Reviews, Commentary and Opinions on Midwest Craft Beer and Microbreweries

August 11, 2008

Beer Diary:

The Great Taste Of The Midwest: A Fest Done Right

The Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild hits it on the head with the best Great Taste to date.
by Jug Dunningan

Jug Dunningan is just here for the beer.
Contact Jug»
The 22nd annual Great Taste of the Midwest was a great success. Presented by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild in Madison’s Olin-Turville park, it is the largest brew fest in the central Wisconsin area. Over 100 brewers arrived to share 500-plus of their most prized brews with beerdorks from all over the country.

The weather was perfect. A sunny 75 degrees with a light breeze most of the day made it a perfect day to sample craft beers in the shade of the park’s big oak trees.

The crowd was as varied as the beers. All ages from 20s to 70s added to the festive mood. It is good to be surrounded by 5,000 brew-loving beerdorks. As always the crowd was fun and festive, not rowdy or competitive.

The brewers were all friendly and eager to spend a minute to explain or answer questions. Brewers arrived from as far away as Kansas and Nebraska. Many of these brewers do not distribute to the Madison area, or even Wisconsin at all, yet they still arrived in force to share their craftsmanship with you.

There is no possible way for me to sum up the beer list for you. You’ll have to go there next year to experience it for yourself. With over 500 beers, there was something for everyone. Besides all the beers, there were many shandys, gruits, meads, and ciders to sample.

There is no way to do justice to this event with words so I will just note some of the new, improved or unique traits of the Great Taste of the Midwest.

• I have to give the MHTG an A+ for organization. Getting 5,000 people into an organized line, giving them a glass and getting them in to the fest grounds in under 20 minutes from opening is a noteworthy feat.

• People selling tickets. Ticket sales for the Great Taste have been criticized for the last couple of years. It has been increasingly harder to get tickets, yet this year I saw at least 20 people selling tickets in the parking lot. I’m positive many went home with their extra tickets. This is surprising, as in years past there were always people begging to buy tickets with no luck.

• The Real Ale tent. Kick ass.

• This year they fenced in more of the park and had five tents instead of the usual three. It had a much less crowded feel. The new layout also made use of the big oak trees and shade was easy to find.

• Transportation. There were free shuttles to and from five of Madison’s craft brew hotspots, $1 taxi fares, a bicycle valet service, and even a convenient bus stop to choose from. There is absolutely no reason to drive to the event.

• Music. There were several quartets playing different styles of music scattered throughout the fest grounds.

Sadly there were several things I barely got to notice while surrounded by 500 beers. There was an educational tent with seminars on food and beer pairings. I did not make it to the food tents at all. There was a “brewer dunk tank” where you could try to dunk your favorite (least favorite?) brewer.

This year’s event was definitely the best year for the Great Taste of the Midwest that I have attended. Hats off to the MHTG for making a great event even better. Seeya next year!


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