Midwest Interest / Travel / Food and Drink


Wisconsin's Best Breweries and Brewpubs
Searching for the Perfect Pint
Robin Shepard

Here is a sample review of a brewpub from Robin's book.


J. T. Whitney's, on Madison's west side, appeals to people looking for a quiet business lunch or a break from the nearby shopping malls. It not only attracts these patrons but also provides a warm and inviting neighborhood feeling that encourages you to stop by to catch a Sunday afternoon football game or shoot pool with a friend. Whitney's is the kind of place that you want to keep coming back to on a regular basis—even if you don't live on Madison's west side. It just feels like your neighborhood Wisconsin tavern.

The interior has an open plan, but tall booths provide privacy. The brew-pub features a private party room, while the main barroom has a stage, and when the mood arises a few tables are moved to expand the dance floor.
Whitney's hosts live music, which has included Thursday evenings of swing music, complete with dance instructors. The bar is large and square and serves patrons on three sides. With a mug club of more than five hundred
members, you find most mugs hanging above the bar several rows deep. The brewing room is located behind big windows, and you almost always see the brewmaster working on his next batch.

J. T. Whitney's has one of the most active beer lists of any Wisconsin brewpub. It is common to find six to eight house beers on tap, plus root beer and cream soda. The regular lineup of beer will include at a minimum the Goldenshine, Badger Red Ale, and Black Diamond Porter.

J. T. Whitney's prominently displays a number of its medals from beer festivals on the north wall of the restaurant. There are also framed articles about the pub. One of the more entertaining displays features the work of artist Dennis Schmidt. In the hallway leading to the rest rooms you'll find a number of his caricatures of bar patrons. Who knows, if you spend enough time out here, you might find your own mug shot on the wall.

Various restaurants and bars have occupied the building that houses J. T. Whitney's. Named after the major street in front of the brewpub, J. T. Whitney's was established in 1995. Brewmaster Richard Becker helped establish the brewing operation in 1996. Becker's family has a rich history in brewing. Many generations ago, in 1590, his ancestors opened the Mahrs Brau brewery in Bamberg, Germany, and it remains in the family. Today his uncle owns it. Becker's craft usually keeps six to eight beers on tap, but over a year he'll tackle American, British, and German ales that add variety to the list. Becker takes great pride in traditional German wheat beers. His Heartland Weisse won a silver medal at the 1997 World Beer Championships. Owner David Bookstaff is a fixture at the pub. You can expect to see him pitching in behind the bar or even busing tables. For me it's a mark of a great brewpub for the owner to come over to the table and even sit down for a few minutes to chat! Some folks might be a little intimidated by this, but I really like the friendly touch and attention to customers' needs. Bookstaff grew up around beer enthusiasts in Milwaukee, where he gained an early appreciation for good beer. He's also one of the more knowledgeable beer history buffs and industry insiders you'll meet.


Badger Red Ale Your Ranking ________
J. T. Whitney's signature beer. A light hoppy aroma with a reddish bronze color. Medium bodied and very smooth. The pleasant balance of the malt and hops is slightly favored toward a mild caramel background. The hoppiness is not bitter, but it does offer punchy accent. Winner of a bronze medal two years in a row (1999 and 2000) at the Great American Beer Festival and a silver medal at the 1997 World Beer Championships.

Berliner Honey Weiss Your Ranking ________
A very light, faint, fruity nose. Clear copper color with a thick, soft, white head. Light bodied and very bubbly texture. Strong fruity flavor, with a light sour finish. The fruity acidic tones really stand out.

Bitter Days Your Ranking ________
Very brownish body, with a light, bubbly, off-white head. Sharp and crisp texture. The hoppiness is very distinctive. Starts with a slightly malty flavor, then a clean separation to the bitter hoppiness. A silver medal winner at the 1998 World Beer Championships.

Black Diamond Porter Your Ranking ________
A personal favorite. The Black Diamond is a perfect porter for any time or occasion, but it is especially nice on a snowy Wisconsin afternoon. A dark color, with a bubbly, tan head. A medium body and creamy texture. Hints of coffee and chocolate carefully complement the rich malt body. A silver medal winner at the 1997 World Beer Championships.

Frozen Tundra
Championship Ale Your Ranking ________
Very light flowery nose. A golden, almost bronze color. Medium bodied with a
firm hoppiness and crispness.

Goldenshine Your Ranking ________
J. T. Whitney's lightest ale. A light golden-yellow body. A very light, bubbly, white head. Very little nose, with a thin texture. This is as light as the pub's description indicates. A bronze medal winner at the 1997 World Beer Champi-onships.

Heartland Weisse Your Ranking ________
This Weisse beer is a cloudy yellow with a soft, white head. Its nose is very citrus and fruity. A medium-bodied beer that maintains a fresh crispness. This may not be unique, but just well done and with solid Weisse character. A great introduction to the wheat beer style. A silver medal winner at the 1997 World Beer Championships.

(We can't tell you everything about all the beers on this brewpub, or the many other fine brewpubs, but we will try to add more brewpub samples as we can. Check out this space for updates and changes.)

J. T. Whitney's offers standard pub fare along with a few traditional pub favorites, such as Scotch eggs-hard-cooked egg coated with pork sausage, breaded, deep fried, then served with J. T. Badger Red Ale Mustard. The menu stresses soups, salads, and sandwiches. About a dozen different sandwiches make choosing difficult. The standard cheeseburger is a half-pound burger topped with four different cheeses. The prime rib sandwich is open faced and topped with fried onions and mozzarella cheese. Whitney's has homemade vegetarian pizzas-the artichoke heart and the Triple Delight stress Wisconsin cheeses.

A favorite dinner entree is Raspberry Ribs, glazed with a combination of whole raspberries and smoky barbecue sauce. The grilled tuna steak and the walleye fillets also won't disappoint you. When choosing a side dish for your entree, consider Ugly Potatoes—stewed, smashed baby reds mixed with onions, cheese, and butter. The daily lunch specials are truly special, and while they do change from time to time, historically Wednesday is meat loaf day and Friday brings the all-you-can-eat fish fry. Both dishes are two of the best in Madison.

J. T. Whitney's is near several shopping areas, a golf course, and a driving range and miniature golf park. It is located one block north of the Beltline (Highways 12 and 14), at the northwest corner of Odana Road and Whitney
Way in the Whitney Square Shopping Center. A Madison Metro bus stop and transfer point is nearby.


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September 2001
328 pp.   6 x 9
66 illus., 1 map    
ISBN 0-299-17444-1   
Paper $24.95 t

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Updated January 14, 2008

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