Riley's Wines of the World


55 Reviews
Riley's Wines of the WorldRiley's Wines of the World

Type: Store

402 W Gorham St
Madison, Wisconsin, 53703-2004
United States

(608) 257-0400 | map

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Reviews: 55 | Ratings: 86
Photo of spointon
4.15/5  rDev +3%

I visited this place on 11/29/2008.

On a Thanksgiving weekend trip to Madison, WI, I stumbled into a beer store on State Street and saw only a few bottles of craft beers. Disappointed, I selected 2-3 good ones and went to the counter. Fortunately I was wearing my Beer Advocate winter cap and the guy behind the counter told me to forget those 3 beers and walk a block over to their sister store, Riley's Wines of the World.

Upon entering, I noticed that the place is mostly wine, but they had a large amount of cooler space dedicated to 4 packs and 6 packs as well as a bunch of coolers dedicated to single bottles. They let you build your own mixed six packs w/anything in the singles cooler. Nice.

Selection was mainly local and regional brews (Sprecher, Capital, New Glarus, Bell's as well as some more national stuff I can't get in IL like Stone brewing).

I really liked this place and would be glad to have it in my town! If you find yourself in Madison, I highly recommended a visit.

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Photo of Grinder
4.3/5  rDev +6.7%

WOW - they are correct when they say it's bigger then it looks. Problem is that 95% of the place is wine.

I would think they would have MORE beer being so close to campus.

A decent enough collection of craft and macro brews. A lot of local Wisconsin microbrews that can be found at most good liqueur stores.

So - yea - good place for craft beer . . .but there are better.

The help was very helpful as I needed a cheep church key and and really did not want to buy a cheap silver sharp one that opens cans (do they still make cans that need and opener like that?).

He must have seen me lamenting over the options and found an old one. SWEET!!!

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Photo of brdc
4/5  rDev -0.7%

This is a lot better than it looks from the outside. The selection is not huge, but it has a decent size, although you have to look around as it is spread around the store. The coolers and shelves mentioned on other reviews belong in the area of singles, but further back in the store there are additional six-packs and other stuff.
You can find just about evrything that is worthwhile from the region, and some good imports. The best feature is a very nice selection of singles, better than most places I have seen. If you need to try a lrge number of midwest beers and do not want to come out with a lot of six-packs, this is your place.

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Photo of drseamus
4.05/5  rDev +0.5%

Saw it on the way to my sisters and decided to drop in. It is much larger than it looks from the outside but unfortunately about 95% of the place is wine and spirits. All the beer is in one 10 foot aisle and 3 cooler doors. That said, they don't waste the space with crap. Pretty much every beer they had was damn good and even though I went in "to look around" i couldn't help but leave with a 6 pack. The prices were a bit high for singles but not high enough to make me leave. Staff weren't overly helpful but answered questions when asked. Not too shabby but not as good as Steve's.

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Photo of BoitSansSoif
4.2/5  rDev +4.2%

Riley's is conveniently located right off State Street, and is a haven for all ages and events: college kids trying to tie one on for less, couples trying to find something nice for the evening, beer and wine dudes looking for something new, or old, good and familiar, and people just stepping in to see how much they have before settling for some JD or a 12-pack. Upstairs they have a nice collection of fine liquors...I've only been up once, but I'm plenty happy downstairs on my paycheck, and I want for nothing. The beer selection is impressive, with a great range of regional and national microbrews, imports, and macros. There are also several aisles of wine, and a good collection of liquor around the south edge. The overall service is mediocre, and I get more tips from distributors passing through than I do from most of the employees. To be fair, a couple of them do know their stuff, but I don't always see them, and the other employees don't seem to know as much, so I don't bother. Prices are good, but not the lowest around.

