Wednesday, August 31, 2011

At Least It's Not A Hop Shortage

3 comments
BeerAdvocate pointed to some articles mentioning that barley production in the United States is down. This year only 450,000 acres were recorded in North Dakota, one of the top barley producers in the country.
The state is projected to produce 24.8 million bushels of the crop, down sharply from 43.5 million bushels a year ago. This year’s production will fall far short of the 44.1 million bushels grown in Idaho and the 37.4 million bushels produced in Montana, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.[cite]
Wet conditions (since 1993!) have slowed the production of barley in North Dakota as elsewhere. This is just one indicator of weather fluctuations that make malting barley difficult to produce.

Malting barley has a pretty healthy profit on it. Producing feed barley is barely break-even. As a quick aside: malting barley has very specific requirements in terms of grain size and quality. If the grain does not meet these requirements, it cannot be used as malting barley, it can only be used as feed. Obviously, the farmer doesn't (can't) know if the planted field is of sufficient quality until it is ready to be harvested.

However, given the wide fluctuations in weather, the risk of a field of feed barley is greater than it has been in years. This risk is not compensated by the price spread (the difference in price between malting barley and feed barley). Put simply, farmers have stopped producing barley because it is too risky; its low-end is not profitable enough and its high end isn't high enough.
[Another] of the things working against the crop: Barley, which isn’t a genetically modified commercial crop, competes with crops such as corn, soybeans and canola that receive substantial investment from the private biotech seed sector ... .
In other words, Dow and Cargill have vested interests in research in corn and soybeans; they have no such vested interest in barley. Thus, these competing crops (from the farmer's perspective) have had much of the risk genetically modified out of them. Barley, on the other hand, remains un-modified and risky. If an interested entity, say Anheuser-Busch or Miller were to sponsor barley-related research perhaps some of this risk could be eliminated and farmers would be willing to plant barley.

 However, AB and Miller have no such interest - they have contracts going out for a number of years to obtain their barley requirements. Indeed, the industry is going in this direction; production is mostly limited to only that directly under contract. In agricultural terms it has become a "specialty crop."

The reduction in barley production will hurt domestic craft producers who don't have the negotiating power to obtain such requirements contracts. Chalk this up to another benefit Goose Island receives by having its corporate overlord. However, if brewers were to team up for such purchases, either through a Brewers Guild, or some ad hoc (or formal) purchasing group, it might be possible to ensure that the group's access to barley is not so restricted.

In the meantime, expect barley prices to continue rising.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Bizarre

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If you remember this song, well, congratulations. I was obsessed with it when I was younger. I'm not sure why, but we'll just chalk it up to the 90's, I guess.

You're probably wondering what this has to do with anything.

Well, when I saw TheStreet.com publishing an article about the best beer states, it seemed oddly apropos.

TheStreet lists it's Top10 Beer States of 2011. [ed note: keep in mind that TheStreet is a business publication, so it's looking primarily at best places for the business of beer].

10. Montana ("It [has] the third-best ratio of brewers to citizens in the U.S.")

9. Delaware (Dogfish Head, duh)

8. New Hampshire (Portsmouth, Smuttynose, RedHook, and the New England hub of ABInBev)

7. Wisconsin ("Why isn't Wisconsin ranked higher, then? Partly because of production that doesn't even crack the Top 10, but partly because of legislation passed this summer that protects Miller from A-B InBev encroachment that combines the brewer's permit and wholesale and retail licenses given out by municipalities into a single permit under state control and prohibits brewers from buying wholesale distributors. That's great for Miller, but just made life a whole lot more difficult for the more than 70 brewers in the state that aren't Miller who now have a much more difficult path to getting licenses and getting their product on shelves. Wisconsin's total beer output grew only 0.2% during the past decade. Making life harder for most of your brewers for the sake of one doesn't seem like the best way to create growth." [ed note: I couldn't have said it better myself])

6. New York (AB, Labatt's, and Genessee provide big production boosts; Brooklyn doesn't hurt, either)

5. Washington ("The Seattle-based brewer [Mike's Hard Lemonade] has turned its colorful, fruity malt beverages into a 1.2-million-barrel-producing beast last year after pushing out only 805,000 just four years earlier.")

4. Colorado ("With the fourth most breweries in America and the fourth best capita per brewery in the country, Colorado has plenty of IPA and witbier for the craft collective and enough Bud and Coors Light for the Tim Tebow jersey-wearing Broncos faithful.")

3. Oregon ([ed note: if Oregon is 3, Colorado is 4, and Wisconsin is 7, who the heck is 1 and 2?!?])

2. Vermont ([ed note: WTF?] "Its brewing culture ... is enormous.")

1. California ("Sierra Nevada [took] the lead by producing 786,000 barrels in its Chico headquarters alone last year. Brewers that have been household names to craft fans for years are finding bigger followings as well, with Escondido's Stone Brewing increasing production from 49,000 barrels in 2006 to 115,000 last year and Lagunitas-based Lagunitas Brewing jumping from 39,000 to 106,000 during the same span.")

