Essen Haus

BA SCORE
90
outstanding

48 Ratings
Essen HausEssen Haus
PLACE INFO

Type: Bar, Eatery

514 E Wilson St
Madison, Wisconsin, 53703-3431
United States

(608) 255-4674 | map
essen-haus.com

Notes:
No notes at this time.

Added by brakspear

PLACE STATS
Score:
90
Ratings:
48
Reviews:
29
Avg:
4.06
pDev:
9.61%
 
 
Taps:
16
Bottles/Cans:
0
Cask:
N
Beer-to-Go:
N
View: Place Reviews | Events
User Ratings & Reviews
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Ratings: 48 |  Reviews: 29
Photo of emerge077
3.86/5  rDev -4.9%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 3.75 | selection: 3.5

Stopped in here and at Come Back In over Great Taste weekend.
It was late at night, and fairly empty. The oompah band was finishing up their set, and a couple tables lingered. The walls were heavily laden with dark wood and German kitsch, many maßkrugs lined the shelves and hung from hooks in the ceiling. A painted sign above one corner table signified the Stammtisch. or "regulars table". The space was sprawling, yet when empty it had a certain eerie stillness about it. You could imagine the tables full of jovial souls belting out the chorus to Ein Prosit as the oompah band played, but not tonight. For some reason the air was still and the mood was weary.

The bartender was friendly but no nonsense, busying herself with menial tasks rather than chatting with anyone.

Beer selection was ok, pretty much the typical German standbys. Mostly the big 3, Spaten, Hacker-Pschorr, and Paulaner, but one Ayinger, Jahrhundert. Also Hofbräu, DAB, Krombacher, and Warsteiner. Oddly there were still 2 Maibocks on tap at the beginning of Oktoberfest season, and the printed tap list was 3 months old. Guessing the selection doesn't rotate all that much. Spaten Okto was on, but I went for my go-to, Würzburger Hofbräu Pils.

Overall it was a good experience, except for the working lady that followed us from the Come Back In, which the bartender guessed was "probably a prostitute". Ya don't say...

 1,405 characters

Photo of Sixpoint
3.88/5  rDev -4.4%
vibe: 5 | quality: 3 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 3.5

Tourist bar? College bar? German beer bar? Yes, it's all here. There's no place quite like the Essen Haus... a gigantic beer-guzzling rathskellar in Madison. Because it's right off the highway and near the state capital, this place draws a lot of businesspersons for after-work conventions. Yet on any weeknight, expect to see a group of college revelers passing "pitchers," which are actually just glass boots. Also, you'll just see a lot of visitors to Madison go there because of its reputation.

Unfortunately, I've known a lot of friends who have worked here and told me horror stories. I don't believe in trashing someone's reputation, but virtually all of my friends who have worked here told me NOT TO EAT there. That's pretty disturbing... apparently they have some cleanliness and health inspection issues.

That being said, this place definitely has some redeeming qualities. Take, for instance, the beer selection. You'll have a superb selection of German imports here year-round, and in the spring, look for the dopplebocks. In the fall, look for the Oktoberfests.

The atmosphere is awesome. It's basically a gigantic beer hall. On any given night, look for live oompah music. It's pretty insane, they play classics like "roll out the barrel" while everyone guzzles down beer in glass boots.

Basically, just go there and don't eat the food.

 1,365 characters

Photo of GCBrewingCo
3.73/5  rDev -8.1%
vibe: 3.5 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 4 | food: 4.5

I am putting together a couple of trips to the Essen Haus for the review.

I was there once in the late afternoon/early evening for dinner and some beers and found the dopplebocks and food excellent. There was hardly anyone there and finding a table was quick and simple. I was dining with a person who knew German food and he said it was very good. The beer selection seemed good as well. Our server was a young girl in traditional garb and she was a little better than average.

Contrast that to my next visit. The place was smoky and getting in the door was difficult. We were only there for the beer so I selected a Maibock that was on the beer menu and a friend had just ordered and said was very good. His was crystal clear and tasty so I ordered one. Mine came across the bar cloudy and very sour yet had enough characteristics of his beer to let us know it was either another bad keg or another bad tap, or the dregs. The bad beer combined with the loud and smoky atmosphere did not make this visit pleasant at all.