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Photo of NeroFiddled
4.35/5  rDev +7.9%

The first time I pulled into town and drove past Riley's I assumed that it wasn't worth a visit as it seemed like a college beer shop. Boy was I wrong! I drove for miles in all directions looking for a place that sold single bottles and came up pretty dry. Oddly, the other place right near where I was staying (Steve's Wines?) also had a good selection, but I didn't go there at first either. Finally, on about my third trip to Madison, I stopped in at Riley's just to see if they had anything that I'd missed. I started with the coolers of six-packs along the back wall and was impressed, but still left wanting, and then I found the bank of coolers on the east wall loaded with single bottles! Beer nirvana! I took home $80 worth and could easily have done that three times over. They have a great selection of imports, and an excellent selection of local beers! So don't be fooled by the surrounding campus and give it a shot. It's without a doubt the best selection of single bottles in the area!

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Photo of blitz134
4/5  rDev -0.7%

Stopped in while in Madison last week. The place seems pretty nice and much larger than that store front would indicate. A fairly large selection of beers, located in coolers along the back wall and along the right hand wall. Some warm bottle selections as well. Lots of Wisconsin micros with many of them in singles. Didn't talk to the help at all, so hard to comment on service, but the folks seemed nice enough.

Prices seemed off on some beers. The 1L swing top bottles from Sprecher were $17...come on! Founders breakfast was listed for $4 for a 12 oz, no thanks. Most of the other less sought after, but still superb local brews were well priced, even the singles.

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Photo of wardough
4.5/5  rDev +11.7%

Dropped in there a few weeks back when I was visiting Madison and the university. I was happy from the moment that I walked into the store. The staff was very helpful in directing me and very knowledgeable on their products. Found loads of New Glarus stuff (Mecca for me), including their Unplugged series. Even found 3 Floyds Anniversary X and Gumball, and some Founder's products (yet another Mecca). Good selection of Midwestern beers. Good place to go. There was waaay too much in the store for me to bring back in my suitcase. Warrants another trip to Madison.

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Photo of alexgash
4.15/5  rDev +3%

Stopped here on the way home to the Twin Cities just to try and find some Central Waters and Lake Louie. Luckily, I found both and much more. Modestly-sized store that was a little messy and cluttered but in a good way. Coolers along the walls housed an impressive selection of WI micros, and other good micros from around the country. Was really glad to see lots of singles! Also happy to find 3 Floyds and lots of New Glarus. The service was good with nice suggestions and decent beer geek knowledge. Was in a bit of a hurry, but easily could spend more time here and will be back.

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Photo of jdoherty
4/5  rDev -0.7%

If a beer is brewed in Wisconsin, it is sold at Riley's. The place is massive and centrally located, with a very nice mix of imports and Wisconsin's best brews. All the local stuff is really fresh and the Belgians are really well taken care of. The staff pretty much just watches to make sure you don't steal stuff, but at least they check you out very quickly, and are lax towards underage Madison partiers (judge that how you will) The value is a bit pricey for Madison but they also have far more quality brews than any other place downtown.

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Photo of emerge077
3.8/5  rDev -5.7%

Stopped at Riley's on a recent trip through Madison, based on Beerfly reviews.

The layout was easy enough to figure out, I made my way to the singles and import cases on the right side of the store. Small selection of glasses in the aisle closest to this end of the coolers. It was nice to see singles of WI micros here, such as Viking, Central Waters, Lake Louie, etc. Plus Bell's and Dark Horse singles. Extra bonus was the 10% discount for the mixed-six. The downside was that there were only one or two of each in the cooler, and I cleaned out several individual selections. This may have just been an in-between day for stocking this particular area, so no points lost there.

Good selection of imports and seasonals on the shelves behind the right end coolers, including Fantome Noel & De Ranke Pere Noel. In the back coolers, many six-packs to be had, focus on domestic micros. Also shelves full of sixes facing the back coolers.

Service was ok, no one on the floor at the time I visited, but staff were helpful at the counter. There were a couple seasonals in the "employee only" cooler that I spotted, that they retrieved for me. They explained that there wasn't room on the shelves for them at the moment. They were also rare, so go figure.

Overall, Riley's is certainly above average in all aspects, and worth the stop in Madison. Traffic was heavy on a saturday morning getting to the area.

