Sunday, June 24, 2012

Madison Brewing Co. Pub and Restaurant (Bennington, VT)

Madison Brewing Co.©
Madison Brewing Co. Pub and Restaurant is my kind of place; simple, tasty food, good beer, and a great atmosphere.  My younger step-sister just graduated from Bennington College, and since I was not able to be there, I took her out to dinner in celebration; this was where she chose for us to go, and I can assure you, if she took nothing else away from her college experience, Madison Brewing Co. was well worth the cost of tuition.

Madison offers six year round beers, ranging from a Scottish style ale to a Belgian witbier, along with two "seasonal" beers.  I had the Old 76 Strong Ale, which lives up well to its name; it is a strongly flavored, heavy beer, though lacking the hops that I would have expected.  The beer was not special, but certainly much better than and of the mass produced options, and held up well against even some of the British ales I've had.  This is certainly a beer I can recommend to anyone who finds themselves in Bennington.

Despite being a brewpub, the food was really where Madison shines.  I had the bangers and mash dinner, and the mashed potatoes were fantastic; creamy, rich, with good texture but not so much as to be chunky.  The gravy was heavy and filling, with large slices of cooked onions in it, and while it had its own richness, it did not overwhelm either the potatoes or the sausages.  The bangers themselves, however, were a little disappointing at first; they are not really bangers, but more of a standard pork sausage, and once I got over the disappointment that they were not what I had had in England, I really enjoyed them.  They were extremely porky, which is pretty much my first requirement for a sausage (I have had good beef, chicken/turkey, and fish sausages, but let's be real:  sausages should be pork), with just enough fat to keep them moist but not so much as to feel heavy or greasy, and went well with both the potatoes and gravy.  The last thing on the plate was a small heap of apple chutney, which was an extremely sweet, but welcome addition, with the apples maintaining their crunch to provide a nice contrast to the primarily soft remainder of the platter.

Along with the bangers and mash, Madison offers a pretty great selection of traditional pub food, such as fish and chips (on Wednesdays it's all you can.  Seriously, this place was founded with me in mind), meatloaf, burgers (including bison and venison burgers), and wings, along with less traditional fare including a daily ravioli special, tortellini alfredo, and chicken scalopini.  The smoked gouda mac and cheese sounds pretty damn good too.

Now, I don't normally eat dessert, partially because I'm trying to convince myself I'm eating semi-healthy, but mostly because I just tend to be disappointed by it.  When offered apple pie with a pecan topping/crust, however, that whole "healthy" thing goes out the window, especially when the waitress (who was one of the best I've had in a while; friendly without being cloying, attentive without being intrusive or annoying) insists that it must be eaten warm and a la mode, and boy was she right.  First off, they use good ice cream; this was not that bleached looking "vanilla" that has no character, but instead more along the lines of Haagen-Dazs' Vanilla Bean (a personal favorite of mine).  Secondly, the pie itself was heavenly; think of the best apple pie you've had, and then try this.  It'll be a close comparison, I can assure you that.  While this may not be the best I've ever, it's damn close, with great texture, sweetness, tartness, and apple flavor that just melds perfectly into an overall fantastic eating experience, and one that reminded me that dessert does not have to disappoint.

Lastly, the aforementioned atmosphere:  the downstairs is small, but not cramped, with a tiny bar (maybe 8 seats, if that) and several tables.  Upstairs is separated into two sections, with an expansive indoor area and a moderately sized outdoor area, that has its own bar (though I don't believe you can sit at it), with about 8 or 9 tables.  We sat outdoors, and it was a really great place to sit, with the perfect (not too hot, but sunny) weather enhancing the already delicious meal.  If you have the option of sitting outside and the weather is nice, take advantage, you will not regret it.


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