The beer menu on my second visit was still very good, but I will not visit the Essen Haus again if it is crowded.

 1,145 characters

Photo of Canada_Dan
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of Jason
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of mynie
4.28/5  rDev +5.4%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 5 | selection: 4

Wonderful downtown location. Beer garden open until dusk. Prices are are as reasonable as they are everywhere else downtown.

This was our first stop on our quasi-beertour of Madison. The inside is dark and bricky. I've only been to facimile German bars--including those in Amana which I've been told are *quite* authentic. That having been said, this place seemed nice and authentic to me. Only, it wasn't the kind of authenticity that takes itself too seriously. The guys were wearing Lederhosen but jokingly, over T-shirts. The girls were wearing German dress, too, but they looked cute, not gimmicky. I didn't even realize the bartender was dressed up, actually, since the outfit looked so nice. And the waitstaff was the tops.

Very wide tap selection, no so much for bottles. There were a couple of fairly rare beers on tap, but as things were just getting started I decided to keep it easy and go with a Bitburger.

Wisconsin's laxity with liquor laws is really refreshing. No, it's not like they don't ID you or anything like that. But little stuff--stuff that authorities in other states are senselessly strict about--they let go. Essen Haus is connected to Come Right In, and they let you take beer from one place into another. On top of that, there was no one out patroling the beer garden to make sure that you didn't stray more than X amount of yards from the premises. Little stuff like that makes for a greatly relaxed atmosphere.

 1,448 characters

Photo of TX-Badger
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%

Photo of DaPeculierDane
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4.5 | selection: 4.5

The Essenhaus is a top beer bar and a must for anyone traveling to Madison. This place is second on my list (after the Memorial Union Terrace) of places to take friends from out of town. The Essenhaus features just about any German beer you could think of…on tap! The specials are great. Half liters are only something like $2.50 during happy hour and boots (normally $16) are only ten bucks on Thursdays. Polka bands play there regularly. The waitstaff are great and wear traditional Bavarian garb. It’s kitchy, dirty, and very Wisconsin. Their bottle selection is great too, plenty of good American crafts and the whole Lindeman’s line from Belgium. Better yet, the Essenhaus has a door to the Up North Bar on its SE wall and a door to the impressive Come Back Inn on its NW wall. If you don’t care for German beer and can’t find the craft you like at Essenhaus, just walk over to the Comeback, grab a pint, and carry it back over to the Essenhaus.

IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not rating the food because I don’t want to bring down this bar’s score. For me this is a beer bar and I just ignore the whole restaurant part. Now this is very important…don’t eat here. Don’t ask why. You do not want to know. Just, what ever you do, don’t eat here. Don’t even think about it. Avoid the Come Back’s food too. Seriously!

 1,325 characters

Photo of crossovert
3.56/5  rDev -12.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3

Was at the biergarten here for a brief bit during a great taste pre-party. The beer was Revolution and it was only 2 bucks a half liter. In retrospect I should have stayed there all night and sucked the tap of Maerzen dry.

Didn't go in, or eat. Just slugged a beer listening to the German band they had. I liked the atmosphere, not as authentic as it should be but fun in a sense. Just wish it was always 2$ half liter night there. Saw the taplist for normal hours and it is just a decent mishmash of German beers.

 515 characters

Photo of jera1350
4.25/5  rDev +4.7%

Photo of BarrelAgedG
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of Todd
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%

Photo of CuriousMonk
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

A great place to visit, even though it’s sort of a chain. The ambiance is great - live polka music, German decorations and stuff all over the wall, and an overall great time to be had with the huge Das boots and everything else. The service was quick and friendly. The selection is pretty good for a restaurant - but hey, it’s German! The food was good, not the best German fare I’ve had, but still good especially the potatoes and sauerkrauts. Typical German beers on tap - nothing mind-blowing. The value was about average, and overall, I’ll definitely be hitting this place again whenever I visit Madison again.

