the nose of the beers) and was very friendly. The prices seemed pretty reasonable.

The Great Dane proved to be a real blast and would be a place, because of their selection of beers, good quality food, and sheer size of the place I would be more than willing to return to.

edmundfitzoil, Jun 28, 2006
Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.4/5  rDev +4%

After spending several hours buying a carload of beer at some of Madison's finest beer stores, I headed to what is unquestionably Madison's finest brewpub. The area around the Great Dane was crazybusy at noon on a beautiful spring Saturday and there was no hope of finding parking on the street. I pulled into a nearby parking garage and headed in what I thought was the right direction. Imagine my surprise when I exited a door and found myself within 20 feet of the Dane's front door.

I was seated right away, but by the time I left the place was full-to-bursting and all newcomers were being given those flashing coaster thingamabobs. Or are they whatchamacallits? I won't go into details about the interior since others have done an excellent job of describing the furnishings and the general atmosphere.

GD has an impressive selection of beer, the listing of which was handily located on a chalkboard that was right above my table. The menu was in the form of a small newpaper and, in addition to the food, included descriptions of the standard offerings, but not of the two cask beers or of the seasonals. I don't know that I've ever been in a brewpub with such a large and varied selection.

As far as beer quality goes, I'm not sure that it's fair to make a sweeping judgement after two pints. I started off with a disappointing Stone of Scone Scotch (ahem... Scottish) Ale and finished with a very good Texas Speedbump IPA. I trust the regulars who say the beer is of (almost) uniformly high quality. I thought about taking home a growler, but didn't feel like dropping another $11-12 after spending so much earlier in the day.

It's also not fair to judge a restaurant's food after one meal. My reuben was good, but the 'Kohl slaw' lacked zip. Again, I leave it to those who've sampled most of the menu to provide the lowdown on Great Dane comestibles. My waitress was very nice and my food and drink arrived in record time. Both were the perfect temperature for eating and drinking respectively.

It's a shame that I live so far away from the Great Dane and that I had to do a hit-and-run on what I'm sure is an outstanding establishment. If I lived in Madison, there's no doubt that I'd be a regular. A definite 'must stop'.

BuckeyeNation, May 29, 2006
Photo of rhoadsrage
4.5/5  rDev +6.4%

I stayed at the hotel on the capital and this was a 5-minute walk. It is a great old building with very clean old factory feeling inside. The pool tables, leather couches and great big bar were nice and the made you feel right at home when you walked in. The chalkboard had over 12 beers with 2 on cask that night. There was a beer garden outback with hop vines growing over the window but the rain kept me close to the bar.

All the beers were great and they had a sampler, which was a huge wooden dog bone with holes for all the beers. I have never seen a brewpub with so many beers on tap at one time. The menu was a newspaper with almost all of the current beers including descriptions.

The food was a nice mix of pub grub with a gourmet twist and some nice ethnic dishes. I couldn't decide between the West African peanut stew and the Belgian Dubbel or the fish and chips with the stout (or porter). I went on the recommendation of 3 of the locals and had the Chicken pot pie with Texas speed bump AIPA. It was a good choice but I sampled a friend fish and chips and it was great aswell.

It was a rainy Tuesday night when I went in but it was pretty busy and everyone I talked to was friendly and had a beer recommendation. I think every neighborhood needs a place like Great Dane on the corner and the world would be a better place. If you are ever close to Madison it is a good place to stop in for at least a pint and a bite to eat.

rhoadsrage, May 18, 2006
Photo of warriorsoul
4.78/5  rDev +13%

Visited with fellow BA's kmpitz2, orbitalr0x and goodbyeohio this past Sunday...
Conveniently located right next to the parking garage is The Great Dane...walk in to a very attractive interior. Very clean and well lit with a large number of chairs around the bar.
A large side room with another sizeable bar and numerous pool tables. Nice flat screen TV's in all of the right places.
Very friendly staff, from the helpful hostess to the bartender wheeling free soup because he wouldn't recommend it personally.
Over a dozen offerings with a cask on constant rotation.
The IPA and Uber APA were both fresh and super tasty...the brewer seems to like his hops. I was sadly disappointed in the Scotch on cask, as it tasted more like grape juice...that's ok, it was not on the bill after our tender noticed it was not for me.
Imperial pints used for all of the beers we ordered...I like that.
Enjoyed the Cajun chicken sandwich and the cole slaw was outstanding.
The hostess was kind enough to help me find a shirt for my wife and daughter with at least one trip downstairs to find the sizes I needed.
This is a must stop if you find yourself in the area...I look forward to my next visit...hopefully sooner rather than later.

warriorsoul, May 04, 2006
Photo of evanackerman
4.4/5  rDev +4%

this is my favorite brewpub, located in one of my favorite places in the world.

First off, the beer is top quality and the selection is large, often several kinds of a particular style are available at once. there are always fun new creations to try and great cask ales are always present.

the atmosphere is great, there is a really cool outdoor patio area surrounded by ivied buildings. located in downtown Madison, which is a cool atmosphere to begin with.


the food is above average but nothing exceptional, certainly a good accompaniment to the beer.

please try this place out if you have the chance, it is a fun time.

evanackerman, May 03, 2006
Photo of goodbyeohio
4.63/5  rDev +9.5%

thanks to orbitalr0x for driving, hit this place on a lazy sunday afternoon with a few ba's for lunch and beers.