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Floating Down A River of Beer

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On Saturday August 20th Madison Beer Review will be tagging along on a tour of breweries in South-Western Wisconsin (the bus leaves from the Great Dane Fitchburg at 8:30am and costs a mere $40). I use the term "tagging along" loosely, Tim, director of the movie "Comeback Wisconsin" put the tour together and he asked me, Jeff, to "lead" or possibly to "guide" the tour - though Tim, not I, scheduled all the stops.

I agreed despite not having any idea what it means to "lead" a tour.

Robyn has done tours with the Hophead Beer Tours Co. Joe does tours at Ale Asylum. Mrs. MBR led tours at Pendarvis and Belmont. My aunt was a tour guide in Washington DC. I've been on bus tours of England and the Canadian Rockies. I think it has something, vaguely, to do with the phrase "To your left your will see ..."

The tour will look something roughly like this:

Leave Great Dane Fitchburg at around 9am
Hit Simple Earth Hop Farm on the way to Potosi Brewing Co around 11:30am for lunch and beer.
Then we're off to lovely Mineral Point, Wisconsin home to shandy experts Brewery Creek.
After a quick nip, it's on to The Trollway of Mount Horeb and some brews at the world-renowned Grumpy Troll.
Finally, we'll stop at New Glarus Brewing Co, before heading back to the Great Dane Fitchburg by about 9pm or 10pm or so.

This is what I think an agenda will look like:

Fitchburg - Dodgeville: Talk about beer ingredients and production
Dodgeville - Potosi: Talk about history of brewing in South-Western Wisconsin
Potosi - Mineral Point: Talk about Tasting beer
Mineral Point - Mount Horeb: Talk about brewpubs, community, and, loosely, brewing laws
Mount Horeb - New Glarus: Talk about Spotted Cow and the ubiquity and power of New Glarus
New Glarus - Madison: Anything we haven't already discussed

If that sounds like something you'd be down for, you should come along.

------------post script-------------
A bit of a disclaimer: MBR does not really have any vested interested in this tour: we didn't pay for it, we didn't set it up, we don't run it. MBR was kinda, sorta, hired by Comeback Wisconsin, Director Tim, to do this tour. This is one of the many non-writing things that we do at MBR - we help people to understand and appreciate beer in Wisconsin; indeed at least a full 1/3 of the things that MBR does is unrelated to writing articles for you to read. To that end, we've done beer dinners, beer tastings, beer festivals, beer pairings, beer consulting, and now you can add beer tours to the list. If you're interested in any of us doing any of that for you, let me know and we can hook you up.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Great Taste of the Midwest 2011 - A Review of Sorts

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I have to admit that it is really difficult to write a review of this year's Great Taste of the Midwest. Why? I can't really put my finger on it, but it doesn't seem to me that there was a whole lot to review about it; it's sort of like trying to explain why something didn't happen (like additional terrorist attacks in the wake of 9/11).

But I'll take a crack anyway.

One of the things that most stood out to me was the complete lack of any blockbuster "big beers" or trends this years. There was nothing that I heard "buzzed" about; no "you gotta try this" or "holy crap that was amazing". In previous years Vanilla Dark Lord or Cask Furious or whatever were all the rage. This year? Nothing really stood head and shoulders about the rest.

I think this says a lot about Midwestern beer actually. I think it says: a) many breweries are "catching up" to the big boys - we aren't just dominated by 3 Floyds, New Glarus, Bells, Great Lakes, Founders, etc. most every brewery is making good to great beer that can sit side-by-side with the best; b) the beer tends to be fairly homogeneous - (not homogenized) in other words, few breweries really stand out with niche production of a specialized type (see, e.g., Jolly Pumpkin) - every brewery has an IPA, a Belgian of some sort, maybe a lager, something that makes a passing attempt a sour (more on this in a minute).

So, to try to "make up" some form of differentiation ended up as this year's biggest "fail" - putting weird shit in beer. Last year, of course, had the all-time winner in this category with a "peanut butter stout", but I saw a lot of breweries putting weird shit - and by "weird shit" I mean things like blueberries, hyacinth, elderberries, raspberries, orange blossoms, tangerine, jalapenos, etc. (fruit and flower adjuncts) - into otherwise perfectly fine pale ales, golden ales, porters, stouts, etc. Indeed Dark Horse Brewing from Marshall, MI even managed to use Cinnamon Red Hots in a beer for the weekend's biggest WTF moment.

It wasn't all terrible - some breweries make a living doing this very, very well - Dave's BrewFarm and Shorts among them. But for many, it was simply not particularly good, or questionable and boring at best.

Thankfully most breweries have dialed down the sour beer with all but the best continuing their sour production. Breweries like Brugge Brasserie (Indianapolis, IN) and De Stihl (Normal, IL) and Jolly Pumpkin (Dexter, MI) and Goose Island (Chicago/Belgium/Brazil) had some of the best.

