In just a few weeks, the passion for beer that this city already demonstrates on a day-to-day basis will become a full-blown obsession. It’s almost time for Madison Craft Beer Week (April 29-May 7), and the list of events is something to behold. We’re talking well over 350 entries, covering tap takeovers and beer dinners, pop-ups and pairings, plus a few beer-educational interludes. An embarrassment of riches is what I’m saying.
One major benefit of this year’s calendar is the ability to really get to know some fresh faces, whether newborn breweries or just new labels on Madison shelves and tap handles.
Half Acre of Chicago made its debut in Wisconsin at the end of January, and if you’re not yet familiar, get ready. You’ll find Half Acre tap events at Dexter’s (April 30), Alchemy (May 4), the Coopers Tavern (May 5) and BarleyPop Tap and Shop (May 6). Alchemy in particular is highlighting rare Half Acre taps.
Untitled Art, the collaborative brewing project from Isaac Showaki of Octopi Brewing and Levi Funk of Funk Factory Geuzeria, has only released two beers so far, but they’ve both been hype monsters. You’ll find Untitled Art beers on tap alongside Octopi’s house label, 3rd Sign, at the Up North Bar (April 28), World of Beer in Middleton (April 29) and Alchemy (May 6).
Maybe the biggest beer news of the first half of 2017 is the return of Boulevard Brewing to the Wisconsin market after an absence of so many years that a lot of folks don’t even know it was ever here. Sconnie Bar will host a Best of the Midwest tap event that will include both Half Acre and Boulevard, among others (May 3). You can also pick either Cannery Wine and Spirits in Sun Prairie or Tipsy Cow on the Capitol Square for more Boulevard taps (both May 4).
May 4 is a red-letter day on the beer week schedule for one very punny, very nerdy reason. You’ll be tripping over “May the Fourth be with you” jokes on Twitter that day, so go IRL with your Star Wars references. The biggest, most legit LOL “May the Fourth” joke I’ve read in years comes thanks to House of Brews’ annual Star Wars-themed release at Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace. If you don’t at least snort audibly at “Uncle Owen’s Toasted Farmhouse Ale,” then maybe May the Fourth isn’t your scene. There’s also a tapping of Elysian’s Space Dust at the Plaza, or the release of the gluten-free version of this year’s Baltic Porter Common Thread beer at Alt Brew; they’re calling this “rogue one” the UN-Common Thread.
Common Thread, of course, is its own Madison Craft Beer Week tradition, and this year’s Baltic porter will be on tap citywide. At Vintage Brewing, you can try both this year’s edition and an apple brandy-barrel-aged version of last year’s Gose Common Thread side-by-side (April 28). Vintage will also host its annual Big Barrel Tararrel (May 6) and bomber sale day (May 7).
You’ll have a shot at limited-batch taps at Heritage Tavern, which will tap its Wisconsin Brewing Company collaboration Pear-ly Legal Berliner Weisse aged in gin barrels (April 29), and at Waypoint Public House, where Ale Asylum’s imperial version of Velveteen Habit (called Napalm Bunny) will make its debut (April 28). Maybe the smallest-quantity brew will be One Barrel’s 1/12th of a barrel of Pepper Czar, an oaked Russian imperial stout with chili peppers and cacao nibs that might, might, fill 33 10-ounce pours at Salvatore’s Tomato Pies in Madison (May 3).
There are some excellent food/beer events throughout the week, be they ticketed dinners or as-you-please menus. The first Sunday is a traffic jam, with a five-course Perennial beer dinner at Brasserie V, a pop-up brunch at One Barrel with the Ugly Apple food cart, and Humble slinging little pies alongside Central Waters beers at Jordan’s Big 10 Pub (all April 30).
Surly and the Merchant/Lucille family have a thing going on this year. There will be a burger and beer pairing at Lucille (May 2), and a chat with the new Surly head brewer in Lucille’s vault lounge (May 4). And it’s possible that chef Jorge Guzman of the Brewer’s Table, the tasting menu restaurant at Surly’s mega-brewery space in Minneapolis, might be celebrating a fresh victory at the James Beard Awards when he alights upon Madison. The Best Chef Midwest finalist will prepare a casual date night menu (May 3) and a Brewer’s Table-style five-course pairing dinner (May 4), both at Merchant, in collaboration with chef Evan Dannells.
Oh but there’s more. Morris Ramen, Capital Brewery, and Wisconsin Dells Brewing’s “Brunch Ass Bitches” will focus on women in the beer industry and support Planned Parenthood (May 6). Tavernakaya will debut Coedo, a Japanese brewery new to the Madison market, and tap some other Japanese brews as well (all week). Drink Lakefront beers at the new Madison location of the Nomad World Pub (May 4). Boston’s Harpoon Brewery comes to Wisconsin to do a clambake at Brocach on the Square (May 3)! Greenbush Bakery/Central Waters doughnut bread pudding returns to the Old Fashioned (all week)!
*gasps for air* It’s going to be a busy week.
See the complete schedule for Madison Craft Beer Week, which is organized by Isthmus, at madbeerweek.com or the Madison Craft Beer Week app.