Madison's Capital Brewery & a Fish Fry

Several times before, I've mentioned that May is a great time to embark on an adventure... be it a weekend or even longer.

I like the month of May, cold as it sometimes may be here in the Midwest. May brings back a verdant green to the landscape and chases the harshness of winter blues back to the depths of one's memory, replaced by the hopes for mellow breezes and warmth to return.

In addition, schools are still in session and the roads have not yet filled with the traffic of summer vacation. And so, with a bit of advance planning, great adventures are available at many locations that are not much farther away than a tank-full of gasoline will carry you and return you home again.

Capital Brewery

We left Geneva, Illinois at about 10:00am on a Friday morning; just over two hours later we checked in to the Hilton Garden Inn, located in Middleton -- a bit west of Madison.

Capital Brewery

A requested early check-in helped give us the additional time we had needed to unwind a bit in the hotel's spa before we headed out for a tour of the Capital Brewery, just a quick 5-minute drive from the hotel. Capital was founded on March 14, 1984 in a building that housed a former egg processing plant and produced its first beer in the spring of 1986.

Our smiling, knowledgeable and friendly tour guide Kyle, informed us that Capital was a "craft brewery", meaning that it was relatively small in size, producing about 22,000 barrels annually and distributing to only three states.

Nonetheless, it is referred to, according to their website, as "the finest lager brewery in America. This opinion is supported by the fact that Capital Brewery was named the #1 Brewery in America at the 1998 Beverage Testing Institute's World Beer Championships in Chicago, IL." (If you are a fan of lager beer -- I definitely am -- you will certainly like Capital's beer.)

Old-fashioned copper brewing kettles

The tour itself was fairly short; punctuated with the occasional delivery of pitchers of several of the brewery's beers, it was informative and fun.  Impressively, the place is extremely clean.  My only suggestion would be for Kyle to talk a bit louder, as it was difficult to hear him at times when we were not standing right next to him.  After the tour, we stopped outside at the just-opened Bier Garten -- a great place to enjoy some Friday afternoon libations. 

Capital Brewery Bier Garten

A huge outdoor patio area has room for a crowd and live entertainment is featured every Friday.  Tours, by the way, are only $3 and include a tasting and 3 ounce sample mug to take home!  Kudos to Kirby Nelson, Brewmaster since September 1987 and Ashley Kinart.  Responsible for the fine lager beers produced at Capital, Captial can now boast of up to 16 different beers per year; eight annuals, four seasonals, and up to four limited releases.

In addition to the outdoor Bier Garten, the brewery also houses a Gift Haus (lots of neat clothing and souvenirs) and a Bier Stube -- a cozy room for sampling or for anyone to use for a private party. For more info, contact the Brewery directly at (608) 836-7100 ext 0, or simply visit the website at  The brewery is definitely a must if you are anywhere near the area!

Captain Bill's fish fry

Wisconsin and Fish Frys

Friday in Wisconsin is just not complete without a fish fry, so after returning to the hotel for a change of clothes, we headed out again to find one.  Our selection was located a stones throw from Lake Mendota: Captain Bill's Waterfront Restaurant

We had decided on an early dinner... and it was a good thing.  We waited only about fifteen minutes for a great table with a view of the lake; about twenty minutes later, the place was jammed with diners!  For good reason too, the food was great and the prices were reasonable. 

Our choices included a calamari appetizer, morel-stuffed salmon and a fish fry -- made with Capital Brewery's Wisconsin Amber -- all very tasty and the portions were huge!  Morels were just coming into season and they were an amazing flavor addition to the large piece of salmon. 

Succulent salmon entree with morels

My fish fry consisted of fresh lake perch -- crispy, tender and sweet -- French fries and cole slaw.  Neither of us could finish our entire dinner, so we took the rest with us.  Captain Bill's was a great finish to a long day and I can highly recommend it if you are looking for a restaurant in the Middleton area.

Spring Green & Taliesin

Saturday dawned chilly, windy and a bit cloudy after a storm had blown through, but the outlook for sunshine and lower wind speeds was promising an excellent day for another part of our trek: a tour of Taliesin, the Wisconsin home and studio of Frank Lloyd Wright.

     Taliesen, viewed from the distance

After the tour we enjoyed a light lunch in the Riverview Terrace Cafe; I was overwhelmed, I believe, by what I had seen and felt as I walked though the places that Frank Lloyd Wright himself had walked; the places that he had designed and built; the places that have endured and are being preserved for all to see and appreciate. The Lloyd-Jones family had an interesting motto, and one that I shall remember: "Truth Against the World".

We left Taliesin and headed south, stopping briefly in Monroe for some cheese from Alp and Dell dairy (discovered on a previous excursion to Green County). Back home by 5:00 pm, in plenty of time to prepare dinner, I was amazed at the number of events we packed in to a 36-hour period and roughly one tank of gas.

It was a trek well worth taking, and one that I would recommend you consider. Plans are already in the works for the next trek.

I hope you can join us!

R. Karl

Related Side Trip

Taliesen, viewed from the distance

If you're in the Middleton / Madison area, consider a side trip to Spring Green where Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin is located.

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