Indeed, this year's "Winning" beer (imho, of course), Saison De Ruisseau, came from De Stihl. The Saison was full-flavored and complex with a distinct but not overpowering sour tuck to it. I enjoyed every sip of it.

Speaking of enjoying every sip. I will close with the biggest frustration of the day and something that the event organizers need to address for a variety of reasons: pour sizes. I had breweries (Goose Island, I'm looking at you! They were merely the most egregious - almost every brewery was guilty) that poured me nearly a full f-ing glass of beer. I dumped most of it on the ground. It was fine beer, it's not like it was bad, but I don't want or need that much beer. It's called the Great TASTE of the Midwest. 3-4oz pours tops. It's not only a complete waste of beer, but it prevents people from enjoying all of the beer available and it's a huge waste of my entry fee*.

The event organizers need to stress to the breweries to pour tastes not full (or even half-full) glasses. When designing a glass put a marker on the glass for the breweries to use when filling.

*Prices for the Great Taste have gone up because the event needs to pay for all of the beer that the breweries bring. If a brewery pours 5 kegs of something, the event pays for all 5 kegs. If the brewery is pouring too much and you're throwing 3/4 of the beer on the ground, they (the brewery) could have poured properly and only brought 2 kegs and eliminated the waste. Then the event would only pay for 2 kegs and your ticket prices wouldn't have to go up every year.

----post script----
Vintage Brewing Co. definitely took the day with the Best Booth - a full Vintage bar with 2 complete sets of tap lines (over 25 total taps), couches, tables, chairs, and fish bowls. I love it when breweries recognize the value of the Great Taste and take advantage of the marketing opportunity presented to them.

----post-post-script----
The GTMW iOS and Android app was a solid success. I didn't use it because I don't have a need for it, but those that did found it very useful for their purposes. Some things to think about for next year: reminders for beers that are on a schedule and more use of q-codes either in the guide or, preferably, at the booths.

Finally, there needs to be more thought/advertising/information about the education tent - it was quite the poor state this year with attendees barely paying attention and those that were unable to hear or understand anything being said.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Press Release Friday - Something to Whet Your Great Taste Whistle

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Alaskan Brewing Co. is coming to Wisconsin Labor Day weekend. Frank Beer will be distributing. Those of you that know, know that this is pretty darn cool. Those that don't - you are in for a treat. Alaskan makes some great beer, including one of my very favorites - Smoked Porter; it's warm and smoky with a nice clean finish.

But here's what I don't get: Alaskan is entering with their amber (why?), IPA (again, why?), and White (umm...ok?). It seems set up to fail. Alaskan's a great brewery, but why would you buy these beers from them? With the exception of the White, almost every brewery in the state already makes passable versions of these - Alaskan has no competitive (or comparative) advantage.

Why not come in with Smoked Porter and push that as the distinguishing brand? Yeah, not everyone's gonna love it, but it is a great beer that will convert people. On the other hand, nobody's going to buy Alaskan Amber over Capital Amber or Alaskan IPA over Hopalicious.

Anyway; cool to see a National-ish brand coming instead of going.


-----------START PRESS RELEASE----------------------

Alaskan Brewing to Enter First State East of the Mississippi
Wisconsinites can raise a glass with Juneau's "taste of Alaska" this Labor Day 

Juneau, Alaska (August 12, 2011) - Beer drinkers in Wisconsin will be able to celebrate the Labor Day holiday with brews from the state of 100,000 glaciers when Alaskan Brewing brings their bottled "taste of Alaska" to the Badger State this September. Alaskan Brewing Co. is partnering with six local distributors to help share the products throughout the state.

"We are thrilled to represent Alaskan Brewing Co's award-winning beers in our markets," says Mike Frank, President of Middleton's Frank Beer Distributing, one of Alaskan's Wisconsin partners. 

With the addition of Wisconsin, Alaskan's second new market entry since 2008, Alaskan beer will be available in a total of 12 states. Alaskan will be entering Wisconsin with their Gold Rush-era inspired Alaskan Amber. Alaskan IPA and White Ale will be available in mid-September, a number of their year-round and seasonal beers will be available in kegs and caseware in the state later this fall. 

"Customers have been asking for it and we look forward to selling such great craft beers in our 30th year of business," says Sussex-based Beer Capitol's Ken Limas. Alaskan will also be partnering with Lee Beverage, Kay Beer Distributing, CJW Distributing and LaCrosse Beverage.

This year the Juneau-based Alaskan Brew Crew celebrates their 25th year of handcrafting award-winning beers brewed with the historic recipes and local ingredients of the Last Frontier.

"We are excited to celebrate our anniversary with a hop over the Mississippi to share our beers with Alaskan fans in Wisconsin," says Alaskan Brewing Co-Founder Marcy Larson.

Alaskan Brewing will be posting news and announcements about launch events and activities at Facebook.com/AlaskanBrewingCoWI and AlaskanBeer.com as they get closer to the September release. 

