Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

August 4, 2014

Beer Diary:

Tips For The Great Taste

If you’re making the trip to Madison, here are three places to try.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
There’s no shortage of great beer towns in the Midwest these days. Cities big and small have vibrant craft brew scenes, making it kind of pointless to travel multiple hours to attend a brew fest that will feature beers you can easily sample in your local watering hole, or find something of equivalent quality at a nearby brewery.

That being said, the upcoming Great Taste of the Midwest in Madison, Wisconsin is as close to a "must attend" event as you can get in this new era of American craft beer. Not only does it feature the biggest selection of the best beer the Midwest has to offer, but it’s one of the few brew fests where you can interact directly with the actual brewers.

Yet even better than the fest itself is the night prior, when taverns and restaurants around the city host pre-parties, usually in collaboration with one or two craft brewers. A lot of times this will include tappings of hard-to-find specialty brews or one-offs specifically for the Great Taste.

(My favorite story is from a few years ago, when The Argus hosted a Three Floyd’s pre-party and tapped a barrel of Dark Lord at midnight. The place nearly exploded as frenzied patrons clamored for a short pour of the otherwise impossible to find beer. People were throwing hundred dollar bills on the bar, pleading for a taste. It’s a great beer and all, but, people, let’s have a little dignity, for fuck’s sake.)

Find an updated rundown of pre-parties here to plan your night. But after visiting Madison a few times over the past year, I’ve got a few suggestions for finding some great beer gems in a city that will be swimming in craft beer during the weekend.

Most obviously, if you haven’t made the pilgrimage yet, you need to check out the cavernous new digs of Ale Asylum. After recently expanding distribution into Illinois, this brewery specializing in Belgian-inspired beers and aggressive IPAs is making some of the best stuff in the Midwest, and is poised to become a regional powerhouse with the likes of Summit, Great Lakes, and Founders.

A new brewery in Madison is Next Door Brewing, tucked into a former electronics store in the funky Atwood neighborhood. Their beers have been gaining more traction each time I’ve visited, but with the head brewer recently--and abruptly--leaving, it remains to be seen what direction they’ll take. But it’s worth checking out, since just down the street is the almost-as-new One Barrel Brewing. I’ve found the beers here to be hit-and-miss, and the same can be said about the service, but they usually have something worth seeking out in their lineup. But their allegiance to AB-InBev-owned Goose Island is a little disturbing...

Finally, you should seriously consider punching yourself in the face if you don’t give a visit to Vintage Brewing on Whitney Way (NOT their satellite tavern on the University of Wisconsin campus). I’ve been here more than half a dozen times, and everything I’ve had, from delicate pilsners to pummeling double IPAs, is outstanding. Their Weiss Blau is a fantastic Bavarian-style wheat beer, while Derby Girl is a chewy but clean ESB. Rochambeau, an intense Belgian pale ale featuring Sorachi Ace hops, is borderline addictive. They have a big, constantly rotating list of brews ranging across nearly every style, so you never know what you’re going to find. But experience tells me it’ll be damn good.

Have fun, be safe, and drink some great beer at this year’s Great Taste!

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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