Great Taste of the Midwest 2013: Recap W/ Pics
As a first time attendee, I flew in from San Francisco just to attend the festival. Having attended a variety of festivals in the past (mainly on the West Coast), I wasn’t sure what to expect and kept an open mind. Prior to the festival beginning, there was a long list of Great Taste pre-party celebrations, beginning on the Tuesday before the Saturday event took place. My flight landed late on Thursday, so I attended a few Friday night events, including:
- The release of Potosi’s Stinger Jack, an Imperial pumpkin ale aged in Templeton (Iowa) Rye whiskey barrels at the Alchemy Cafe,
- a trifecta of Central Waters, Shorts and Hinterland at Brickhouse BBQ, including timed special limited release beers and a quartet of barrel-aged beers from Central Waters, and
- Founders at the Glass Nickel – Atwood, which featured KBS Kentucky Breakfast Stout, Curmudgeon Old Ale, Rübæus, Spite Hot Pepper Pale Ale, Devil Dancer, Doom, Double Trouble, and an Imperial stout.
After attending San Francisco Beer Week for 3 years in a row, I was amazed how quick and easy it was to order a beer at all three locations. And, if you desired, there were plenty of seats available at Brickhouse BBQ and the Glass Nickel. The locals were friendly and offered great advice on how the festival is set up and recommended a few local watering holes.
Saturday was a perfect sunny day for the festival, which was held from 1-6pm at Olin Park on the South side of Madison, Wisconsin, along the shores of Lake Monona. With roughly 6,000 attendees, the line was long when I arrived at noon, but moved quickly as soon as the clock struck 1:00 (thankfully, they checked IDs ahead of time). The first booth I visited was the Three Floyds, with a long line, inquiring when Dark Lord 2011 or Dark Lord 2013 would be put on. The servers said Dark Lord would be put on whenever they feel like it. I wandered over to Goose Island, which was probably the most interesting set up. There was one bar set up for pouring their standard brews, another bar pouring timed special releases, and a third bar (aka “Barrels and Bugs”) which allowed attendees to mix and match a few component beers to make their own beer. After this, I wandered over to the Surly booth, where I was able to sample a few special releases, including Three, SYX Variant, Darkness and Seviin. Next, I went to check out DESTIHL, Fat Heads and Revolution, which was located in a separate tent area. Of course, I stopped at Three Floyds along the way to check on the status of the Dark Lords – again, no news – but still a very long line.
Revolution had a skate park set up for adventure seeking attendees (not something you’d likely see at a California beer festival – especially without helmets involved). DESTIHL had a few great special releases, including the Sour Apricot and Flanders Oud Bruin. Being from the West Coast, I was happy to sample Fat Head’s Head Hunter IPA. After checking out a few other breweries in this area, I went to the Real Ale Tent, which featured approximately 70 cask ale beers. Seeing all the casks lined up was a sight to behold! I sampled a few, but with the sunny weather, I wanted my beer a bit cooler and decided to head back to Three Floyds. With a full glass of water to re-hydrate, I decided to wait in line and inquire about the status of the Dark Lords. After speaking with others in line, I found out Dark Lord 2011 came and went. Hoping for Dark Lord 2013, I decided to wait in line. Twenty minutes or so later, I arrived at the very front of the line and there seemed to be confusion and shuffling going on behind the bar – the Dark Lord 2013 sign was added and within minutes the tap was flowing – I was the first in line! It was delicious – probably the best beer I tasted at the festival, but the darker, maltier types of beers are my preference. I realized I could probably get back in line for a second pour, but there were so many other great breweries I wanted to visit, so I carried along.
Overall, the festival was one of the better festivals I have attended (which is biased since I’m on the West Coast and don’t have access to most of these beers). In its 27th year, the festival was well organized and offered attendees a wide variety from 150 Midwest breweries serving over 1,000 different beers. In addition to the amazing beer, I also enjoyed the musical acts spread about the various areas.
If you are interested in attending the 2014 Great Taste of the Midwest on August 9, 2014, be sure to check their website here. Tickets are expected to go on sale in the early Spring of 2014 (typically the first Sunday in May). For a link to the 2013 program, visit here.