my first impression of the place recalled great lakes in cleveland.. bar to the left as you walk in.. slathered in dark wood with antique accents. old-fashioned cask mounting system complete with brass bowls to catch drippings and a pulley contraption rigged to the ceiling. lots of dining space as well as bar space. separate smoking room and a stone-walled pub downstairs.. a dark medieval looking area buried in the basement. the only negative is the bathroom, which can only be accessed via stairs followed by a trip through a series of underground passageways (seriously). we bellied up at the bar and had no problem figuring out what beers were on tap- there were chalkboards and hanging placards on almost every wall with the pertinent info we needed.

the selection of beers was extensive, accented by some nice seasonal belgians. i believe (from memory) that the roster went something like this: ipa, hoppy pale ale, red lager, wheat, porter, cask scotch, abbey dubbel, belgian summer, lager and maibock. it is my understanding that there are usually two casks, perhaps an off-day. i tried the apa, the maibock, and the dubbel- all were outstanding. i sipped other people's beers, and the only one below my standards was the cask scotch- very watery and too fruity with little-to-no malt presence.

had lunch, and the food was spectacular. this comes close to the best brewpub food i've ever had. circumventing the typical brewpub fare, i opted for a west african peanut & squash stew over a bed of chili-seasoned rice. huge portion for $7 and very satisfying. kmpitz2's steak sandwich looked like pure heaven as well with its perfectly cooked pinkish cuts smothered in caramelized onions and red wine sauce. their menu does include the more homey comfort items like burgers, brats, and soft pretzels. extensive to say the least with a nice touch of class sans arrogance. i would feel safe bringing parents etc. here which is always good. probably happens alot as this is a college town.

service? another home run. our server doled out many small samples of beers we considered drinking (he gave big samples to other customers considering growler fills). he also brought us a cup of soup for free when we asked about it.. he said it was iffy and let us try before ordering. never had that happen anywhere before. also, he was very friendly, silly, and that whole dynamic is what you're after from a bartender.

the waitresses were super sexy too. this did not go unnoticed by our humble group of ba's. however, i chose the one bar seat facing away from the service area and was really disappointed about my choice.

overall, the highlight of my day in madison. highly recommended.

goodbyeohio, May 02, 2006
Photo of rugger
4.7/5  rDev +11.1%

When I was in town I visited this place twice. The day my wife had all of her meetings I went here by myself for lunch. I got there right at 11:00 and was the first to sit down at the bar, and I ordered an IPA. I talked to the bartender for a while just shooting the bull and then I asked what he suggested for lunch and he suggested the meatloaf, which I ordered and it was very good. I was there for about two hours in which during the noon hour it got pretty full. I was glad that I got there when I did. I asked the bartender how consitent the beers were and he said very consistent, but he also knew that I was from way out of town.
The beers were awesome, I had the vintage, the IPA, and Black Earth Porter, which was/is one of the best porters I have had, however I think it is really a stout. Anyway if you are ever visiting I highly recommend this place.
It was so good that the next day I took my wife there for lunch as well. She liked it as well. Very good, A+ guys.

rugger, Apr 18, 2006
Photo of nchrist13
4.2/5  rDev -0.7%

real cool place. this is a must hit if it is feasible to get to madison for a night of drinking. the atmosphere is pretty good, it does it quite busy on weekends with college students, but its never boring, which is a plus in my book. they have darts and a bunch of pool tables which are rented by the hour. and it's pretty big, so even when it's crowded you don't feel as if you're trapped.

the quality of the beer is amazing. i would compare the quality to that of pizza port in LA, but the selection is somewhat larger. the only diff b/w this and PP is that all of the beers here are brewed here, whereas PP has a few guest taps. if you're going to hit one of the two great danes, this is definately the one you want to be at. the selection is larger, and frankly that's all that matters.

service is good. i've never had a bad experience here, they do ID at the door a lot so if you're underaged you should get inside before they start checking.

the selection, as previously noted, is amazing. lots of taps, all filled with brews worth drinking. these guys are sticklers for style, but the more you drink the more you'll notice there's also a lot of creativity flowing through the lines. not to mention that there is always something on cask, a big plus. there's no telling what you'll run into here, and if this is your first time visiting, you'll be like a kid in a candy store. and there is almost always something available for the seasoned veteran as well.

food is really tasty and reasonable. a lot of your standard pub fare and some more interesting dishes as well. its the kind of place you could bring your family to eat, especially with the smoking ban here in madison.

if you're in town over the summer, or whenever the weather is nice, you could be perfectly happy wasting the day away at the Memorial Union and then hitting up Great Dane in the evening and not felt that you've missed out on anything. and this place is right in the middle of all the action in town (the capitol square), so it is in close proximity to any other entertainment available downtown. best brewpub in wisconsin, bar none, and i'd be tempted to say it's the best brewpub from here to 3F (only a couple hour drive from madison to NW indiana).

they also sell growlers for $12. not everything on tap is available in growlers, however.

nchrist13, Mar 15, 2006
Photo of blackie
4.25/5  rDev +0.5%

atmosphere: Decent atmosphere here. I liked the lighting level and the wood construction. There are technically two bar areas, one on the dining room side of the building, and another in the pool/barroom on the other. Wasn't too crowded while I was there.

quality: I was satisfied with, and enjoyed, the majority of the beers I ordered during my visits.

service: The servers were attentive the three nights I visited.

selection: A huge selection of Great Dane beers was available. It was kinda ridiculous actually. One night there were three different IPAs on tap, and the beer menu changed from night to night. Gotta love the cask conditioned selection, too.

food: I had weinerschitzel the first night I visited. It was good, as was the spaetzle and red cabbage it came with.

value: The prices seemed fair, both for beer and food...especially considering the location.

Dirtylou and I visited The Dane at least three times while I was visiting Madison, and I wish there was a place like it close to home.

blackie, Jan 19, 2006
Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company (Downtown) in Madison, WI
94 out of 100 based on 152 ratings.