25th Anniversary Alaskan Perseverance Ale Releases September 1 

Alaskan has been brewing in the remote coastal town of Juneau, Alaska for the last 25 incredible years. To celebrate this tradition, the Brew Crew created Alaskan Perseverance Ale; a Russian Imperial Stout brewed with Alaska birch syrup, fireweed honey and alder-smoked malt – a tribute to all that makes Alaskan beers truly Alaskan. 

Learn more at http://www.alaskanbeer.com/our-brew/limited-edition/pilot-series/perseverance-ale.html, or for images, product samples and interview requests please contact Communications Manager Ashley Johnston, ajohnston@alaskanbeer.com

### 

About Alaskan Brewing Co. 
Alaskan Brewing Co. has been making award-winning beer in Juneau, Alaska, since 1986. The Alaskan Brew Crew bottles the unique character of the Last Frontier with historic recipes, local ingredients and glacier-fed water. Alaskan Brewing handcrafts Amber, Pale, White, IPA, Stout, Smoked Porter, Winter Ale, Summer Ale and a variety of limited edition beers in the Alaskan Pilot Series. Follow Alaskan at Facebook.com/AlaskanBrewingCo, Twitter.com/AlaskanBrewing and www.alaskanbeer.com.


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Press Release Thursday - Stella Artois Draught Master Competition

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It's a little late, but there's still a few opportunities left to be the next Chris Myers (loyal MBR reader and winner of the 2010 Stella Artois International Draught Master Competition).

------------START PRESS RELEASE-------------------


MADISON STELLA ARTOIS DRAUGHT MASTER COMPETITION

This is a program designed to engage consumers by individually demonstrating and educating them on the Stella Artois 9-Step Pouring Ritual.Consumers will be given an opportunity to learn how to pour the perfect pint while being sampled Stella Artois in the iconic chalice.

The City of Madison’s winner will then receive a chance to compete against other beer connoisseurs in a worldwide competition to become a brand Draught Master.This year’s finals will be held in Buenos Aires, Argentina on October 27th!

In 2010, Chris Myers of Madison, Wisconsin was sent to compete in the regional finals in New York City where he continued on to nationals in Boston and then London for the world draught master competition. Chris Myers is currently the Stella Artois WORLD Draught Master and will be traveling around the world as the brand ambassador beginning August 26th until October 27th where he will pass on his title at the 2011 competition in Buenos Aires. So do you want to be the next Stella Artois Draught Master? Here is where we will be for consumers to participate for the chance to qualify for regionals. What’s even better is each participant receives a complimentary Stella Artois and gets to keep the chalice at each event:

· Tuesday, August 9th @ Ivory Room (116 W. Mifflin St.) 9:00-10:30pm

· Wednesday, August 10th @ Drackenbergs (609 Sherman Ave.) 6:30-8:00pm – Enjoy a free Cigar pairing with your Stella Artois, as well

· Thursday, August 11th @ Showboat Saloon (24 Broadway, Wisconsin Dells) 9:00-10:30pm

· Thursday, August 18th @ Madisons (119 King St.) 8:00-10:00pm

Pre-Great Taste 2011 #13 - Cleaning Up the Kitchen

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I'm a big fan of Underground Kitchen and O'So, so this pairing is one of my favorites for Friday night. Unfortunately since the Kitchen is ... well ... not open - the event is at my favorite steak place in Madison - The Tornado Room.

The following is from Hastings, the Bar Manager for Underground Kitchen:

We'll be pouring the following in the Corral Room below the Tornado from 8:30-1:30am:
Three permutations of bourbon barrel night train that will cycle throughout the night:

bourbon barrel Night Train
bourbon barrel Night Train w/ cocoa nibs
bourbon barrel Night Train w/ coffee
brandy barrel Dank w/ brettanomyces
Goldilock's Revenge, brandy barrel imperial stout
Lupulin Maximus
Hop Whoopin'
Picnic Ants
Rusty Red
We'll have a spread of food out, and will be selling tickets for $4 that attendees will exchange for one pour--pints for about 1/2 of the beers, goblets for the scarcer, higher ABV stuff. We may also do a beer cocktail, built around Hop Whoopin'. 

Ticket stubs will be entered into a raffle we'll run every hour or so for Underground Meats charcuterie, O'So gear, etc.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Pre-Great Taste 2011 #12 - This Should Be The Last of It

2 comments
Gray's Tied House (950 Kimball Ln, Verona, West Side): We will be running a special one of our specialty beers Bourbon Brown Stout along with an old favorite, Rock Hard Red at $2.50 a pint. We will have on tap our Golden Light, Honey Ale, Busted Knuckle Irish Ale, Rathskeller Amber, IPA, Bully Porter, 56 Oatmeal Stout - as well as the Bourbon Brown we also have another specialty beer right now that was brewed in house in Verona - Bearded Brown Ale. Our first shuttle bus leaves at noon and will run on a loop all day. Free bus rides of course. [ed note: leaves from where?]

