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Nate heads to the 2012 Great Taste of the Midwest beer fest in Wisconsin

August 22, 2012 By: Nate Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events, Travelin'

Memphis craft beer enthusiast and homebrewer Nate Nowak, the newest contributor to FuzzyBrew, traveled to the Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival on Aug. 11 and shares his insights below. Look for more posts from Nate soon!


Friends and I recently made our annual pilgrimage to Madison, Wisc., for the Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival. The Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild has been hosting this event for 26 years, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend the last four years. This year’s event was the largest yet, featuring over 500 beers from more than 100 breweries. This makes it one of the largest regional beer festivals in the country, with invitations going to breweries from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Kansas and Nebraska.

If you can’t buy tickets in person at various outlets in Madison, then you have to try your luck at getting one of the 3,000 available by mail in a lottery. We managed to procure five this year, so it was that four seasoned veterans and one rookie arrived in Olin Park a couple of hours before the 1 p.m. start time for the festival. Part of the fun each year is getting in line early to hang out, eat lunch and talk to friends while ensuring that we are one of the first few hundred folks to enter the festival. While there may be 500 beers and over 6,000 people packed into the small festival grounds, things always seem to go smoothly even after everyone has had a few beers (it must be that famous Midwestern politeness…)!

Great Taste of the Midwest - View

Looking over Olin Park to Lake Monona and downtown Madison.

Our first stop was at New Glarus Brewing, one of my favorites, but difficult to get as their beer is not sold outside Wisconsin. While they were pouring many of their standbys such as Moon Man, Spotted Cow and Totally Naked, we had come for their first special release of the day, a Kriek that had been aging in bourbon barrels for two years. This was a fantastic beer to kick off the festival with —  just slightly sour, with a nice, dry cherry flavor that stood up well to the bourbon and oak flavors of the barrel. We kept the sour theme going for a time, hitting the Jolly Pumpkin booth next (La Roja!) and moving on to Distihl Brewing from Illinois, where we had a very good Gose, a sour wheat beer brewed with coriander and salt.

Great Taste of the Midwest - New Glarus

The line at the New Glarus booth.

Our thirst for sour beers slaked, we moved through the festival hitting many of our favorite breweries along with a few new ones. I made sure I introduced my friends to a couple of brews close to Memphis by swinging by Urban Chestnut and Perennial Artisan Ales, both relatively new breweries out of St. Louis (though Perennial brewer Phil Wymore is well known to the Chicago crowd due to his time at Goose Island and Half Acre). Notable beers were Perennial’s Fantastic Voyage, a milk stout brewed with coconut (which gave it a flavor almost like it had been barrel aged) and Urban Chestnut’s Sertaozinho Weiss, a Bavarian wheat brewed with Brazilian coffee! Contrary to what you would think, the beer was golden yellow of a Weiss, but had a bright coffee flavor that came through the traditional clove and banana of the style, a delicious and interesting beer!

Great Taste of the Midwest - Crowd

Winding through the crowd in search of the next great beer!

As with all beer festivals, after a while your notes on each beer get shorter and you begin to quit “analyzing” and start just “tasting.” We spent the rest of the festival going by a few of our old favorites such as Founders, Bell’s, and Three Floyds, along with some new places like Fat Head’s and Vintage Brewing (which had some very interesting takes on old styles such as a Sahti and a Gratzer).

With the festival winding down to a close, we left the park and headed to The Old Fashioned for dinner, feasting on such Wisconsin staples as Bratwurst and cheese curds (washing it all down with local Wisconsin craft beer of course!). We wrapped up the night with pints of Two Hearted Ale and a game of Euchre (what could be more Midwestern than that!) while already planning next year’s trip.

Tickets for Memphis Brewfest 2012 at AutoZone Park on sale today

December 12, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events, Homebrew, Memphis

Memphis Brewfest 2012Tickets go on sale today at 10 a.m. for the third-annual Memphis Brewfest, which takes place Sat., April 21.