2008: On the last couple visits, the import shelf looks almost exactly the same. A little dusty, some singles in the cooler don't seem to move. Be wary of dates, or out of season seasonals, etc.

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Photo of terrabyte
4.3/5  rDev +6.7%

I don't get downtown much, so I've been waiting patiently to stop here for some time.

The worst thing about the place is the parking. There are about 6 spots in their parking lot, worth their weight in gold (thus filled), but what can you expect of a store downtown. It's more than some of the nearby locations could say.

I had beer tunnel vision, so wasn't even aware of what else they carried beside beer. They had about 10 coolers of craft-brewed 6 packs. Just as much space for more 6-packs (warm), and then 1 cooler for imported singles, and 2 coolers of American singles.

I stocked up on every single I needed that Woodman's doesn't carry, and walked out with 24 bottles. (I had to hold myself back) They even had Central Waters singles - something that Steve's Liquor Stores won't do to their 6-packs.

Definately a great place to get a wide variety of beer, slightly more expensive.

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Photo of EvilKeith
3.65/5  rDev -9.4%

Riley’s Wines of the World, as the name would suggest, is very much a wine shop. Signs hang overhead listing the country of origin for the bottles on display. The wine selection is very impressive.
But, this is supposed to be about the beer. So, to the rear of the store is an elevated level with handicap access. Here the warm beers are stacked and coolers line the rear wall. The beer selection is fairly good.
I spotted labels from brewers across the country. Beers from Michigan, Ohio, Texas, California, and Colorado are among your options. The brewers of Wisconsin were well represented. New Glarus, Capital, Lake Louie, all the big ones and a few from smaller breweries too.
The staff was friendly and helpful, the only thing negative was that they were maybe a little pricey.

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Photo of badbeer
4.15/5  rDev +3%

Real nice selection of brews from all over. Plenty of micro's from all over the US and plenty to choose from abroad. Almost all of the beer was kept in coolers and away from harsh light. The service here has never been something to write home about, in fact the only reason I usually head here is because they offer more than other stores in the area.

Update: Service is variable. I haven't had a bad experience here in a long time. There seem to be some BA's working there and service has improved drastically. Again, great selection, and it seems the service there is now as good, if not better than some of the other establishments in Madison. Pretty much a must stop if you're in town. I'll average my overall service here at 4 (which includes the bad experiences).

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Photo of shivtim
4.15/5  rDev +3%

I stopped in here to by some Wisconsin beers, and boy is this the place to do it. From the outside it just looks like a little crappy liquor store. As soon as I walked through the door I saw that the place is about 4 times bigger than I thought. Straight in the back are various 6 packs of all kinds of microbrews. To the right is exactly what I was hoping for: single bottles! All kinds of Wisconsin stuff here, with many WI microbreweries well respresented (Central Waters, Sand Creek, Tyranena, Harbor City, Capital Brewing, etc). They have a better New Glarus selection than the actual New Glarus brewery does! Mix and match 6 packs save 10%, so it's not too expensive. This is a great store to put together a "wisconsin sampler" at.

Oh, they also have a lot of non-wisconsin beers, and more wine than you can shake a stick at, but I wasn't paying too much attention to that.

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Photo of blackie
4.35/5  rDev +7.9%

quality: I've never had a beer here that seemed to be either light struck or past its date.

service: I've never really had to ask many questions here, but most of the guys seem to know their product well.

selection: Great selection, especially for Wisconsin and Midwestern goodies. Great selection of six packs of Lake Louie, Capital, Central Waters, and New Glarus...and plenty of others that I could never recall. Nice rotating singles selection as well, well representing the wonderful Wisco breweries.

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Photo of JeffKrenner
4.15/5  rDev +3%

I visited this place along with Woodman's on the way from MN to Chicago. I was looking for a couple things in particular and wasn't disappointed.

