Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild
The official logo of the 2000 edition of the Great Taste of the Midwest
It's been just about a week since the day-long bacchanalia known as the Great Taste of the Midwest ended, thousands of the revelers having long since departed Madison for their regular watering homes around the country. Some 6000 persons attended this annual festival held on the slopes and shores of Olin-Turville Park, sampling 500 beers made by more than 100 breweries throughout the region on Saturday, August 11.
That's a lot of drinking in day, not counting the brewery-sponsored dinners and parties that take over downtown restaurants immediately preceding and following the festival. All of this fun and beer makes for plenty of chances to take pictures and share stories from Great Tastes past, not to mention the creation of new tales amidst the quaffing.
Now that the hangovers have long since worn off, many of the revelers are sharing their experiences online, publishing photos, comments about their favorite beers, and other ephemera from one of the city's biggest (and most difficult to experience) summer institutions.
These reports and photo galleries follow:
- Isthmus beer correspondent Robin Shepard attended the Great Taste after previewing the party in a cover story for the paper the previous week. In his post-festival report, he noted the difficulty of acquiring a ticket:
Being one of those to make it through the gates with a ticket wasn't easy. The event sold out in just 90 minutes back in May. Sean Nashold of Madison, who has often attended in previous years, was without a ticket this year, so when he awoke Saturday morning he wasn't planning to go. But plans have a way of changing.
"My cousin called me while he was in line waiting to get in," recalled Nashold, "and said, 'Hey, you got to get down here, it's too nice a day.' So I dropped everything." Nashold came not knowing if he'd find a ticket, but he did -- at face value, surprisingly, from someone else in line. Appropriately, or not, he paused for comment near a booth offering a beer called "Stickin' It to the Man," from Lake Mills' Tyranena Brewing.
- Contrary to his earlier fears, Madison beer writer Doug Griffin was able to attend and share his experiences at the Great Taste this year. Before commenting on a few of the more novel offerings on tap there, he set the scene:
This year, it was hot. Damn hot. So hot, in fact, that my group arrived to the Taste a bit late -- a first. Somehow, it seemed wiser to spend a minimal amount of time standing in an endless line as the sun beat down. And I stand by that decision. Indeed, the beer was strong enough to make up for a wee delay in tasting.Griffin also spoke with five drunkards at the festival, soliciting their suggestions for the best pour of the day.
- "My first Great Taste of the Midwest was everything I'd been told it would be -- and more," writes Roger Baylor, the owner of the New Albanian Brewing Company, a highly-rated microbrewery located in an Indiana suburb of Louisville. Noting the crowds and some of the more memorable sights at the festival, he concludes: "It was a capacity crowd on an uncommonly hot and humid day, and in the end, it's hard for me to imagine a better gathering." Baylor also wrote a preview about his trip to Madison to experience the Taste for Leo Weekly in L'ville, declaring the festival to be "the ideal craft brew dictatorship that purges dissent by offering hundreds of microbrewed treats available for scientific 2-ounce sampling, ranging across the spectrum of styles, and with nary an ounce of insipid light mass-market beer in sight."
- "Uncharacteristically for us, we left this year's Great Taste of the Midwest only mildly drunk as opposed to our typically well lubricated," declares Mag McDowell in a report for her Twin Cities beer blog. "It twas the heat that did us in." In addition to the heat, she noted the ale tent and several interesting brews on hand.
- Madison blogger Dave Okonski published a pair of brief photo essays from the Taste, the first sharing views of the crowds packing Olin Park, and the second looking to display the "beer-drinking ethos" as seen in the t-shirts on display at the festival.
- One of the many visitors from Chicago at the Taste was Jen Caputo, who likewise shares a pair of photo collections from the party. The first featuring shots from the festival along with others from a pre-party dinner hosted by New Holland Brewery at Cocoliquot, and the second sharing shots of the bands, brewers and quaffers on hand last weekend.
- There were several other revelers who also focused on their experiences before the Taste, when several beer "tasting" dinners and parties were put on by breweries at restaurants in downtown Madison.
- One contributor to the Beer Advocate boards posted the food and beer menu from the New Holland dinner at Cocoliquot, a four-course meal accompanied by hors d'oeuvres, dessert, and seven different brews.
- Another contributor to the BeerBoard posted a handful of photos from a party at Maduro that featured 18 different beers from Bell's Brewery in Kalamazoo, along with a second handful from the Taste itself.
- The most extensive report from the pre-Taste parties was published by writer behind the new "Madison Beer Review" blog. This writer started with the hectic Bell's event at Maduro before moving on to a share many more details about a more laid-back party at Wonder's Pub at Schenk's Corners. This east side tavern hosted a party by the Michigan-based Dark Horse Brewing Co., attended in fact by one of its brewers. "Sadly," the review concludes, "we never made it over to Glass Nickel for Founders (they of 'Breakfast Stout' fame)."
- One attendee focused upon both the Bell's party at Maduro and the main event at Olin Park, noting the breadth of beers and size of crowds at each. She noted a few favorites: "I tried a vast number of beers, enjoyed myself, and woke up the next morning feeling perfectly fine. Standouts were the Kuhnhenn Creme Brulee Java Stout (on cask at the Real Ale tent) and the Three Floyds Fantabulous Resplendence."
- Others also named specific beers they found to be highlights of the Great Taste.
- One reveler shares: "My favorite was perhaps the Bermuda Triangle Belgian Triple from the Flat Earth brewery, which had three different plants from said Triangle. There was a Mr. Spock's Eisbock from some place called Fitgers Brewhouse that was good but I doubt will make me live long and prosper."
- Another names a few others: "Some favorites of mine were Dark Lord by Three Floyds, Bonfire of the Valkeries aged in a port cask by New Albanian Brewing, Creme Brulee Java Stout by Kuhnhenn, Heliocentric, a braggot (half mead, half beer) by Two Brothers, and just about anything in the cask tent."
- Then there is the attendee who simply notes the types of beers: "Some of the beers I tried out were cherry wheat beer, cocoa mint beer, chocolate beer and coffee mocha beer. I know they sound terrible but they really were good! The best was a raspberry red rock malt liquor from Janesville that was just delicious."
- One reveler reports a "good time" at the festival itself, but also comments on an altercation in a bus from the park to the downtown Great Dane, questioning whether or not to return to a future edition of the Taste.
- More brief comments and a few photos from the fun can also be found here and here.
- Finally, there are a half-dozen photo galleries from the Great Taste published on Flickr, featuring hundreds of images of the festival. These shots are compiled in a 110-photo set by Jason Lee Hendricks, a 45-photo set by "Jim," a 25-photo set by "Julie," a pair of 7-photo sets (here and here) by "OrganicVeggie" and "chopsgarage," respectively, and a trio of snaps by "preppiecurler."
The Great Taste of the Midwest, organized as a benefit for WORT by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, is held every second Saturday of August at Olin-Turville Park. This means the next Great Taste will be on Saturday, August 9, 2008. Tickets for the wildly popular event go on sale in the beginning of May. There are 2000 tickets made available via mail order on May 1; any orders not overnighted on that date are likely to be too late. Then there are the remaining 300 tickets, which will go on sale on May 4, 2008 at Wonder's Pub, Star Liquor, The Cork and Bottle Shop, the Wine and Hop Shop, both locations of Steve's Liquor, J.T. Whitney's, and Capital Brewery. The lines will start before dawn at most, and sell out within a matter of a couple hours.
There are only 51 weeks to go!