THURSDAY 8/11
THE LIVERY @ Mason Lounge: Old Cedar Firkin

FRIDAY 8/12
LAGUNITAS @ COOPERS TAVERN: IPA, Hop Stoopid, Pils, Infusion 6, Lucky 13, TBA


FOUNDERS @ GLASS NICKEL: Dirty Bastard, Centennial IPA, Red's Rye PA, Blushing Monk, Cashew Brown, KBS, Nemis, Devil Dancer, Curmudgeon,

NEW HOLLAND AND DARK HORSE @ TIPSY COW: Cask: NH - Madhatter DH - ROD - NH Taps - Saison Cocoa, Beehive, Dragons Milk, Full Circle, DH Taps - Red Hot Shocker, Smells Like Weed IPA, Kolsh, Rasberry Ale

NEBRASKA BREWIN CO. @ BRICK HOUSE BBQ: Barrel Aged Hop God, Smoked Porter, Nebraska Blond, Infinite Wit, EOS Wheat, Brunette Brown, IPA, Cardinal Pale Ale, Hop God, Summertime Rye

SHELTON BROS @ BRASSERIE V: Struise Elliot Brew, Slaapmutske Dry Hopped Lager, Mikkeller Draft Bear, DeMolen Cease & Desist (rasputin), Mahrs Saphir Weiss, Nogne O Imperial Brown, Cantillion Foufounne De Struise Mikkeller Elliot Brew - Double IPA; De Struise Ignis et Flamma - Belgian IPA; Cantillon Fou' Foune - Apricot Lambic; De Molen Cease & Desist - Russian Imperial Stout; Mahr's Saphir Weiss - Hefeweizen; Mikkeller Koppi Coffe IPA - IPA; Agullons Bruno Pale Ale - Pale Ale from Spain; Slaapmutske Dry Hopped Lager - Czech Pilsener

JOLLY PUMPKIN @ JORDANS BIG TEN PUB: Oro de Calabaza, Bam Bier, Bam Noire (2009 cases)

HINTERLAND AND DAVE’S BREWFARM @ OLD FASHIONED: Hinterland: Firkin: Dry Hopped Firkin, IPA, Cherry Wheat, Luna Stout, BREWFARM - Matacabras, TBA

SAND CREEK @ DRACKENBERGS: Port Aged Double Oscars Stout, Bourbon Barrel Aged Scottish Ale, Wild Ride with Mangos, English style Special Ale

Vintage Brewing Co.: One more update for you! Vintage will be running the prison bus between the downtown location and the brewery, with a stop at Walgreens on the Capitol Square Friday night as well. The shuttle will start running at 6:00pm from the VBC- specific shuttle times will be posted on the website. (I can send you an update as well when we figure out what the times will be!)

Monday, August 8, 2011

Press Release Monday - Aecht Schlenkerla on Gravity Pour

2 comments
Do you want to know where I'm going to be tomorrow at 5pm? At Brasserie V drinking sweet, smoky doppelbock from a gravity pour wooden keg.

-----------START PRESS RELEASE----------------
Tuesday, the 9th, Brasserie V will be doing a Gravity-Pour German Lager Wooden keg tapping of Aecht Schlenkerla Eiche, a smoked Doppelbock at 5pm!!!

We will hoist this wooden keg from Bamberg Germany up onto the bar, pound home the brass spigot and pour it till it's gone.
This is a rare treat and something you will not want to miss!!

A Vision of The Future of The Great Taste of the Midwest

10 comments
I will start this by saying that I am an active member of the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild ("MHTG"), the group that puts on the Great Taste of the Midwest ("GTMW") each and every year. Indeed, I often volunteer for the GTMW and I am involved with the MHTG's education committee. I am not, however, involved in the running of MHTG or GTMW; I do not sit on any board of either organization, I am not a czar of anything. I have no special insight, nor do I have any particular influence. This post is purely a musing about what I would personally like to see out of the GTMW and is not a comment on the management of the GTMW. [ed note: Bill Rogers, President of the GTMW for the past few years, is a co-organizer of Madison Craft Beer Week with MBR]

It seems inevitable to me, though, that GTMW become, formally, a multi-day event. All of the cool kids are doing it; see, for examples, the Great American Beer Fest in Denver (3 days, 4 sessions) and the Oregon Brewers Festival (4 days, Thurs-Sun). Even the un-cool kids are doing it; see, for example, Cleveland International Beer Fest (2 days, 3 sessions). Informally, of course, GTMW is already at least 2 days with Friday night dedicated to parties by some, but not all (or even many), of the breweries that participate in the festival itself. Related events are even bleeding into Thursday night and over into Sunday morning.

There are problems with being a multi-day festival.

First, it would involve even more planning than what already goes on. This is played out by some inherent requirements of a multi-day festival: increased security to guard beer overnight; increased coordination with breweries; increased coordination for even more volunteers.

