Monday, April 20, 2009

Local Bar Review: The Draft House - Verona, WI

The Draft House - Verona, WI

Basically: Don't Bother. Close But No Cigar [ed note: see comments below]
Honest Pint: No
Why: While its beer list is uninspiring, the reason I won't be going back is more food-related. It is not hard to make a hamburger - pretty simple really. So, there's no excuse for a non-fast-food restaurant to not make their own burgers. Cheaping out and using Sysco-ish pre-formed frozen hamburger patties like I would get a high school cafeteria or at a fast food chain is not what I need. If I want that, I'll go to a fast food chain and get a beer at home.

And the beer list doesn't really offer any reason to go, either.

Tap List***: Miller Lite (SABMiller), Bud Light (AB-InBev), Miller High Life (SABMiller), Shock Top Belgian White (AB-InBev), Blue Moon (SABMiller), Capital Amber, Capital Maibock, Leine's Honeyweiss (sic; SABMiller), Leine's Creamy Dark (sic; SABMiller), Leine's Seasonal (sic; SABMiller, I think it was 1888 Bock?), Spotted Cow, Newcastle Brown (Heineken), Anchor Steam (at least it's not Bells), Lake Louie APA, Bass (SABMiller), Guinness (Diageo; corporate home to Guinness, Harp, Red Stripe, Smirnoff, Captain Morgan, Jose Cuervo, and Dom Perignon, among others)

For those counting at home:
South Africa: 7
Belgium/Brazil: 2
Netherlands: 1
Mexico: 1
WI Craft: 4
Non-WI Craft: 1

*** Note: The website lists Ale Asylum Hopalicious, but this wasn't actually on tap, the menu card at the restaurant and the waitress both said Bass instead.

Bottle List: more of the same frankly, without Anchor Steam; the only bottle of interest is the Lake Louie Tommy's Porter (not a single Capital or New Glarus bottle)

So, as you can see - nothing here that you can't get at any other nameless, faceless, distributor-run tap in the world. Anchor Steam is interesting, but not really that interesting. The Lake Louie is nice to see. But, seriously, 16 taps - 4 locals, 3 of which are the same, expected, Capital and New Glarus taps that every bar in greater Dane County has, and Anchor Steam (what's up with that?? at least it's not Bell's I guess).

One craft bottle. One.

Instead of Guinness, why not New Glarus' or Furthermore's Stout? Instead of Newcastle, why not Tyranena's Rocky's Revenge? Instead of Shock-top how about Central Waters' Happy Heron? None of these are even super-premium seasonal beers.

Sadly, they can, and probably do, advertise that they offer "OVER 40 BEERS ON TAP AND IN BOTTLES!!!!!!!! COME SEE OUR HUGE SELECTION!!!!!"

The pricing on the beer was bizarre. Mrs. MBR ordered the Capital Maibock and it was $4.25. I ordered the Lake Louie APA and it was $4.50. I wonder why there is the price discrepancy even among local premiums.


  1. I don't disagree with anything you've written, but I like the Draft House mainly because it's halfway between my place and my parents'. I don't mind swinging by on a Friday afternoon after work and getting a sandwich (never tried the burger, but I do like their Cuban) and a beer. Tap list is as anemic in terms of locals as you mentioned, but they've got Lake Louie and Capital and that basically takes care of me.

    Point is, my folks are not going to come into downtown Madison to meet up for a quick bite. Could they do better? Of course, but for Verona I don't think they do too bad of a job.

  2. Good morning, my name is Mike Franklin and I own the Drafthouse. I just wanted to respond to your review. I would call you by name but I can't figure out who wrote the article. First of all, we do use a Sysco burger that is fresh and never frozen just for your information. We sell alot of them and I happen to think its a pretty good burger. Its not the best one around, but its far from the worst. I personally think that the Riley Tavern and the Village Bar have the best burgers in the area. I happen to be a bar person and I get around to alot of places so I know whats out there. As for our beer selection, it certainly does not qualify as the most unique selection but we put on tap what sells. We are in the business to sell beer and for 5 plus years we have been selling alot of it. If you have a suggestion for a new beer we would love to hear about. Please post a message on our website at and we will certainly look into it. Thank you for your time.

  3. As a faithful customer of the draft house I would just like to point out a few flaws in your review. First of all the beer selection is not correct as of the date posted, I'm not sure what it replaced, but I know Lake Louie has Scotch ale on tap in addition to the APA. New Glarus Fat squirrel is available in bottles. There are a few other incorrect portions in your review, but the craft segment seems to be your main focus of the article. The owner made a great comment, he caters to the people the frequent his establishment and to the tastes they enjoy. The burgers aren't of the caliber of the Blue Moon bar or The Oakcrest, but they sure taste great compared to a lot of the other burgers you can get around town. I hope people don't pass a great establishment by based on one review from one person's review...of which we don't even know who that person is. It is a great establishment that offers fun for all in many areas of restaurant and bar entertainment.

  4. Mike and Shawn,

    First, it's not all that hard to figure out who I am (there's a link in the menu system above that tells you all ABOUT me:

    Second, thank you for responding. I certainly understand the compulsion to sell what your customers want. But, I think my point was more that maybe your customers don't know what they want and when you have a tap system with more than enough taps to accommodate both "what they want" and to allow them access to a greater breadth of high-quality, yet still mission-central, beer you've managed to avoid doing that.

    I'm not saying you have to dedicate your entire tapline to crafts - there's plenty of bars that do that - but to offer even 2 or 3 CREATIVE options on a tapline of 16 beers and who-knows-how-many bottles shouldn't be that big of a stretch. How do you know your customers are demanding "Guinness"? Maybe all they're actually interested in having a stout and Guinness is the only brand they know. Or perhaps if a customer DOES say "I'd like a Guinness" a server could simply say "We don't have that on tap, but we do have a stout that is X would you like to try that instead?"

    Third, all of my information was taken from the available literature (the table menus and online menu list) and server knowledge. If none of these are accurate maybe the problem isn't mine.

    But, we can at least issue a correction:

    Crafts on-tap: Capital Maibock, Capital Amber, New Glarus Spotted Cow, Lake Louie APA, Lake Louie Scotch.

    Honestly, it's not that far from being a truly interesting tapline (so, maybe the "basically" statement should have been "close but no cigar" instead of "don't bother") - sub-out two (or more) of four (or more) from a selection of ShockTop/BlueMoon/Guinness/Newcastle with seasonal crafts (Tyranena, Central Waters, Furthermore, O'So, Lakefront, South Shore, Pearl Street, Rush River, Summit, Goose Island, Great Lakes, Bells [lol], Sam Adams, Two Brothers, New Holland, Dark Horse, etc. etc. etc.) and it's a pretty interesting tapline - though perhaps still off the mark from the gold standard at Dexter's.


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