On a recent trip to Fort Wayne to see a couple dealers, I had the chance to stop into the city's first brew pub - Mad Anthony's Brewing Co. - for lunch. I was told by a couple of the locals that the food was just "all right" and I have to admit that while I'm not fond of many of the Mad Anthony beers, I think they're serviceable beers that are all right to drink. But I still wanted to give Mad Anthony's a try at some point.
The concept for Mad Anthony's began in 1995 when friends Todd Grantham - a homebrewer - and Blaine Stuckey - who had restaurant experience working for Chili's and local Fort Wayne music bar/pub Columbia Street West - got together to work on a plan to open their own brewpub. It took three years before the pair found a place in which to put their brewpub, a funky restaurant called the Munchie Emporium. Taking over the restaurant and turning it into a brewpub was no small task, so Grantham called an old college buddy, Jeff Neels, to come in and help run the operation.
Eventually, the brewpub was brewing 2,000 barrels of beer annually. And because it went over so well, they began to expand into other smaller markets near Fort Wayne. The Mad Anthony's location in Auburn - about 30 miles north of Fort Wayne - opened in 2003. A location in Warsaw - an hour west of Fort Wayne - opened in 2006. And a fourth Mad Anthony's opened in Angola in extreme northeast Indiana in 2012.
Mad Anthony bought a building to house a 15,000 barrel-capacity brewing facility and they began to bottle their beers for distribution throughout Indiana. During the course of their history, Mad Anthony's has brewed up to 50 varieties of annual and seasonal beers. As I said, I've bought some of their beer on trips to liquor stores in Indianapolis over the years and I thought they were just all right.
It was around 1 p.m. when I pulled up the original Mad Anthony's location at the corner of Broadway and Taylor just south and west of downtown Fort Wayne (see map). Mad Anthony's is named after Fort Wayne's namesake, Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, who got his nickname - Mad Anthony - for his fiery personality. (Some pundits after the war was over thought that Wayne got his nickname for reckless and wild behavior. History has proved Wayne to be more of a disciplinarian - a somewhat sadistic disciplinarian as you look back. So maybe he was somewhat "mad" using the parlance of the times.) The original Fort Wayne, a garrison built during the Northwest Indian Wars that escalated after the Revolutionary War, was named for Wayne who was named by George Washington as the Commander-in-Chief of the American Army to lead troops in the uprising. That's how Fort Wayne got it's name.
We're gonna have a test on this later in the week...
There's a parking lot in the rear of the Mad Anthony's, but it's not very big. I had to wait for someone to pull out before I could get a slot or I would have been driving around looking for parking on the street near the brewpub. There's two different areas of Mad Anthony's. The main dining room (pictured below) featured the main bar area, a stage area for music, a number of industrial restaurant-style tables and chairs and a handful off booths along the windows. The brewing tanks were visible in a window next to the bar.
The back room (below, left and right) was kind of a kitschy collection of signage, stop lights, faux graffiti on the ceiling and similar tables and booths in the much smaller space. The back room was more cozy and lighthearted.
I took a seat in a booth in the main dining area up front. The main dining room was about half full and starting to wind down from the lunch rush. After a short wait, I was greeted by Tiffany, my server for this visit, who dropped off a menu. She asked me if I wanted anything to drink and I took a quick look at their beer list. I settled on the the Oktoberfest that they still had available on tap, even though it was deep into November.
The menu at Mad Anthony's is typical of most brewpubs - appetizers, soups and salads, sandwiches (including wraps and pita sandwiches) and they also have "gourmet" pizza served in a pan. They had a pineapple pizza, a jambalaya pizza, and something called the "Lagasse" named after famed chef Emeril Lagasse that featured ham, bacon, Italian sausage, red onions and tomatoes. The pizzas weren't cheap - the lowest priced medium specialty pizza was $15.49 with prices going up to near $24 for a large.
They also had a couple pasta dishes including a jambalaya fettuccine, as well as entrees such as pork tenderloin medallions, traditional bangers and mash, and something called Tacos Montezuma - smoked pulled pork, sauteed onions, roasted whole jalapenos and cilantro. That sounded pretty interesting to me.
They also have something called Mad Anthony's Un-Wraps - it's a 10" thin piece of crust with assorted toppings on it. They had one that was topped with pepperoni and sausage, mozzarella and provolone cheese, with a tangy sauce. Ooo... That was interesting. The Jambalaya Un-Wrap featured sausage, shrimp, diced tomatoes and what they called "a million spices". It was topped with a three cheese blend and it came with a side of a housemade jalapeno tartar sauce. The was even more interesting.
I began to focus on the sandwiches. I was getting a little burned out on burgers - and they did have a lot of burgers on the menu - so I thought a change of pace was in order. They have a Cuban sandwich on the menu, but I've never found a Cuban sandwich outside of Miami that comes close in taste. I didn't want to chance it with the one at Mad Anthony's because I knew I'd be disappointed.
They also had a breaded pork tenderloin sandwich - you gotta have one if you're in Indiana. There was also a reuben sandwich that I thought about, as well as the Club Brew, Mad Anthony's club sandwich that featured ham, turkey, bacon and melted Swiss cheese.
When Tiffany came back to take my order, I decided upon getting their version of an Italian Grinder - spicy capicola, Genoa salami and pepperoni topped with mozzarella cheese - sort of how I make my Italian sandwiches at home. They then top it off with lettuce, tomato slices, red onion slices and Italian dressing. It's served hot on a toasted hoagie roll. I also got a choice of a side with the sandwich. I had a choice of red beans and rice, pasta salad, cole slaw or cottage cheese. For an upcharge, I could get fries or onion rings. I ended up going with the red beans and rice.
As I was waiting for my sandwich to come out, a couple seated near me had both ordered Un-Wraps. It was evident from their conversation that the young lady had ordered an Un-Wrap before. The man with her - it may have been her father - was completely confused as to eat it. "How am I supposed to eat this," he asked in sort of a angry tone. "Do I pick it up? Do I use a knife and fork?"
Her basic answer was, "Yes. However you want to eat it." Actually, the Un-Wraps they'd ordered looked pretty good.
The sandwich came out to me a little later on, about 15 to 20 minutes after I ordered. It was a basically a six to seven inch hoagie with the Italian meats, cheese and veggies. It easily cut it in half with a regular knife.
The outer part of the bread was soft and chewy, but crunchy inside where it was toasted. The meat had that great Italian spiciness that I look for when I pair capicola and pepperoni slices with salami. The meat was piled high it was a substantial sandwich. For a basic Italian sandwich, it was very good.
The red beans and rice, however, were a major disappointment. They were rather bland and boring. Some Tabasco would have helped liven the red beans and rice up a bit, but Tiffany was busy with other tables and I couldn't get her attention. That was OK, though. I was concentrating more on the sandwich and it turned out that the sandwich, alone, was fine enough.
Their Oktoberfest beer was similar to other Mad Anthony beers I've had in the past. Competent, but a little bland in taste. As I said, the beers are serviceable, but they don't knock my socks off. The Oktoberfest had little carbonation and had a slight malt flavor to it. Not the best Oktoberfest I've ever had and definitely down the list of Oktoberfest beers I've tried.
Well, other than the beer, my first experience at Mad Anthony's Brewing Company was a pleasant one. The surroundings and ambiance were nice, Tiffany's service was fine, as well. Even though it was I pretty much what I expected from a brewpub of this type, I enjoyed the sandwich and thought that I'd like to try an Un-Wrap at some point. If you're looking for a brewpub experience in Fort Wayne, Mad Anthony's is worth the stop.