Harvest Evasion 2016 in Madison WI, Day Four: Brunch, Beer and Botanicals … and mustard, too.


It was Sunday in Wisconsin’s state capital, and another drop-dead gorgeous autumn day.

Well, they’re better here than in my beer.

Following the morning hyper-caffeination ritual at Barriques, the coffee shop and wine bar located a mere minute away from our residence, we retrieved the car and drove north on Park to University Avenue, and then due west to the Great Dane Hilldale for a brewpub brunch, as detailed here:

All hail Sunday: Liquid brunch at Great Dane Hilldale, liquid lunch at Capital Brewery.

Capital Brewing’s beer garden wasn’t yet open on arrival, so there was time for a walk, which brought us to an attraction we’d missed during previous visits, the National Mustard Museum (founded 1986).

No visit to Southern Wisconsin and the Madison Area is complete without spending some time in Middleton … the home of the internationally infamous National Mustard Museum. Some call it the “Condimental Divide”. It’s where thousands of mustard enthusiasts each year leave those ketchup-eaters at the pass, and reach the summit of mustard love at the Mustard Museum.

The centerpiece collection at the Museum is an ever-growing display of prepared mustards, currently more than 5,566 jars, bottles, and tubes from all 50 states and more than 70 countries. Also on display are hundreds of items of great mustard historical importance, including antique mustard pots, mustard tins, vintage mustard advertisements, and assorted mustard memorabilia.

It’s a fun place with mustard and puns in equal measure, and the admission is free. How I failed to purchase a Poupon U. sweatshirt is a complete mystery.

After beers at Capital, it was time to visit the Olbrich Botanical Gardens, an experience enhanced immeasurably by the gorgeous weather.

Stroll 16 acres of outdoor gardens featuring stunning landscapes and Midwest-hardy plants. Visit the tropics in the Bolz Conservatory, filled with exotic plants, flowers, orchids, birds, and a waterfall. Outdoor Gardens are free and open daily.

Still stuffed with brunch, I thought to investigate a brewpub of recent vintage called Next Door, and it was solid. We enjoyed beers and nibbles, and there’s more here:

A couple of beers at Next Door Brewing Company in Madison, Wisconsin.

By now it was mid-afternoon. The plan was to rest, eat dinner relatively early and pack for the drive back while watching the second presidential debate. I decided to walk down to Rockhound for one last beer:

How Rockhound Brewing’s smoked hop pale ale and the Super Bowl in the year 2000 connect in my cranium.

A final memorable meal came at Ramen Station, yet another top quality restaurant within a short walk of our Airbnb. Returning to home base, the debate had just started, and watching it was the single worst decision we made on the trip.

Early Monday morning at 5:45 a.m., the seven-hour drive commenced to a New Albany street grid mercifully returned to its normal configuration. Spending the weekend in Madison made for my favorite Harvest Homecoming ever, an evasion I hope we’ll be able to repeat in future years.

If you can’t beat the 800 lb. gorilla … then run away.