The festival is one of the premier beer events in Memphis and is held Downtown at AutoZone Park. The festival will celebrate “great American craft beer, and the finest, most exotic beers in the world,” according to the festival’s website.

Advance tickets are $36. After April 15, tickets will be $39. As with last year, a maximum of 1,900 tickets will be sold.

Tickets will be sold online, by phone at 901-721-6000 or at the AutoZone Park ticket office.

All net proceeds will benefit Parent Project Muscular Dystrophy and the Memphis Redbirds Foundation.

We’ll have more details about the event, including a list of breweries, closer to the festival date.

Tickets for Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest in Memphis on sale; fest expanding in 2nd year

September 02, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events, Homebrew, Memphis

Serving our homebrews at the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs' tent at the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest in 2010.

Tickets are now on sale for the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest, which will feature more craft breweries and homebrewers in its second year.

The Midtown Memphis festival will be held Saturday, Oct. 15, in the Lifelink Church parking lot, 1015 S. Cooper.

Last year, there were 500 tickets available, and the event sold out. This year, capacity has been expanded to 700.

“This year we’re selling more tickets, but only because we’ve also added breweries,” said Andy Ashby, beer festival chairman. “We want to keep the festival’s informal feel. That’s one reason we do 14-ounce cups. We want people to have time to talk with brewers and each other, not just stand in line.”

New breweries/brewpubs this year are Bayou Teche Brewing (Arnaudville, La.), Oyster House Brewing Co. (Asheville, N.C.), Green Man Brewery (Asheville) and Refined Ale Brewery (Little Rock, Ark.). More breweries may still be announced, organizers say.

Returning breweries include Boscos (Memphis), Ghost River Brewing (Memphis), Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. (Kiln, Miss.), Yazoo Brewing Co. (Nashville), Vino’s Brewpub (Little Rock, Ark.), Schlafly Beer (St. Louis), Abita Brewing Co. (Abita Springs, La.), French Broad Brewing Co. (Asheville) and Asheville Brewing Co. (Asheville).

Memphis’ homebrew club, the Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs, had five brewers at the festival last year. This year, a dozen homebrewers have signed up to serve their beers, and the club will also conduct a homebrew demonstration.

In addition, there will be a beer education tent – the “Beer Tent Revival” – where brewers will talk about their beers and answer questions.

“We’ll have Goner Records spinning records at the festival, keeping with our theme that local is better,” Ashby added. “We’ll have more Cooper-Young food vendors this year. Festival sponsor Central BBQ will be joined by Sweet Grass and Stone Soup Cafe.”

Advanced tickets can be purchased online or in person at Boscos Squared (2120 Madison), Midsouth Malts (741 N. White Station) or the Cooper-Young Community Association office (2298 Young).

Tickets are $30; Cooper-Young Community Association members get a $5 discount. If tickets remain, they will sell for $35 at the door.

For updates, check out the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest on Facebook or Twitter.

So, who’s excited? We sure are. All three of us who blog at FuzzyBrew will be there serving our beers with the Bluff City Brewers. We’ll let you know soon what we’re bringing. Our homebrews are bubbling away.

Top of the Hops Beer Festival coming up in Jackson, Miss. on July 30

July 10, 2011 By: mike Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events

Top of the Hops Beer Festival - Jackson

More than 150 beers from around the world will be poured at the second annual Top of the Hops Beer Festival in Jackson, Miss.

The festival, which drew more than 2,500 people last year, will be held at the Jackson Convention Complex, 105 E. Pascagoula St., and will help close Mississippi Craft Beer Week.

Patrons will receive a commemorative sampling mug and have access to unlimited, two-ounce samples.

Tickets can be purchased online. General admission tickets are $35 in advance; VIP tickets are $60.

For the latest news, follow the festival on Twitter or check out the festival’s Facebook page.

Who made it last year, and how was it? Leave a comment below.