Well, it was a marvelous fall day in July in Milwaukee. Perfect day for a beer festival right down by the shores of Lake Michigan. This was the fourth annual Milwaukee Brewfest.
Despite the fact that the day was shared with Brady Street Festival, Germanfest at the Summerfest grounds, a Reggae Fest, some sort of volleyball championship event, and who knows what else in the city, the turnout for the festival was impressive.
I was joined by my wife (taking the photos) and three friends (seen here patiently listening to me prattle on about god knows what).
Hofbräuhaus from Munich was in attendance as usual, along with a few other German and Belgian beers. If you missed the festival, you shouldn’t miss the Hofbräuhaus beer garden over in Estabrook Park.
A lot of the booths had volunteers doing the pours. Here is Atwater Brewery from Detroit (to be featured in one of my upcoming articles as well as my forthcoming Michigan’s Best Beer Guide). The Vanilla Java Porter was a hit with all four of us, but I also liked their coffee stout and Voodoo Vator Doppelbock.
Everyone’s a cheesehead. Lilja’s Sasquatch Stout, brewed by Sand Creek Brewery up in Black River Falls, Wisconsin for Pangaea Beer Co. Good stuff.
Furthermore Brewing brought out Full Thicket, their fantastic double IPA, and one of my favorites, Makeweight: a blend of three styles of pale ales – English, Belgian, and American. Brewer Aran Madden says it better than I can:
Our triple pale is a bastardization of three regionally distinctive recipes that were stacked in unequal measure in order to make a beefy beer which highlights each recipe’s finer points: Esters from a dominant Flanders yeast are reigned-in by cleaner American and London strains; Kent Golding hops provide mild bitterness, giving English and Belgian specialty malts room to breath; Oregonian hops offer a fragrant nose; Belgian candy sugar boosts the strength of this mash-up to 8.5% ABV.
Whenever I get my beer festival map, I go through and circle the priority beers I want to try. I always start with the newest Wisconsin breweries, typically companies I haven’t been to outside the fest. There were a few newbies here, including Wauwatosa’s Big Head Brewing.
Also, familiar but new, Pecatonica Beer Co. offered a dark lager that I liked. I had never heard of them before this fest but the brewer Tim Quinn said he remembered me from last year. It took me a moment, but then I see they have two lines of beers. I tried their Hopothesis in 2012 when they were still looking for a home. Their head office is in Gratiot (pronounced “grass shit,” no kidding) in southwestern Wisconsin. Quinn gypsy brews over at Minhas Brewery in Monroe, Wisconsin. They have a tap room just over the border in Illinois in Warren, IL. Confused yet? Never mind, have another beer.
Another newish Wisconsin brewery in attendance was Rustic Road Brewing out of Kenosha. The brewer, Alec Steinmetz, is only 20 years old. Er, does that mean he can’t drink his own beer??? How goofy is that? I say “newish” because they have been open since last year and I already have them, along with nearby Public Craft Brewing, in the latest edition of Wisconsin’s Best Beer Guide. (This festival is in there too. Go buy it. There’s free beer offers inside. Seriously.)
Another new Milwaukee brewery on the horizon is Mill Street Brewhaus, which is hoping to find some doors and then open them in January 2014. Meet brewer Steve Pribek. Had the Corkscrew Double IPA and Big Ring Bourbon Red, both of which are reason enough to stand in line in January (wherever that might be, but hopes are somewhere in Bay View). They have quite the buzz going here; their line, the couple times I went to it, was quite long, especially for a brewery that isn’t even quite open yet.
It’s surprising how fast 4 hours passes when you are sampling beers and talking smart with friends. Next fest for me is Great Taste of the Midwest.