The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company was established by college friends Eliot Butler and Rob LoBreglio. The two dreamed of starting a Brewpub that offered many varieties of house-brewed ales and lagers and hearty made-from-scratch pub fare to accompany the beers. The original Downtown location opened in November 1994 and became the first brewery to operate in the city of Madison since the closing of the Fauerbach Brewery in 1966. The Great Dane’s revitalization of Madison’s brewing industry also marked a new beginning in the fascinating history of The Fess Hotel property. In the 1850s George and Anna Fess opened a hotel, livery, and eatery on Doty Street (then called Clymer Street), a business that was to stay in family hands for over one hundred years. The Victorian cream brick half of the building was erected in 1883, while the Queen Anne pressed brick side, originally built in the 1850s, was remodeled to its present appearance in 1901. Both portions of the structure are among the finest examples of their architectural styles in Madison.
In 1973 an ambitious renovation of the property began; upstairs hotel rooms were converted into office suites, the Fess Restaurant began its twenty-year run of fine dining and the building was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. In June 1994 the Fess restaurant ended operations, the property was sold, and The Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company had found its home.
The 1994 remodeling established a new but classic look for the fess Hotel building’s interior space; the main bar room with a rich mahogany bar and an outstanding view of the brewing process, the dining room with restored brickwork, and the Rathskellar bar with original stone walls are all unique spaces to enjoy the Great Dane’s hand-crafted beers and fresh, hearty pub fare. The secluded, arboreal garden updated with real brick pavers and dramatic lighting has garnered annual awards for best outdoor dining in Madison.
In 1996, The Great Dane expanded into the adjoining space at 203 King Street, a former antique shop on the corner of Doty and King streets. Four Brunswick billiard tables, newly crafted booth seating, hand-crafted shuffleboard, and a raised lounge area, and gift shop are some of the new amenities the “pool hall” offers- along with additional brewery space that allowed The Great Dane to expand the number of beers styles available at any time. In a famous 2002 match, professional billiards great Janette Lee, aka “The Black Widow”, soundly defeated Great Dane president Eliot Butler despite his home table advantage.
The combination of historic ambiance, award-winning food and brewery products, and caring, attentive service, has made the downtown Great Dane Pub Madison’s most award-winning restaurant. We invite you to return again and again, each time discovering something new to love about the downtown Great Dane Pub-because something new is always brewing…