By Clay Riness —
Last May, Onalaska saw the opening of a new business at 910 2nd Ave. North, a location that’s been the home of a number of restaurants including Nob Hill, The Lighthouse, Seven Bridges, and Seasons by the Lake. New proprietors Steve and Christie Peters made some significant changes to realize their own dream, opening Two Beagles Brewpub.
Steve took a master brewer’s course many years ago, has been a home brewer since the 90s and worked at City Brewery for over 10 years. He then got involved in building brew houses. One evening, he and Christie came to Seasons by the Lake for dinner. “We were sitting outside on the patio watching the fall sun go down and looking at the building, and I told Christie, ‘This will make a really nice brew pub someday.’” The following March, he says, there was a tarp covering the signage. He called the owners and started negotiating a lease immediately.
Two Beagles is a seven-and-a-half barrel brew house, but also features a full bar. On the food side, the pub offers appetizers, soups and salads, burgers and sandwiches, pizzas, pasties (pastry dough stuffed with some combination of vegetables and meats, then baked) and more.
The atmosphere is upbeat and cheerful, and the view facing west is breathtaking as it overlooks Lake Onalaska. “We wanted the focal point to be the river,” Steve explains. “We put the brew house in the back room behind glass, so you can go see it, but the focal point is the outdoor view.”
Christie adds, “We wanted to shift away from the supper club feel. Our customers tell us they really like the changes, that it’s very warm and comforting.”
My wife and I recently took great pleasure in visiting with Steve and Christie as we sampled the pub’s fare.
“We’ll start with a flight of beers,” Steve said. He then brought seven samples of his crafted magic, and we proceeded to taste and discuss the lot. We sipped our way through Chocolate Beagle Amber, a rich ale, followed by a crisp, clean kölsch named Larry (drop by and ask Steve about the name), and a hoppy IPA called Hoppin’ Hare.
Then, for me, the rapture happened when I threw back a taste of Whey Black Beagle, maybe the finest stout I’ve ever enjoyed. Creamy, smooth like satin, with hints of dark chocolate and coffee, my eyes rolled back as I ascended into beer nirvana, if only for a short time.
We then tasted Beaglefest, a full-bodied German-style fest marzen, and Caramel Apple Bock, a lager which is brewed with three kinds of caramel malt and then aged on 100 pounds of locally-sourced Honeycrisp apples. The result is, as Steve describes, crisp and fruity.
And finally, we tried a new brew called Bourbon Barrel Aged Amber, served at room temperature in a small goblet. This stunning elixir is infused with only a small amount of carbonation and is quaffed like a fine cognac. It features a lightly sweet bourbon flavor and, as it turns out, was my wife’s favorite of the day.
As we were enjoying the flight and conversation, Steve saw to it that we were served some of the pub’s amazing food. We sampled the soup of the day, a hearty fish chowder featuring catfish and salmon. One word: Wow.
We were then served a few dishes from the starter menu. The first was the poutine, inspired by a French-Canadian pub grub favorite of french fries and cheese curds covered with brown gravy. Two Beagles’ take is a big kick upward, featuring fingerling potatoes, Ellsworth curds, homemade gravy and cubed, braised beef short ribs. My gosh, if this isn’t comfort food at its finest, I’m not sure what would be. And be aware, the generous portion is probably an appetizer for four, or could easily be a main course for one.
We also sampled the Pig Wings, which are cherry wood smoked pork ribs, braised in craft beer and caramelized in beer syrup. Fall-off-the-bone tender, profound in flavor and slightly sweet, they were pork perfection.
From the burger menu, we tried the Mac & Cheese Burger, with its Angus beef, homemade mac and cheese, American cheese, lettuce and tomato on a grilled bun, a rich, buttery delight.
Lastly, the Short Rib Grilled Cheese is a sandwich that feels heavy in the hand but is so light in the mouth, so tender, that it seems as if you’re biting into air. Two grilled slices of ciabatta bread encase beer-braised short rib slices and melted American and horseradish-chive white cheddar, and the result is simply stunning.
I’ve always loved the term “pub grub” because it conjures the image of true comfort food. But, Two Beagles Brewpub has taken pub grub to a new level. Comfort food? Um, yeah. Innovative, salivation-worthy, five-star cuisine is more like it. And to think, you can enjoy all of that and a lovingly-crafted home brew to suit anyone’s taste. I think the beagle just became my spirit animal.
You can visit Two Beagles Brewpub at 910 2nd Ave. North in Onalaska. For more information, call (608) 519-1921 or visit www.twobeaglesbrewpub.com.