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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.

Upcoming beerventures: New Glarus brewery tour and Audacious Beer & Cheese celebration

June 22, 2011 By: grant Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Events, Travelin'

I’m working from Wisconsin for a bit, enjoying a bit cooler weather and the BEER. I’m always a little surprised at the quantity of quality craft brews available here.

We are are going to meet up with a couple friends in Madison tomorrow and head to the New Glarus Brewery and take a self-guided tour, followed by considerable sampling.

Is there anything I should be on the lookout for here, or any specific questions I should try to get answered while I’m there?

After that, on Saturday, we’re headed to the Audacious Beer & Cheese Celebration World’s Greatest Beer and Cheese Tasting, because what’s more Wisconsin than beer and cheese? There are purportedly 99 different brews and a bunch of cheese.

Here’s the line-up; which ones should we make sure we sample?

Great Dane Pub – Madison, Wis.

March 17, 2011 By: grant Category: Breweries, Craft beer, Favorite Bars, Travelin'

Great Dane PubGotta give a shout out to my Wisconsin people. They’ve got some crazy stuff going on in Madison right now, but they do have beer.

My wife’s from Wisconsin so we head up there a coupla times a year. The following is a transcribed audio recording I took right before xmas, at the Great Dane Pub in Madison, Wis.

Captains log.

Captains log — Great Dane, 12/23/10:

The APA seemed like a little bit more citrusy than Sierra Nevada, the red was flavorful but weirdly carbed, the brown was maltier than our nut brown [editor’s note: we have never made a nut brown] but pretty flavorful and good, the scotch ale was fantastic —  I don’t even really know how to describe it, it was really good, very crisp but flavorful and you could drink a lot of it, I did, I did that one. The IPA is weird, it’s like really really grassy. And I love IPAs and that’s really kind of weird, but I’m going to finish it anyway. And then the barleywine is next.

Listen to the audio:
[audio:http://fuzzybrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/voice0001.mp3|titles=Great Dane Pub]