Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Restaurant Magnus

I'm a beer person. I like wine. I drink wine. I appreciate wine. But, I like beer. And, I really like good beer. And, good beer with good food is, or can be, just as good of a match as wine, if not better because of the huge diversity in styles. But, it's frustrating to go to a high end restaurant that clearly spends a lot of time on its wine list, but serves Amstel Light and Guinness as its imports.

With that said, for a variety of reasons I was at Restaurant Magnus on Monday night. I won't go into the details of the restaurant (the food was good, the service was fine). But I'll just focus on the beer list, which was surprisingly decent.

If you go out to their website you will see a part of this list. What immediately struck me was how reasonable the prices were. I was expecting to be gouged, like $7/bottle gouged. But that isn't the case. Even for the bomber and 750ml sizes, the prices were reasonable. Rogue Chipotle will retail for about $6/bottle or so and is a modest $8.75 at the restaurant. I almost went with the Victory Golden Monkey Tripel to go with my Seared Lamb Loin, but instead settled for the Ommegang Hennepin. It paired very nicely with the Spanish Cheese plate and the Lamb; its subtle carbonation and clean tastes acted almost as a palate cleanser. And its subtle yeasty fruitiness really accentuated the flavors of the cheeses.

My only disappointment was that they did not actually have the Jolly Pumpkin that is shown on the website. The seasonal tap handle is the Autumnal Fire. They also have Spotted Cow and Lake Louie's Premium on tap. It would be nice to see some creativity here; Spotted Cow in a bottle is fine, but why not rotate all three taps seasonally? Quite frankly, they probably don't go through enough beer there to justify it is my guess.

I do like the local focus of the taps. It would be easy to put the Delerium Tremens on tap. Or even the Franziskaner or Guiness. But they keep the taps for the locals which is great. It would be greater if there was actually some diversity to show off some of the locals a little more. (secret: if you really want some of these "show-off" locals, head over to Natt Spiel, which has some common ownership with Magnus, located at 211 King Street)

The bottle list is fine and I love that they sell PBR (not listed on the website, but is on the list) for $2. The bottle list could be updated a little better for the seasons as well. And, it could use a little more creativity. With their meat selections and rustic fare, a good selection of smoked beers might be nice; New Glarus has a Rauch that came out yesterday, November 6, and the Schlenkerla smoked beers would pair very well with just about anything they offer.

Interestingly there were some Mexican and South American beers on the list that may not make bad selections. Unfortunately, the selection included Corona instead of a personal favorite Dos Equis, but it also includes the Carta Blanca and Xingu (a Brazilian beer).

All in all the beer list was pretty decent and comprehensive. It could use some rotation and some creativity in the selection, particularly the taps. But I like the focus on local beers and the diversity in the selection. Also, the staff could use some education - when I asked about whether the Jolly Pumpkin was available, I was told that their seasonal tap had changed and they now had Autumnal Fire. Which, while a true statement, doesn't really answer the question.

And, really, what the hell is up with Amstel Light? Does anyone really think it is a "fancy" beer?


  1. i appreciate their attention to glassware, too. i only ate their once, but the bottle of Bell's Two-Hearted i ordered was presented in a nice tall wheat beer glass with a 1.5 or 2 inch head on top.

  2. Hmmm... I would rather have a 2HA in another kind of glass, but who am I kidding? I'd lap the stuff off the floor.

    Oh, and big, big ups to Natt Spil from my corner. My favorite restaurant in Madison, and the tap selection is one reason why.

  3. Magnus and its siblings the Weary and Natt are three of my favorite spots. The bros that run those places do a great job and always provide some fine beers. Jolly Pumpkin beers were available in mass a year or so ago there but I haven't seen them in a while. They were priced really well and I enjoyed a few along side oysters or a xinxim stew. Above all else at Magnus, I recommend the Batida. It's a Caiprinha served up with tremendously tart passion fruit liquor.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.