This place looks like a little hole in the wall from the outside, but when you walk in you are shocked at how big it is. Very good beer selection. Great Lakes, Three Floyds, etc. The reason I went here was I had heard that they had a couple things that Woodman's wouldn't, namely Central Waters and Lake Louie. Low and behold I ended up getting a bunch of each as both were very well represented.

This is definitely a recommended stop if you are in Madison.

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Photo of tavernjef
4.15/5  rDev +3%

Stopped in for a big stock up on beer goodies while cruising through town on my to and from the Chicago area for a weekend clinic. - Small parking area in front and some street parking. From the outside it doesn't look promising but once you walk inside the place is pretty damn big and packed in there with all sorts of stuff. And so the seeking begins.

Beer is to the right with a few coolers available to pick through of singles with what is available in sixers in the back area in coolers. New Glarus, Capital, Three Floyd's, Two Brothers, Central Waters, Lake Louie, Dogfish, and quite a few others are all sitting there for the taking and in good supply. The coolers in back are impressively stocked and quite a bit more to choose from what was available in the sigles coolers. Lagunitas was a surprise to see as was some cool Sprecher 750's of some specialty brews, but were way to pricey. Most of those were labeled for $18.99 per bottle, yikes. Overall the selection was super solid for local micro madness. Some Belgian, German, and England stuff is here too. Easily could come here everyday and find something new for a year and beyond. My head was swimming with glee, yet the pocketbook only had so much room to expand.

Service was good. They opened 5 minutes early for me and my group, yet once inside they never asked if we needed any help with anything. Most of the youngster help was busy straightening up and downing the espresso from the market they purchased form the ongoing market square. Check out was a snap and we were on our way. This is definately a place to stop into again and again without much hesitation to drive the extra 15 minutes into the city off Hwy 90 when driving through the state. And of course if you happen to be in Madison for whatever reason, then its a must.

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Photo of Erdinger2003
2.7/5  rDev -33%

I walked in and I saw the most liquor I have ever seen in one place. Then I saw the three coolers reserved for beer. The selection had a few I was looking for, but mostly not a lot for the local people. A bomber was 7.99+tax and that's pretty pricey for Wisconson it turns out, if I had known that I would'nt have bought very much from here and got the better price in Milwaukee. Service was pretty ok, they were ready to help me out and I saw and met skids (a fellow BA). The selection could've been better and bigger, but it was ok. I wouldn't go again for a few years to see how it's going.

After my second trip I have to re-review this one. Initially I thought the beer coolers in the back were for BMC (Bud Miller Coors) only, however as it turns out the back coolers are full of local and other microbrews that look really great. Cheers to Riley's

After pricing Riley's with other stores around the Madison area I have noticed that these guys are marking up their beer a lot because they keep lot of it in the back and slowly put it out. And because it is rare when they put it out (2 months after it's release) thy can mark up their prices. No one I have met yet there even knows about good beer. The lady who owns the place is just taking advantage of the local beer drinkers by hiking up prices for more money while at the same time she gets lots of money from the local college kids who go there because it's within walkin distance from the college.

We found a couple of 2004 Sammichlaus's there a month ago and I were asked if I wanted to buy the rest that were in the back (at $5/bottle), I said ok and bought half a case of '04 Sammichlaus. Today a month later I went back and saw two more '04 Sammichlaus's for almost $6/bottle. These people are rude and don't care about their costumers, no baskets, no carts, I guess you just keep having to carry your beer up to the counter.

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Photo of aforbes10
4.65/5  rDev +15.4%

On the tail end of our wedding anniversary trip to Wisconsin, I was determined to find a place where i could find all the top WI beers to take home with me. We found this place while walking down State Street on Sunday and walked around town for an hour until it opened. I am VERY glad we waited. They had everything i was looking for...Bitter Woman from Hell, Viking Big Swede, New Glarus Unplugged series, Central Waters, etc. A helpful staffer pointed out some other locals that i might like too so i grabbed them as well (if he's a BA and reads this, thanks dude, you were very cool!). Not too pricey and a 10% discount on the mix-a-sixer cooler. nice.

