Story by Julie Campbell
Once upon a time, the southern Indiana town of Madison was known as one of the premier brewing cities west of the Alleghenies, crafting great beer in its four breweries until 1918. Then Prohibition hit, and the result was a 100-year drought in a city that ironically houses the oldest standing brewery building in Indiana.
But this boozy fairy tale has a happy ending. Following the century-long drought, Madison breweries made a long-awaited comeback starting in 2018, and the brew scene is shaping up quite nicely.
Mad Paddle Brewery owner, Jerry Wade, was the catalyst and knight-in-shining armor leading the revival.
“Opening a brewery was not on my radar screen at all,” he says.
“I was looking for a small town to retire in, and while looking for houses, I stumbled on a building that was the oldest brewery in the state. Lightning hit me in the head, and I thought, ‘Why not bring beer back to Madison?’”
The Indianapolis native and Ball State alumni put his business and marketing skills to work and eventually transformed a late 1800s feed mill into a hip microbrewery. Mad Paddle boasts the largest outdoor patio in the city of Madison and also features trivia nights on Thursdays and live acoustic music every Sunday afternoon from 4 to 6 p.m.
“The name ‘Mad Paddle’ is a tribute to the feed mill and its paddle bucket system that carried the grain from the basement to the roof,” Wade explains.
At any given time, the 21-and- up microbrewery and tap room features 12 total taps – six are Mad Paddle’s own with the remaining six as rotating guest taps. Beer lovers have rated Mad Paddle number 1 out of 200 microbreweries in the state on the app “Untappd,” and Wade is pleased as punch, or… beer.
“We brew a new beer about every two weeks,” Wade says. “My favorite is always changing, but if I had to pick one, I’d say it’s the Wicket Blonde, our first beer we ever brewed. After a 100-year absence, I brought a brewery back on the 100-year anniversary – to see people come from Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio and other states to a brewery when I wasn’t even from the beer industry – that’s gratifying.”
Up on Madison’s hilltop, another brewery has emerged – the New Madison Brewing Company, which opened in May of 2019. After home-brewing for nearly a decade, chief executive manager Nick Privette was convinced by his friends Daryl Hardesty (chief operating manager) and Chris Bratten (brand manager) to open a taproom. Featuring a current list of six large batch beers made using their 10-barrel system and names like Chocolate Coffee Stout and Raspberry Wheat, there are plenty of brews for beer lovers to enjoy.
With three beautiful locations listed on the Indiana Wine Trail, the winery scene is also flourishing in Madison.
Near the edge of town on quiet Mill Street, Lanthier Winery is Madison’s oldest winery. Surrounded by beautiful gardens reminiscent of the French countryside, Lanthier is a tourist destination, not only for its wine, but also for its gardens and art. Madison native and nationally recognized painter Eric Phagan was the first artist to complete a painting for Lanthier’s Garden of Art, which the winery’s master gardener Tami Hagemier calls “an interactive, educational fine art experience.”
Another artsy winery on the wine trail is the Thomas Family Winery & Rustic Bakery, downtown on 2nd Street. Located in an 1850s stable and carriage house, the art inside this winery is of the culinary nature – artisan breads in particular, with flavors such as sun-dried tomato focaccia royale, jalapeño- jack, rosemary-olive and sourdough raisin. Hand-crafted traditional wines and old-world ciders are made on site. And, chances are if you visit the winery on a weekend, you’ll probably hear some live music – from Celtic and bluegrass to mountain and modern folk.
Located five miles from the Ohio River on the outskirts of Madison is Madison Vineyards Estate Winery and Bed & Breakfast. With 40 acres of vineyards, the winery focuses on producing award-wining wines from the grape varieties grown in its own rich, well-drained soil. Dedicated to the re-birth and revitalization of Ohio River Valley wine growing, this family-owned winery offers free wine tastings on a large deck overlooking their vineyards and invites guests to utilize its scenic picnic area when weather permits.
In 2005, the winery built a bed & breakfast to accommodate guests who wanted a taste of the winery lifestyle. Guests are welcome to walk the trails through the vines and attend private tastings and tours while taking in the beautiful sunsets the Madison countryside has to offer.