Second, it would be difficult, though not impossible, to hold the event outdoors. While Portland hosts the Oregon Brewers Festival outdoors over multiple days, it seems like this would be fairly inefficient both for security purposes and for weather contingencies. While people are willing to put up with crappy, hot, humid, rainy, muggy, bug-ridden weather for one afternoon (a problem, for the most part, that doesn't exist in sunny Portland), being outside in the Madison summer for 2 or 3 days is not only uncomfortable for the attendees, but downright tortuous to the brewery reps and volunteers that would have to participate in all of the sessions.

Finally, Madison simply doesn't, in my opinion, have the infrastructure to support something too much bigger than what we already have. Public transport for venues that could even accommodate such a festival is laughable at best. None of the potential places that such an event could be held would be downtown proper; this means that participants either have to walk (from where?), ride a bike (all 30,000 of them? Denver gets 75,000 to GABF), or drive (a really bad idea). Without reasonable public transport (reliable bus service or light-rail service) capable of transporting large numbers of people, having an event of this size is almost impossible. Not to mention the dearth of hotels in Madison. Indeed, lack of infrastructure is the single biggest barrier to expanding GTMW.

The benefits of expanding GTMW are huge.

The economic benefit that GTMW brings to Madison is huge. For the first time, this year MHTG is going to survey the exact economic impact of GTMW. I am part of the team that will measure exactly how much money this event brings to the Madison area in hotel and spending dollars. If I were to guess, I'd put the number at millions. Doubling, tripling, or even quadrupling the size of the GTMW would bring many more millions of dollars to Madison; just as a note - GTMW currently hosts approximately 6,000 people and quadrupling it would only be 24,000 people, or approximately 1/3-1/4 the size of GABF.

But the economic impact is only the most immediate and publicly beneficial reason. Increasing the size and scope of GTMW would increase the stature of Midwestern beer and breweries, and Madison itself, as a home to great beer. Already recognized as good, solid, beer; the Midwest is often dismissed as the "red-headed step-child" of the beer industry - good, occasionally great, but often boring. A festival on the scale of GABF and OBF would bring respect and demonstrate the world that not only are there a whole host of great breweries here, but reveal that the ugliest secret of the brewing industry is that our "boring" beer is far better, on average, than the "boring" beer made by every brewery in the known universe (Green Flash,  Stone, Brooklyn, et al don't want you to know that their best-selling beers by volume, by far, are "boring" beers that don't make the A+ grades on BeerAdvocate and RateBeer).  This would attract more breweries and spur more growth in this nascent industry. Breweries are small businesses that drive plenty of job and tax dollars: brewery, distribution, and retail employees; excise taxes; business taxes; and community support are just a few of the ways that small breweries help their communities.

And last, but certainly not least: the biggest advantage of expanding the scope of GTMW is this: I'd get to go to a multi-day festival and not have to fly all the way to freaking Denver to do it.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Your Guide to the Pre-Great Taste Events

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Wednesday (8/10) Night Events
Dexter's Pub (301 North St, Near East): New Belgium Brewery Showcase
- New Belgium Lips of Faith Brands: Ooh La La Ale; La Folie; Dunkelweiss; Abbey Grand Cru; Super Cru; Pamela's IPA; Drew's Ale; Vrienden (4:00-7:00pm - $15 Flights/$6.00 pours; 7:00-Close - $20 Flights/$7.50 pours)

Thursday (8/11) Night Events
Star Liquor (1209 Williamson St, Near East): Central Waters Tasting (4pm - 7pm) (free)

Barriques Fitchburg (5957 McKee Road, West Side): Sample Tasting (free)

The Malt House (2609 E Washington Ave, Near East) - Upland Brewing Co (Bloomington, IN) and Great Lakes Brewing Co (Cleveland, OH)
- Great Lakes Brewing Co. Taplist: Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout; Holy Moses; Burning River; Lake Erie Monster

Friday (8/12) Night Events
Downtown
Barriques Coffee Trader (127 W. Washington Ave, Downtown): Great Lakes Brewing Co. (7pm - 9pm)
- Meet the Brewers of Great Lakes Brewing Company - Beer, Food and the folks that make the beer (and the food)

The Coopers Tavern (20 West Mifflin St, Downtown) - Lagunitas Brewing Co (Petaluma, CA)

Old Fashioned (23 N Pinckney St, Downtown) - Hinterland (Green Bay, WI), Red Eye Brewing Co (Wausau, WI), Dave's BrewFarm (Wilson, WI)
- Red Eye Taps: Two year old Belgian golden strong ale, aged on French Oak ("Tempt"), and "Big Betty" Dunkleweiss (new seasonal).

