Hoptellectual: Deconstructing the Pub One Pint at a Time

Midwest Pub Feature : Part Two


aka The Union House Tavern


Walk into a bar and what do you see? Sports playing on a TV above the bartender’s head, waiters and waitresses hustling around with trays of food, a band playing music, or maybe pool tables and dart boards? Most of us think these things are what create the experience of a pub, they create the ambience that keeps us coming back for more, but I was challenged to deconstruct my concept of the pub when I walked into the Malt House on East Washington Ave. in Madison, Wisconsin.

A small, architecturally unexciting building set across from a bleak vacant plot of land a few miles east of downtown, at first glance the Malt House is uninspiring and often overlooked. I hadn’t even heard about it until a group of friends led me there from the bike path on our way home from Ale Asylum. As you walk inside the pub doesn’t grab you in any particular way. The antebellum bar feels out of place in the half-towny, half-Brady Bunch house pub, the lighting is dim, and there is no sign of a flat-screen TV anywhere.

But don’t mistake the simplicity for emptiness because the Malt House is anything, but a ghost town. Once, on a hike with a friend on the North Shore of Lake Superior I stopped at an opening to rest. We sat for a few minutes on the edge of the small pond in complete silence, both of us taking time to just be within ourselves. While we sat, there was a buzz of life: bees flying between flowers, birds descending to the water, insects moving through the soft soil. Sometimes it takes a breath of silence to feel the subtleties of life. Just like that clearing in the woods, there is a quiet energy pulsating throughout the Malt House. All the common staples of today’s bars listed at the beginning of this article are stripped away, leaving the focus on two things: the beer and those sharing your company.

The Malt House preserves this environment of conversation and suds, which the Union soldiers experienced right before reporting at Camp Randall, like a National Park amid the rest of Madison making this pub something special. Not to mention the amazing bottled beer selection and 18 rotating taps which include old Wisconsin brews, Fauerbach and Hausmann.

Exit the Malt House and reenter the world of constant status updates, tweets, and 24 hour news channels, but come back for another brief respite and brew. Find out more information at their bare-bones website.


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