Faced with 380 events at 80 different venues, strategy is important, because no one can get to everything during Madison Craft Beer Week.
The Common Thread launch party at WBC in Verona on April 30 made for an appropriate kick-off for the week. Over 65 locations are still serving the collaboratively brewed Common Thread during Craft Beer Week, so if you missed the tasting party, you haven't missed this excellent Belgian tripel.
If you weren't at Next Door Brewing on May 2, though, you will have missed the tap takeover from Oliphant Brewing of Somerset, Wis., near the Twin Cities. Oliphant’s Matt Wallace worked the dining room as efficiently as a presidential candidate, personally stopping by tables to chat about his beers, which included Viktor Double Cream Ale, Gobias (a black ale with coffee), Waimea pale ale and a gruit made with juniper and peppercorns. Wallace was engaging and personable, and one of the first weekend highlights was meeting him and hearing about his beers, which are not otherwise usually available in Madison.
Remember this tip next year — Sunday afternoon is a great time to enjoy Craft Beer Week. Organizers probably don’t like to hear this, but crowds are low at this time, making it ideal for serious conversations with brewers and bar staff, while enjoying special tappings.
Beer highlights so far
• Oliphant Brewing's Viktor Double Cream Ale, on tap at Next Door for the May 2 tap takeover, almost qualifies as an “imperial” cream ale. It's a light-colored beer with lots of flavor and body at 7.4% ABV.
• One Barrel Brewing's Banjo Cat falls somewhere between a Belgian Golden and Belgian Tripel. It's made with honey and Muscat grapes that combine for a sweet and fruity flavor.
• Oskar Blues Breweries of Colorado brought "Shorty," a limited draught release, to Craftsman Table & Tap on May 1. Made with molasses, this rich, full-bodied barleywine was unexpectedly modest in strength at 5.5% ABV.
• The Parched Eagle, the new Westport nanobrewery, offered its Hop Bearer, an astonishingly good American IPA with tropical and grapefruit hoppiness.
Beers to watch for:
• The Parched Eagle will release its first specialty beer, an American strong ale called Harpy, on May 9 at 4 p.m.
• Collaborations: "Weizenbock to the Future" (WBC and Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, at Tex Tubb's May 7, 4 p.m.); "Million Dollar Smoked Maibock" (One Barrel and Port Huron Brewing Company, May 8, 3:30 pm at One Barrel); and "Bouquet Pink IPA" made with hibiscus, rose hips, chamomile and jasmine flowers (Vintage Brewing and Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace, May 10, all day).