Eliot Butler, President of the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Company, founded the business in 1994. Before being “sidetracked” into the brewpub industry Eliot had planned to use his training in education and psychology to work with children in a clinical setting. Some might agree that his education and background was perfectly matched to overseeing a brewpub with a combined staff of over 500 individuals.
The Great Dane was an instant success beyond Mr. Butler’s expectations, but he struggled with the feeling that his work lacked the meaning and import of a career in assisting children with developmental challenges. During a trek to Machu Picchu, the Incan site in the Peruvian Andes, Eliot met some non-profit workers from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula who helped him understand that despite the fact that his business produced and sold alcohol, The Great Dane had the potential to do amazing things in the Madison community.
Returning to Wisconsin Eliot realized that even if he was not going to work directly with children, he and The Great Dane could positively impact the lives of hundreds of young people. Over the next twenty years the company has grown to five locations and won many local and national awards, but the most meaningful part of Eliot’s work is the time and money given to youth related non-profit organizations in the Madison area.
The Great Dane was founded by Eliot Butler and Rob LoBreglio, who met while attending Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, NY. Rob was a talented home brewer and Eliot suggested they look into the nascent craft beer industry after graduation. Mr. Lobreglio apprenticed at Triple Rock Brewery in Berkeley, California, attended the Siebel Institute of Brewing Sciences and has ventured as far away as Siberia to find inspiration and “beer enlightenment”.
Along the way there have been numerous recognitions for the Great Dane’s beers and its food. LoBreglio’s first medal from the Great American Beer Festival (GABF), with many to follow, was awarded in 1996 for Peck’s Pilsner, a beer named for Rosaline Peck, who opened Madison’s first public house in 1837, just fifty feet from where the flagship Great Dane stands.
By 2000, the downtown Great Dane was not only Wisconsin’s largest brewpub by volume, but its then-3,200 barrel per annum production pushed it into third place among the largest brewpubs in the country. In 2012, the Great Dane and LoBreglio were named Brewpub Group and Brewer of the year by the Brewers Association, and its Doppelbock won a gold medal at the GABF, edging out other bigger players like Samuel Adams in the same category.
“We’ve had success, and it’s been a great ride,” says LoBreglio. The brewpub has enjoyed steady growth across its two decades in business. When the Great Dane opened, its first full year of brewing, it produced around 1,300 barrels of beer. In 2016, the combined amount from all five Great Danes could top 7,500 barrels.
Ted Peterson, Director of Operations for the Great Dane Pub & Brewing Co. has been a major force in the company’s evolution since their opening in 1994. The Stoughton Wisconsin native is the “official” spokesperson for the Great Dane.
Ted has a natural ability for engendering high levels of trust and the ability to motivate employees to reach their greatest potential. He effortlessly achieves the perfect balance between authoritarian and confidant.
The 2015 recipient of the annual Joyce Erdman Youth service award, Ted has been instrumental in the development of company wide policies providing jobs for young people with disabilities. Ted’s altruistic nature fits perfectly with the company’s values and commitment to the community.
A seasoned talent with extensive experience in the culinary arena, Chef Moyer is committed to delivering great food and service to Dane guests. His passion for all things culinary were forged at Ray’s on the River (Atlanta) and John Harvard’s Brewhouse (Atlanta, Boston, New York). These are the pivotal places that shaped his career.
What is your biggest challenge as the Great Dane Executive Chef?
The wide variety of food options we offer always presents an added challenge. No one can deny the varied selections on our menu. (it’s huge) It’s imperative we maintain consistency and value, however, I’m never one to remain stagnate or rest on our laurels. I do my best to listen to our guests, and provide them with their favorites, yet still want to improve and evolve with each seasonal menu revision.
After all these years, does any food trend surprise you?
I am still amazed after all these years by the creativity and the incorporation of the latest preferences and trends by the kitchen staff. I think it’s of extreme importance to allow each chef creative freedom. Our daily specials provide that outlet and is often where our best menu items originate.
What are your favorite foods?
Anything you can smoke, cure, brine, slow-cook, pull, shred, slather or just enjoy. After several trips to Mexico and a few hundred fish tacos later, I still have great fondness for our Jaime’s Fish Tacos.
Chef Matt continues to create distinct flavor combinations that celebrate authentic pub cuisine along with some exceptional surprises.