Tornado Room (116 S Hamilton St, Downtown) - O'so Brewing Co (Plover, WI) 
- 8 O'so lines with very Rare O'so Beers and a fundraiser with some proceeds going the Underground Kitchen
- NOTE THIS IS A CHANGE OF LOCATION!! IT IS NOT AT TEMPEST AS PREVIOUSLY REPORTED

Madison's (119 King St, Downtown): Goose Island Brewing Co (Chicago, IL) (5pm - 7pm complimentary samples; 7pm - close cash bar)
- Serving: Goose Island IPA (English Style IPA); Goose Island Matilda (Belgium Style Pale Ale); Goose Island Sofie (Belgium Style Farmhouse Ale aged in wine barrels with orange peel); Goose Island Fleur (Belgium Style Pale Ale blended with hibiscus and kombucha tea); Goose Island Pepe Nero (Belgium Style Farmhouse Ale brewed with black peppercorns); Goose Island Demolition (Belgium Style Golden Ale); 5 Vintage reserve/experimental beers new to Wisconsin; Goose Island Gourmet 100% cane sugar Sodas

Tipsy Cow (102 King St, Downtown) - New Holland Brewing Co (New Holland, MI), Furthermore Beer (Spring Green, WI), Dark Horse Brewing Co (Dexter, MI)

Argus Bar (123 E Main St, Downtown): Three Floyds Brewing Co (Munster, IN)

Maduro (117 E Main St, Downtown): Bells Brewing Co (Kalamazoo, MI)

Paradise Lounge (119 W Main St, Downtown): August Schell Brewing Co (New Ulm, MN) (8pm - ?)
- Meet Ted Marty, 5th Generation of the family-owned brewery; win prizes; Hefeweizen and Firebrick pint specials all night

Capital Tap Haus (107 State Street, Downtown) - Capital Brewing Co (Middleton, WI) (5pm - 7pm)
- Join Capital Brewery Brewmaster, Kirby Nelson, at the Capital Tap Haus and sample (direct from the lagering tank) 2011 Eternal Flame.The first 50 people through the door receive a complimentary Capital Brewery souvenir glass. $2.50 pints of Supper Club.

Brickhouse BBQ (408 W Gorham St, Downtown): The Beer Spot and Brickhouse present Central Waters, Shorts, and Nebraska Brewing.
- Shorts Brewing Company Taplist: Dan's Pink Skirt - American IPA; Spruce Pils - Imperial India Pilsner made with Blue Spruce Tips; Bludgeon Yer Eye - American India Black Ale; Crunchy Grooves - Organic Pilsner; Kolsch 45 - German Kolsch Ale; Smoked Apple Ale - German Rauch Beer made with Apples; Chocolate Wheat - Strong Porter made with Chocolate malt, not chocolate and ample amounts of wheat, but it's not a wheat beer; Nicie Spicie - American Wheat made with Lemon and Orange Zest, coriander, and three kinds of peppercorns; Stellar Ale - American Pale Ale; Saison Du Shorts - Saison

East Side
Dexters (301 North St, Near East): Pearl Street Brewery (La Crosse, WI) and Summit Brewing Co (Twin Cities)
- Pearl Street Party! Live music by La Crosse and Madison collaboration band - "The Organic Banana Quartet featuring members of Smokin' Bandits and Clovis Mann. We have a door man taking names at the door. Every 20 minutes, we'll give away a door prize all night long. We'll have PSB, Summit and Dexters swag. At 10:45 we do a special tapping of the infamous Bedwetter Barleywine! Every Pearl Street Beer sold all night is a chance to win a pair of Great Taste tickets. Drawing for GT tickets is at midnight. Must be present to win.

Malt House (2609 E Washington Ave, Near East) - Lakefront Brewing Co (Milwaukee, WI)
- Lakefront Brewing Co Taplist: Fixed Gear; Bridgeburner; Oktoberfest; Rosie; East Side Dark; Gravity-fed Stichfass kegs: Barrel-aged Fuel Café; Klisch Pilsner

Glass Nickel Pizza (2916 Atwood Ave, Near East) - Founders Brewing Co (Grand Rapids, MI)

Alchemy Cafe (1980 Atwood Ave, Near East) - Potosi Brewing Co (Potosi, WI)(8pm - 11pm)
- The Alchemy Cafe will be hosting the Potosi Brewing Co. preparty on Friday August 12th at 8pm. Later in the evening(around 11) the band Nuggernaut will be playing some funk/jazz

Drackenberg's Cigar Bar (605 N. Sherman Ave, East Side) - Sand Creek Brewing Co (Black River Falls, WI) and Potosi Brewing Co (Potosi, WI) (Potosi 6pm-7:30pm; Sand Creek 8pm - 11pm)
- Sand Creek will be providing some very special beers. One very special beer will be in a very special barrel and will be available for the first time only at Drackenbergs.

West Side
Mason Lounge (416 S. Park St, Near West): Blind Pig Brewery (Champaign, IL) (6:30pm - 9:30pm)
- Bill Morgan, the brewmaster from the Blind Pig brewery in Champagne IL, will be swinging by the Mason to pour tastes

Jordans Big Ten Pub (1330 Regent St, Near West) - Jolly Pumpkin (Dexter, MI) and Upland Brewing Co (Bloomington, IN).

