Beer and food lovers should go Next Door

Natalie Conners, Graphic Designer

Madison loves beer. From Miller Lite to Spotted Cow to Hopalicious, there’s brew for everyone, all made in Wisconsin. The city hosts several nationally distributed brewers as well as many locally based and operating brew pubs. Next Door Brewing Company enters Madison’s craft brewing scene with a variety of original beer recipes and a substantial food menu.

The Atwood neighborhood welcomed Next Door with the beginning of fall. According to General Manager Pepper Stebbins, it’s been busy since they opened and is packed even on weeknights.

It’s a smaller space, and to maximize seating opportunities, Next Door uses large tables that can combine several smaller groups. Table for three? How about a table for eight? Here’s five new friends.

A brewpub, by definition, manufactures and sells its own beer on the premises. Next Door houses all of their equipment in customer view. Behind a glass wall there are huge silver drums, connected by lengths of looping copper wire, that ferment barley, hops, and malt.

Patrons relaxing at the bar have a backstage view to their beverages. You can sit and enjoy your beer at the bar or take a growler (one-half gallon jug) back with you.

Next Door Brewing Company always has three house standards on tap, along with seasonal and guest taps. Sevex, Wilbur!, and WPA hold the regular spots.

The WPA, or Wisconsin Pale Ale, uses plenty of Wisconsin malted barley and hops to get a bitterness that is neither too much or too light. The seasonal Eggnog Milk Stout makes for a delightful winter brew, spiced with nutmeg, vanilla beans and bourbon-soaked oak chips.

The kitchen at Next Door aims to create tasty food that goes with the variety of brews. The whole point of a brewpub is to create a comfortable atmosphere where people can talk, eat, and drink. Head Chef Kevin Rikli brings experience from years in the Madison restaurant scene, working at Tempest Oyster Bar, Le Chardonnay, and Nostrano. The result at Next Door? Comfort food made with fine dining expertise and demand for quality.

Next Door’s menu pulls influence from Wisconsin bar menu favorites (corn dogs, Sassy Cow cheese curds, white fish fritters), Brazilian cuisine (veggie tostadas, chimichurri) and includes a variety of hearty sandwiches, salads, soups, and entrees.

I ate lunch there with friends on a weekday afternoon. It was pretty quiet, but a few of the booths were filled. As my friends and I perused the menu, we struggled with decisions on what to try. Vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options were all noted on the menu.

I was tempted by the Wisco Beer Mac-local RP pasta swimming in a medley of Wisconsin melted cheese and smoked ham. But the Veggie Tostada ($8) won me over with avocado argument – I just can’t say no to the green creamy fruit. The chips were fresh and crispy and layered with roasted chili sauce, vegetables, beans, and finished with generous wedges of avocado.

My dining companions and I also sampled the pickle plate ($4), yam crisps ($5.50), and the butternut squash soup ($5/9). Food came quickly and was quickly devoured.

I’d definitely order the yam crisps again: a hot heaping pile of thinly sliced yams ready to be dipped in the accompanying chimichurri sauce. Everything we tried was good, obviously freshly prepared and carefully crafted as a recipe.

The food at Next Door is way above par compared to the standard brewpub fare, and I’ll be back to try more. Next Door Brewing Company is located at 2439 Atwood Avenue.