Also should mention that this place had one of the finest selections of beers in general that i've ever seen. I was only in the market for WI beers but i could have taken home 3 Floyds (Rabid Rabbit, Gumballhead), Dogfish (WWStout, 120 min, Raison D'extra, Golden Shower, Fort, etc..), Bells (i saw the wheat series there), Lagunitus, Rogue. too many to name. in fact, maybe i would have bought some of these but some crazy guy was following me around the store because i told him i'd buy him a Rockstar Energy Drink to keep him off the drugs and he wouldn't take money instead because "he doesn't drink that alcohol". Of course later he hit me up for $2 for his "alcoholic girlfriend".

If i go back to Madison i'm coming here again.

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Photo of orbitalr0x
4/5  rDev -0.7%

Stopped up here after Dark Lord Day with warriorsoul, goodbyeohio and kmpitz2. Riley's is located right in the downtown of Madison and is even within walking distance from the Great Dane if it's a nice day and you're down for some exercise. We drove over as we figured we'd have plenty of stuff to haul back. Located right on a corner, Riley's has a huge sign ya can't miss and a little parking lot in front. We got a spot easily and I dunno why some many people hate on the size of the in Chicago we're happy to see ANY parking lot at all!

Upon entering we made our way to the right side of the store where there's a huge cooler with a myriad of singles from Viking, New Glarus, Capital, Lake Louie, Central Waters, Smuttynose, Tyranena, Bell's, Three Floyds and more. Singles seemed bit a pricey but you did get 10% of any mixed sixer. There were also lots of the new 750ml Sprecher stuff, DFH Golden Shower, White Winter. Go further back to the back wall of the store and you'll find a good selection of sixers from all the local brewers. I snagged a sixer of Old Chub here as well. Overall, a nice mix of brews and you're pretty sure to find something you'll want to leave with.

Service was friendly, I believe fellow BA Skidz was the one helping us. He took the time to look in the back and found some NG Tailwagger Barleywine for warriorsoul to take back home with him, which was really cool. Overall, this is a nice little bottle shop in Madison, however it does seem to be a bit more expensive than some of the other locals. If you're visting the Great Dane there's really no reason you shouldn't run in here as well!

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Photo of BuckeyeNation
4.2/5  rDev +4.2%

Riley's is a great place to buy good beer and is the obvious choice in the downtown Madison area. It's also the place that my 'Madison connection' purchased the Bitter Woman that has kept me happy as a clam over the past several years. Sadly, he's moved to another city, so if anyone else is interested in traveling between Des Moines and Madison every few weeks... no, I didn't think so.

Believe what everyone says about access and parking. I had no trouble getting a parking spot on a Saturday morning (most of the campus was probably sleeping off their Friday night of Memorial Day weekend revelry), but getting in and getting out was awkward. It'd be a stretch to say that I came close to getting into fender benders on both occasions, but there was a lot of stopping and starting and waving going on. No raised digits though.

Don't avoid the back wall even though the coolers look like they contain nothing but macros. There are a handful of good sixers and a few imports back there that are worth a look. The mother lode is along the right hand wall in coolers and shelves. Riley's is the place to come if you want the really good Wisconsin beer in singles. New Glarus, Tyranena, Great Waters and Lake Louis are all well-represented. I saw quite quite a few bombers from Three Floyds, Avery, etc. as well.

This was my second biggest haul after Woodman's, but was probably of better quality overall. Woodman's had the advantage of coming sooner on my itinerary. I picked up Fantome Automne, N'Ice Chouffe and few other Belgian 750s, as well as Bitter Woman From Hell (which I'd also seen at my previous stops), 3F Rabbid Rabbit... too many to list. It's a tough call, but Riley's just might be my favorite Madison beer store.

I'm sure that the people who work there know their stuff, though I really had no need to find out. The guy who checked me out communicated in grunts and nods (and probably wished that he'd had the opporutunity to sleep off his Friday night), but helped me carry the beer out to my car. I'll give service the benefit of the doubt since I trust the opinions of the BAs who go there on a regular basis.

