The Great Dane at Hilldale Mall is back up and brewing again after a couple months of remodeling. Patrons will find the main bar unchanged, but there is now a second bar and mezzanine in the new half of the building, along with more restaurant seating and an expanded game room complete with pool tables. Like many fans of the brewpub, I decided to venture out to see the new digs. I was also curious about what moving the brewing equipment might mean for the beer, including a new offering named Billiards Brown.
What is it? Billiards Brown from the Great Dane Pub and Brewery at Hilldale Mall.
Style: Brown ales range from deep copper to brown in color. They have middle of the road characteristics, with medium body and a nice balance between maltiness and a low hops profile. The style will generally have more emphasis on the malty flavors, though they are not really sweet; however, some fruity esters are common. These brews range in alcohol content from 4-5.5 % ABV.
Background: Great Dane Hilldale brewer Don Vasa made this beer to commemorate the recent expansion. The brewpub added on over 4,000 square feet of space, and capacity has jumped by nearly 300. This allowed for not only a larger dining area, but billiards tables and a shuffleboard court too. The expansion forced Vasa to move the brewery equipment and shut down brewing through much of February and March. The kettles are up and running again, though, and his first batches are already on tap.
Billiards Brown features seven types of malts along with an intentional timid hoppiness, thanks to the addition of Sladek hops, a variety from the Czech Republic. Vasa describes it as a "good drinking beer, more malty than sweet and low alcohol," one that's 4.75 ABV.
However, Vasa says Billiards Brown has been pretty popular, so much that he's worried he'll run out temporarily before a next batch is ready. He says it will be back for sure in May and remain on tap through the summer. The beer is also available at the Great Dane Duck Blind during Madison Mallards games.
- Aroma: Malty.
- Appearance: Clear, deep copper to bronze with a medium, soft tan head.
- Texture: Medium bodied, very carbonated.
- Taste: Firm malty flavor with a light toffee background.
- Finish/Aftertaste: Malty, caramel flavor with a lingering dryness that builds.
Glassware: The English nonic pint glass with its slight curve near the top will hold the beer's head and allow for a good grip.
Pairs well with: Brown ales are very versatile beers, and pair well with meat no matter if it is roasted, grilled or fried. Slightly sweet dishes, such as the Beer Braised Baby Back Ribs or the 8-ounce cut called Sirloin Concerto with its gorgonzola mashed potatoes are good companions from the Great Dane's menu.
Rating: Three Bottle Openers (out of four).
The Great Dane's Billiards Brown does not have enough ratings to be evaluated by Beer Advocate nor Rate Beer.
The Verdict: The adaptability of Billiards Brown makes it a solid choice for most meal-time visits. While not overly distinctive, its color, body and clean flavor profile make this a favorite for many patrons. There is nothing too special about this brown, but I agree with Vasa's assessment that it is simply a good drinking beer and good with food. Billiards was just the brew for a recent Sunday brunch at the Great Dane Hilldale, adapting with nearly every trip to and from the buffet line.