Friday, September 10, 2010

Let's Talk About Fests, Baby

We are in the midst of what I affectionately term the "busy season" for the brewing industry. Every weekend from mid-August through mid-October has at least one, if not two, or three beerfests going on around the state. I'll mention a few here, but please, if you know of any others, throw 'em up in the comments and I'll promote them up to the article.

I have a particular bias for two of them, and I'll talk about those when we get there. But, let's just look at the ol' calendar, shall we?

September 10: Milwaukee Oktoberfest (through October 2) - held at the Old Heidelberg Park in Glendale this event stretches every weekend (not Sundays) from early September to early October. Flush with polka and more accordians than you can shake a stick at, the beer flows freely (though not for free). It's not a typical beer fest, though, so don't expect tasting samples of obscure brands, it's a family-ish event to celebrate our German heritage. Gee, maybe you could learn a thing or two.

September 11: Thirsty Troll - one of the best values on the circuit. It is not exclusively Wisconsin-only, but it's darn close. A great place to get a taste of all the great beer this state has to offer at a reasonable price and little pushing, shoving, or snobbery. Just a good ol' laid back time.

September 17: Great Lakes Brew Fest (also on the 18th) - the beer fest with ego issues; it now spills over on to a second day, just to "prove" that it must be the best. And they do get awfully darn close to being "the best" - unrestricted to breweries from the Midwest as the Great Taste is, you can find beer from all over the country and spend two days in drunken bliss. Also on Friday night is the Cystic Fibrosis Keg and Cork event at Capital Brewery. I have to admit a little bit of bias since I helped them a little to get some of it set up, but it's a great, laid back, social event more than a beer fest - meant to be a night out with some great beer, wine, and food more than a beer fest of 4oz pours.

September 24: LaCrosse Oktoberfest. Ah. Not-Sober-Fest. What do I need to tell you about this that would make a lick of difference. You're going to go. You're going to get hammered. You're going to like it. Just make sure you check out Pearl Street's newest seasonal beer - their Oktoberfest, brewed specifically (and only) for this event. Also, September 24-26 is the New Glarus Oktoberfest; a grand time of yodeling and celebration of Swiss/German heritage - and the release of New Glarus' Staghorn Oktoberfest. [ed note: thanks Anonyous #2]

October 2: Quivey's Grove - another venerable institution in Madison. Every one that I've been to has been absolutely gorgeous weather. I think it's because the fest is held at Camelot. Also on October 2 is the Sand Creek Oktoberfest held at the brewery: "Craft booths, food, live music, and beer of course." [ed note: thanks Nate!]

October 16: Dells on Tap. Thank you Anonymous #1.

October 22: Crackle - a newcomer to the schedule, this is another one that I've had my paws in to some extent. Mrs. MBR is a board member of Olbrich Gardens where this event is held. Fair warning - the beer isn't free, but there will be great giveaways, awesome food by Food Fight, and five raging bonfires throughout the gardens to keep you warm. This is my favorite time of the year - cool, crisp air, wet leaves, football, fires and marshmallows, beautifully colored trees, a nice Oktoberfest beer. Personally, I choose to believe that they scheduled it here to celebrate Mrs. MBR's wedding anniversary (the 18th through 21st). So, bust out a mere $20 and come to my anniversary party.

November 6: Janesville Fall Fest-of-Ale. Thank you Anonymous #1, again. As a side note, this event appears to be indoors, which is probably for the best in early November, anyway.


  1. Vintage Brew pub, or as my friends call it "JT Vintage" is really kicking out lots of beers. When I was at the Great Taste, they had about 12 beers on tap. I don't know who the brewer is, but he or she is really offering up variety.

    BTW you forgot to mention the "Dells on Tap" event. It's a blast! Also don't forget about Janesville's Festival of Ales. It's a room full of Bud Light drinkers sampling craft beers and getting snickered up. It's a real hoot, we have a good time with our "normal beer" drinker friends.

    Fresh New Glarus Oktoberfest beer on tap.
    September 24-26, 2010

  3. Nate Peck assistant brewer Sand Creek BrewerySeptember 13, 2010 at 2:18 PM

    Saturday October 2nd is also Sand Creek Brewery's annual Oktoberfest held on the brewery property. Craft booths, food, live music, and beer of course.

  4. about the Great Lakes Brew Fest....

    Although it is true that they offer "beer from all over the country," the comment and the comparison with the Midwest-only Great Taste is misleading. They have beer from outside the Midwest, but not _brewers_ from outside the Midwest. It's distributors or volunteers pouring from bottles you can buy in town, not special or limited brews that you can get only from the brewery or from the local area of the brewery. The Great Taste may be limited to a region, but they attract brewers who bring beers that you can't get other than by going to their local markets, and some beers that are brewed (or aged) specifically with an eye to sharing them with the Great Taste crowd.

    The Great Lakes Brew Fest is a great time, and they are getting better about attracting more actual brewery staff to attend (including some of the Michigan brewers), but there are still a lot of distributors and volunteers pouring bottles of readily available brands. One important great feature of the GLBF that you don't mention is "Homebrew Island" and the representation of so many homebrew clubs offering samples of their members' tasty fermentations.


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