I had the great pleasure to attend the Great Taste of the Midwest again this year, this time in the service of White Winter Winery, makers of fine Wisconsin mead and mead-related products (we were serving mead-jitos) and soon distillates as well.
This remains my favorite beer fest of all time. Well run, serious fun, huge selection of specialty beers. The brewers in attendance will save barrels of beers that may never be served anywhere else. Free shuttles run to and from various pub points throughout Madison, and after the fest ends, $1 taxi rides to anywhere in town. Even if you don’t have a ticket you can enjoy the pre-fest celebrations on Great Taste Eve (Friday night) which has now become it’s own awesome event.
Here are a few shots from 2013’s Great Taste of the Midwest which I managed to take before becoming rip roaring drunk despite all efforts to only sip samples and dump them out from time to time. There are over 1,000 beers at this event. That’s nuts.
The Great Taste is the second Saturday of August. The tickets go on sale May 1 and sell out the same day. Just over 6,000 attend the event and over 100 Midwestern brewers are featured in several huge tents. You get your glass and off you go for 5 hours of unlimited sampling. You can see Madison’s Capitol dome there beyond one of the tents (and Lake Monona).
Brewers who occupy the coveted tent corners put on big themed displays. Here’s Warren, Michigan’s Kuhnhenn Brewing and their Mardi Gras theme this year. They are rather known for some pretty big and creative brews. I had their Thank You Berry Much Double Penetration Porter over at the Real Ale tent.
Peace Tree Brewing of Knoxville, Iowa had a rockin’ stack for their table this year.
Plenty of music again this year.
Including the usual suspects and Madison original, Mama Digdown’s Brass Band.
Nice shot of the lake beyond the tents. Plenty of portapotties too. Can’t say I spend much time counting portapotties, but believe me, during a 5-hour, 6000 bladder drinkathon, you’ll be glad someone did.
Friends sharing a six-pack. Note the beer goggles provided by Bell’s Brewing this year.
A whole tent dedicated to real ales. 80 of them, if I remember correctly. I wouldn’t put money on that. But it’s close. Pop into the tent, check the menu, hold out your glass, give the number of your brew when prompted. There was a Blueberry Flanders Ale made by Side Project Brewing with a ridiculous amount of berries.
…and #47 was so popular they drained it in no time. Here are servers shaking out the last few drops. Bourbon-barrel-aged Oud Bruin with Tart Cherries. One of the best of the day, for sure.
Several food vendors kept something between us and the deluge of alcohol. And as we all know, everything is better with bacon – even beer fests.
Or rather, ESPECIALLY beer fest. Here it is: bacon on a stick. Life is beautiful.
Oh hell yeah.
Tommy Porter of Lake Louie Brewing brought out his Liquid Reefer (Louie’s Reserve, a more potent version of his Scotch Ale)
Karben4, Madison’s most recently opened brewery had the gang out for their first Great Taste of the Midwest appearance.
Pigeon Creek Brewing also made their first fest appearance.
One of my new favorite brewers is Toppling Goliath from Decorah, Iowa. (I just love their oaked IPA, Naughty 90.) As luck would have it, they were right next to me at White Winter Winery’s booth, so I could just reach over for a refill. Their special tapping of Mornin’ Delight Stout. See the reviews. It’s just unbelievable stuff. The photo is not really out of focus. That’s really what it looked like to me at the time.
That about sums it up. I do have to wonder what other amazing beers I missed of the 1000 that were there.
And just so you know, I am currently finishing up Michigan’s Best Beer Guide, a roadtrip guide to the breweries of that fair state. And my Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide was updated for 2013. See it here or look for it in bookstores: