In Search of the Great American Beer Hall

Fodor’s has published a brief—and flawed—report on the five best places in America to drink American beer.

Wisconsinites like myself can be counted on to have opinions on three things: beer (we’re pro), cheese (ditto), and the Packers (“pro” is an understatement, even in a rough season like 2005). Not surprisingly, I think Fodor’s has fallen down on the job, and not in a good, beer-related way.

They’ve overlooked two very different beer-associated places with very similar names that indicate a common tie to the German rathskeller tradition.

The first is the Brickskeller of Washington, DC, which boasts the world’s largest beer list. With more than 500 kinds of beer on the menu, it’s a claim that carries serious weight. Skipping the Brickskeller, an American beer hall of Norse-god proportions, is a borderline-criminal oversight. Sure, they’re internationalist in the best possible way, but you can’t fight the fact that their list boasts an overwhelming pile of excellent domestic brews.

The second is the UW-Madison Rathskeller. You have to know Madison to know the Rathskeller, so this particular oversight is understandable. But if you’ve ever had one of its house brews (or something wonderful by the New Glarus Brewing Company) in its cavelike, dark-wood-appointed and stein-decorated interior, you truly know what great beer drinking is all about.

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