A transformation has turned a cinder-block building with poor lighting into the Madison area’s newest destination for craft beer lovers.
Shades of blue and orange brighten the walls, along with LED lighting. The tables, some of them communal with seating for eight or more, are made from wood reclaimed from a silo at Stevens Point Brewery. The stainless steel three-barrel brewhouse and accompanying tanks further add to the atmosphere.
But veteran brewmaster Keith Symonds wants to make sure that the food at Next Door Brewing Co., 2439 Atwood Ave., isn’t overlooked. Symonds is adamant that the food complement the beer he makes and that the beer pair well with the entrees prepared by chef Kevin Rikli, who has worked at Captain Bill’s, Tempest Oyster Bar and Nostrano.
“I’ve always thought that beer and food belong together,” Symonds said. “Everything I’m doing in terms of designing beers is designing beers that are meant to be served with food. If it was just about beer, I’d have opened a microbrewery and not a brewpub.”
Still, Symonds isn’t complaining about the 2,000 pints of beer sold during the brewpub’s opening weekend, which began Friday with a soft opening that drew in brewmasters from around the region. When the doors opened on Saturday to the general public, the 4,700-square-foot business was packed from an hour after opening until almost closing time, he said.
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Work on the $400,000 project began in March, but planning the project has been years in the making. Symonds and general manager Pepper Stebbins met while Stebbins was tending bar at the Great Dane at Hilldale, and they began forming plans for a brewpub.
But the project took off last fall when they responded to an ad posted on ProBrewer.com by Crystal and Aric Dieter, who dreamed of opening a brewpub and had just returned from a vacation to Corvallis, Ore., where they toured several brewpubs in the region.
Crystal Dieter has a background in restaurant management while Aric Dieter, a UW-Platteville graduate, spent 12 years in management with Cargill but wanted his own business.
“Our business plans, when we met as partners, really kind of came together,” Aric Dieter said. “We all wanted to have local foods and be part of the community. It’s been a really good fit for us. We all had the same vision.”
Behind the L-shaped bar are 11 taps. On Tuesday, four were dedicated to house beers, including WPA pale ale and Wilbur!, a cream ale. Karben4 and House of Brews each had a tap, with two more of Symonds’ beers likely to appear by this weekend. He expects to make up to 600 barrels of beer a year, the vast majority tapped on site.
Further expansion of the brand would likely be a second location, which would maintain the intimacy of the business plan.
“Because we really do want to keep the food and the beer so that they fit together and they are moving together at the same time,” Symonds said.