Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

August 12, 2007

Event Review:

Bitter Love … Kind Of Like Hops!

Five things we love and hate about the Great Taste of the Midwest.
by Eddie Glick

I like my beer like my women: pale, strong, full-bodied, and extremely bitter.
Contact Eddie»
What I love about the Great Taste of the Midwest:

The Crowds
It’s great to see this many people interested in Midwestern craft beer. Sure, a small percentage of the fest’s attendees are frat boys who bought tickets because of “25 bucks—all you can drink!” and end up hanging around the Leinenkugel’s tent trying to get their money’s worth in Honey Weiss, but the vast majority are bona fide beer dorks who are engaging in the most informed beer discussions you’ll hear outside of a brewery.

Timed Releases
When participating brewers tap their more, shall we say, “special” offerings at designated times during the afternoon, it builds energy into the event that you won’t see in other beer fests, big or small.

Number Of Brewers
Not just the sheer number of attending brewers—and the number of beers they bring—but the high level of quality you see in the vast majority of the beers is just phenomenal. And it goes to show just how important craft brewing has become in the Midwest as well as how important Midwest craft brewers—and drinkers—have become to the industry as a whole.

Scarcity Of Tickets
Tickets to the Great Taste are like the proverbial hen’s teeth, which jacks the momentousness of this event up to a whole new level. You really have to care about craft beer to go through the trouble to get tickets (unless you pay a scumbag scalper for them, which is cheating), which means nearly all the attendees are going to be there for the same reason: to drink and talk about great beer.

Length Of Event
It’s kind of like Hailey’s Comet or a woman flashing her breasts: it’s here for a short but spectacular time, and then it’s irrevocably gone … at least for another year in this case. This makes the Great Taste something that you have to truly savor while attending it—and bitterly mourn if you’re not.

What I hate about the Great Taste of the Midwest:

The Crowds
Good God, can’t the Madison Homebrewers Guild find an even remotely bigger space? Crammed shoulder to shoulder on a 90°-plus August day makes for a rather unpleasant afternoon, even if you are drinking beer. Which in itself is tough to do when you have a mere six inches of personal space within a jostling crowd. A little more air would make this event even better.

Timed Releases
No matter how hard I try—and how I have tried—I cannot be in two places at the same time. I’ve grunted and clenched and squinted until bystanders thought my head would explode, but I still haven’t been able to clone myself, something you need to do if you want to hit two timed releases at once, and especially if you have to wait in a 20-minute line for each one. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying this practice should be outlawed, I’m just whining over the cruel injustice of space and time.

Number Of Brewers
Trying to decide which of the 500 or so beers available at the Great Taste to sample is a daunting task. And if you’re the kind of person who spends half an hour every morning trying to decide on whether to wear the underwear with the stain that looks like Jesus or the one with the stain that looks like Buddha, (OK, it’s only, like, 15 minutes, tops) your only way out might be suicide.

Scarcity Of Tickets
I’m not that big of a fan of getting up at 5 a.m. to wait in line. True, nearly everyone you’re waiting with is a beer dork and very cool, but I could be back home in the basement brewing beer during those six-plus hours. The difficulty in getting tickets also gives rise to people who are purchasing tickets to simply turn around and sell them for a profit. These people should be repeatedly taint-punched until they develop terminal butt cancer.

Length Of Event
Six measly hours to try 500 beers? That might be considered cruel and unusual punishment to our forefathers, who really liked their beer. Extending the Great Taste to a two-day event would help ease both congestion and ticket scarcity. Granted, this would make it much more complex and, not to mention, expensive to pull off, but it would help keep this fest ranked up there as one of the best beer events in the world.

Drinkin’ And Thinkin’

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