 622 characters

Photo of bigred89
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%

Photo of Fargrow
4/5  rDev -1.5%

Photo of djhowell
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 3

Photo of twb0392
4.5/5  rDev +10.8%

Photo of Erdinger2003
4.03/5  rDev -0.7%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 3.5

I walked in with the expecatations of a Munich beer hall and I saw a lot of heavy drinking and young college kids drink a lot of boots. The beer selection was a little small in my opinion, good, but kinda small. The atmosphere was good, not Germany good, but good. You could talk with friends, some you may have just met, some you've known. They have a small "Beer Garden". It's indoors, the ceiling seems a bit low, and it's next to the bathrooms. The giant ceiling they have is over the food/beer tables next to the tiny stage where not so bad music is played. It got crowded a bit after some time, so about 8:30pm we left for another bar. Overall I would go back just to try the fresher German beer and use the authentic glassware...it's a bit of fun using them.

 765 characters

Photo of redleg411
4.06/5  rDev 0%
vibe: 4 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4.25 | food: 4

Photo of Gotti311
3.75/5  rDev -7.6%

Photo of 4thoseabout2bock
3.65/5  rDev -10.1%
vibe: 5 | quality: 4 | service: 3 | selection: 4 | food: 2

The festive atmosphere to the Essen Haus is infectious.

I was very happy at the Come Back Inn next door, with their excellent selection of beer. When I heard there were TWO dopplebocks (both Salvator and Optimator) on tap on the other side of that magical swinging door, where hootin and hollerin and cheering were coming from, I was lured in to the promise of dark sweet German beer and satisfying German food.

I got the beer. It was great.

So was the atmosphere. Very festive, reminiscent of the beer halls of Munich (when they are filled with drunken American tourists). But, more importantly, all ages were represented here and everyone was having a great time.

The food, however, was horrible. The roulades were supposed to be thin steak and bacon wrapped around sausage meat and pickle. Bacon around sausage. How can you do wrong? Well, they found a way. They came out looking like two little turds and someone forgot to cover them in sauce. The spaetzle was dry and flavorless. The French Onion soup was dirty dish water with onions.

On the bright side the Prime Rib was ok, and so was the liver dumpling soup. Even though the waitress did not bring the au jus with the prime rib (or maybe they don't serve it that way) we kept the livery broth to dip it in and that gave it some nice flavor (if you like liver, which I do).

So listen to DaPeculier Dane. Don't eat here. I was suckered in my the German ambience (under the influence of two doppelbocks :)

But of you love German beer and atmosphere, do DRINK here. And next store. A great stop in a Madison beer tour.

 1,595 characters

Photo of Rilesmiles
4.09/5  rDev +0.7%
vibe: 4.25 | quality: 4 | service: 4.25 | selection: 4 | food: 4

Photo of UWBadgerFan4Life
3.64/5  rDev -10.3%
vibe: 4 | quality: 3.5 | service: 3.5 | selection: 3.75 | food: 3.75

Photo of cokes
4.05/5  rDev -0.2%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4 | service: 4 | selection: 4 | food: 4

This place is a lot of fun.
Authentic German atmosphere. Care has obviously been taken down to the smallest details, even the uniforms of the servers and bartenders Be ready for polka and kraut.
It can get busy at times, but is roomy enough to accomodate. Never seems to get that smoky, which is worth a bit in my book.
Friendly servers.
Plenty of great German beers on tap. Boots are a must.
I have less experience in the food dept, but what I've had has been tasty and authentic.
Bonus points should be awarded for the 25 cent soft pretzels. That is usually all I need to go with a litre of Optimator.

In reference to psugrad's comment on the female situation...I agree that this is not the place to gaze at co-eds...Head to campus for that.

 750 characters

Photo of karst
4.33/5  rDev +6.7%
vibe: 4.5 | quality: 4.5 | service: 4 | selection: 4.5 | food: 4

Friday night preparty prior to Madison's Great Taste of the Midwest and Bell's had their Bell's ON (tap) found some amazing beers seldom released outside of Kalamazoo, MI
Easy to locate downtown location. Good value. Did not eat but what I saw looked OK

Place was full with beer fest folks but they were handling the load nicely. We were concentraiting of the special release Bell's and ignored bottles and other stuff on tap.

Essen Haus is connected to Come Right In, I enjoyed my last Bells a Bretty Rye beer on the sidewalk and eventually next door at the Come Right INN.

 577 characters

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Essen Haus in Madison, WI
4.06 out of 5 based on 48 ratings.
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