• Dennis O'Hagan

Mad Paddle Brewery: A Worthwhile Stop While In Indiana's Secret Music Capital

On the second day of my long Hoosier weekend I traveled down from Indianapolis to a river town on the Indiana/Kentucky border called Madison. It was a pleasant drive, as the corn fields of central Indiana gave way to rolling hills as I approached Kentucky... and the weather was perfect for a drive through winding hilly roads.


I had never heard of Madison, Indiana before but was very pleasantly surprised. On the map it was just a little dot on the Ohio River, roughly halfway between Louisville and Cincinnati, far away from any major interstates, and I expected it to be a little rural town of unremarkable character, like so many of the other little dots on the map. Much to my surprise, it was actually quite gorgeous, with huge stately colonial and Victorian homes not only along the riverfront but through an unexpectely long and vibrant Main Street. As it turns out the town is actually a tourist destination, most notably due to a big regatta they host each summer.

Mad Paddle Brewery – Madison, IN

http://madpaddle.com

The brewery's products are available primarily via the taproom (served or to-go), and in very limited capacity at select drinking establishments and restaurants in the Madison area.Played: 8/7/20

The Main Street runs parallel to the river, maybe four blocks up, and the Mad Paddle Brewery sits between the two in one of the area's oldest buildings. The brewery itself has been open for about two years and consists of the brewery, a taproom, and a beer garden, and is in the middle of major expansion... making way for an events venue as well as a distillery.


On the night I played Mad Paddle the mayor was on hand and we chatted for a bit. One of his flagship initiatives is to put Madison on the map as a major stop for live music (like an Austin of the Midwest), and they bill themselves as the music capital of Indiana. This was nice to hear, it's rare that a mayor much less an entire town embraces music (or any or the arts) to try to build their reputation and commerce around, but at this point I think it's a little premature. I had never heard of Madison as a common stop, and I when I got home I asked some of my other touring musician friends and they hadn't either.... but it's cool that they have the goal, and hopefully they'll get some momentum. Perhaps try hosting a couple of big music festivals when we're eventually allowed to have them again...


The other thing that was happening on this night that I played was they were test-launching their new pizza kitchen, which featured stone ovens and really unusual (and awesome) pizzas... like Thai Chicken Pizza, a Creole pizza, etc. The pies I sampled were all unorthodox, and all fantastic. Like really, really fantastic.


It was a lovely night to play in the beer garden, and the crowd filled the space (safely distanced, etc.) and overflowed into the street all night. Another very appreciative and enthusiastic crowd, which is something I love about playing in smaller towns... the crowds just seem to show more love.


Playing outdoors on an August evening, I started with a thirst quencher option first, and got a little darker as the night went on. My first brew was the Wicked Blueberry Blonde Ale (4.5%), which was their standard blonde ale brewed with blueberries for a special limited run. I'm told it was extremely popular, and for good reason. The foundation blonde ale was quite good with a medium to light body, utilizing German pilsner and wheat malts and the blueberry just enough to give you that refreshing little push that only fruit can do, and just hit the spot wonderfully. A beer you could easily drink all night.


There were several pale ales on tap, and I tried them all, and they were all quite good. Well balanced and crisp, some leaning more towards the floral and citrusy, one more towards the piney, but none of them overdone or obnoxiously hoppy.


Their M3 Cream Ale (4.9%) was an interesting find, as I had just had a conversation with someone about how cream ales were a thing when we were in high school (Mickey's bigmouths, Little Kings, etc.) and seemed rather absent from most craft brewery menues... and here was one at Mad Paddle. Smooth and easy drinking with a body that gives you just a little more somethin' than your average American pilsner or lager, it was a pleasant surprise. Named after their previously mentioned live music initiative, I think this one was not only named after but also supported the city's program.

I'm a little frustrated because there was another beer I drank, and their GM was quite proud of it and wanted me to be sure to mention it as it was just tapped... but I lost my note on it, and Mad Paddle has no mention of it on their website, so I guess it's not that big of a deal.... I just wish I remembered more about it, because it was good and worth mentioning (but according to their website, if current, it's not currently on tap... so I guess it's moot).


Mad Paddle, and Madison as a whole, was just further proof as I've mentioned so many times before on this tour that venturing off the more common path to discover the little secrets hidden beyond where most others look is almost always worth the effort. The town was a little haven not too far from home that I would visit again, and the brewery (and new pizzaria) are definitely worth the stop.

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