Riley's Wines is yet another 'must stop' in Madison. If you're looking for great Wisconsin beer in sixers and singles, this is the place to come. If I had had a store like this when I was in college (and if I had been into craft beer), I doubt that I would have graduated on time since a significant portion of my student loan would have been poured down my throat. Worth a trip from Iowa.

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Photo of rhoadsrage
3.85/5  rDev -4.5%

I was in Madison for work at the capital and it was in walking distance. I was interested in lots of good local beers and they did not let me down. I am a big fan of singles, 12 oz., bombers, or 750ml it doesn't matter. They had a great selection that was about 2 cooler doors full of local singles.

When I got to the parking lot it was small but if it gets full wait 5 minutes and you can get a spot. It is lots of college kids buying everything from kegs of the Beast to wines with trendy logos. Inside they have a medium size space with stairs to the wine loft. The beer coolers of to the right was all that I was concerned with. The have good regional beers with some Belgian, English and California beers.

I was happy to find lots of local along with the East cost beers that are afraid to sell in Illinois. If you buy a 6-pack you get a discount on the singles so I had to buy in several 6-packs.

The Tuesday night I was in there it was pretty busy so the employees didn’t have time make rounds through the isles they were all working at the cash registers, but they were friendly enough.

If you are downtown and having a good time at the Great Dane make sure to get to Riley's for some good local brews to take home.

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Photo of goodbyeohio
4.15/5  rDev +3%

interesting shop to say the least. i see people complain about the parking.. well, it's in a city. at least there IS a lot and little to no parallel parking is required. could be alot worse! regardless, the place is hard to miss with expansive signage. on our trip, the facade was accented by a crackhead lady out front screaming into a cell phone (always a nice touch).

the store itself has beer divided into two areas. coolers and shelving on the right wall, and coolers and stacks in the rear left on an elevated platform. place even carries a slight assortment of brewerania- glassware, hats and tees. everything from singles to sixpacks, kegs and cases are available here.

selection was decent. lots of imports but i was here primarily for midwestern stuff. this place stocked all of the sprecher 1L limited bottles, all bell's including the wheat series, central waters stuff, pretty much everything by lake louie and a great selection of new glarus including unplugged series beers. the opportunity to purchase from a large range of refrigerated singles was great for someone like me who would be 'carrying on' my beer treasures when i fly home. sixers would be lost on me as i wanted to try a large variety of stuff.

prices.. eh. $19 for sprecher barleywine and $4 for fish tale 10? sounds slightly on the pricey side to me.

the service was really good during my visit. i believe the young lad assisting me was BA skidz (not 100% though). i told him i didn't know much about LOCAL local stuff. he looked through my basket, gave honest opinions on my purchases, and filled it out with some things i just couldn't leave without trying. i consulted with the other guys i was with who agreed he had suggested quality items. also, another member of our group wanted a certain out-of-stock beer that he went searching for in the back and actually found. A for effort and knowledgeability.

all this, and you can walk from great dane on a nice day. recommended.

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Photo of DaPeculierDane
4.15/5  rDev +3%

Riley’s has some tremendous ups and some pretty hefty downs. I’ll start with its weaker points.


1. Location: They have 4 parking spots, 6 if you’re really clever, and 7 if you count the handicap spot. They are located on a bizarre corner between a bunch of busy streets so actually getting into their parking lot is really hard. They are located mid-State Street so there are no parking ramps near by to park in and walk from.

2. Prices: Prices are a little hit but mostly miss. Some singles are priced ridiculously high. Six packs have the collage campus surcharge on them so they're all a buck or two higher than most places.


1. Great selection of Belgian imports.

2. Best singles selection in town. A 10% discount if you buy 6 bottles helps relieve the aforementioned high prices.

3. Solid service. They even have a BA or two working there. I’m always complemented for buying good brews. That makes me feel special.

4. Tons of Saison and Geuze.

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Riley's Wines of the World in Madison, WI
4.03 out of 5 based on 86 ratings.
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