Brasserie V (1923 Monroe St, Near West) - Shelton Brothers Importers

Vintage Brewing Co (674 S. Whitney Way, West Side): Titletown Brewing Co (Green Bay, WI) (6pm - 9pm)
- Titletown Brewers Dave Oldenberg and Dave Malcolm will be there. Vintage will be providing some special releases of our own as well!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Pre-Great Taste #11 - Barriques

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Thursday Night (8/11):
Fitchburg Pre-Great Taste Tasting
Stop by to get ready for the Great Taste.
Barriques Beer Buyer David Sanborn will be pouring samples from 5-7pm and we will have snacks to accompany the beers.
A Free Event!!!

Friday Night (8/12):
Meet the Brewers of Great Lakes Brewing Company
Barriques Coffee Trader on West Washington Ave
7pm-9pm (and maybe a bit beyond that)
Beer, Food and the folks that make the beer (and the food)
More details to follow.

Pre-Great Taste #10 - Cicerone Exam

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You're probably wondering why this is here, but if you are in Madison on Friday the 12th (11am - 3pm at the Brickhouse BBQ on Gorham) and you serve beer professionally, you should sit for this exam.

You need to take the Certified Beer Server Exam online first (it costs $69 and if you know anything about beer, serving beer, and beer distribution you can probably pass without too much difficulty).

If you take and pass the Cicerone Exam (the one given on the 12th), you will be a Certified Cicerone. The exam costs $345.

Why do you care? Because you care about the beer that you serve. Because your customers care about the beer that you serve. Because if you want to work for a decent beer bar, either as a bar manager, cellerman, or even a server, in any major city in the US this will soon be a requirement.

This exam helps to standardize knowledge about beer. Certification demonstrates that you have a level of knowledge and expertise about tasting, pouring, and serving beer. While those who don't know may laugh or giggle (how hard can it be to serve a beer, right?) to do it right takes knowledge and practice that this exam provides evidence of.

In what situations would you recommend a Saison? What would you pair with a Belgian Blonde? Can you legitimately recommend a German Lager to a beer snob? Why? What's the difference between an American and English Brown Ale? I see your menu has a Belgian Dark and a Dubbel - what's the difference? Hmm...this beer tastes funny, is there something wrong with the tapline? Why is this damned tapline causing all of my beer to foam excessively? These are all questions that better beer servers need to be able to answer.

If you don't care about these questions, then you aren't taking beer seriously. This isn't a problem, but don't expect to serve or have serious beer customers. And expect customers to be disappointed when your service and product are unacceptable.

If you want to take beer seriously, you need to seriously consider the Cicerone Exam, either for yourself or your staff.


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ps. I am not a Cicerone and I don't have any stake in the Cicerone folks. I just know that I was skeptical of the dubious "certification" that was provided, but when I went to a bar in Chicago that required this certification of its servers, I was amazed at how much better the service knowledge was.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Pre-Great Taste 2011 #9 - The Mason Lounge

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Chronically underrated Mason Lounge is bringing in Blind Pig Brewery from Champaign, Illinois. Brewmaster Bill Morgan will be on hand to answer the question, in what ways, exactly, a pig might go blind.

Pre-Great Taste 2011 #8 - Vintage Brewing Company

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More details on Friday Night at Vintage Brewing Co. on the West Side:

Vintage Brewing Company will be hosting Titletown from 6:00-9:00 the Friday night before the Great Taste. Brewers Dave Oldenberg and Dave Malcolm will be there. Vintage will be providing some special releases of our own as well!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Pre-Great Taste 2011 #7 - A Dumpload

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So, I haven't actually been keeping up my end of the bargain. I've been getting in announcements and I haven't been getting them up. My bad. So, here's what you've been missing:

Shorts Brewing Company at Brickhouse: Taplist: Dan's Pink Skirt - American IPA; Spruce Pils - Imperial India Pilsner made with Blue Spruce Tips; Bludgeon Yer Eye - American India Black Ale; Crunchy Grooves - Organic Pilsner; Kolsch 45 - German Kolsch Ale; Smoked Apple Ale - German Rauch Beer made with Apples; Chocolate Wheat - Strong Porter made with Chocolate malt, not chocolate and ample amounts of wheat, but it's not a wheat beer; Nicie Spicie - American Wheat made with Lemon and Orange Zest, coriander, and three kinds of peppercorns; Stellar Ale - American Pale Ale; Saison Du Shorts - Saison

Thursday Night at Malt House: Upland Taplist TBD; Great Lakes Brewing Co.: Taplist: Blackout Stout; Holy Moses; Burning River; Lake Erie Monster

Friday Night at Malt House: Lakefront Brewing Co: Taplist: Fixed Gear; Bridgeburner; Oktoberfest; Rosie; East Side Dark; Gravity-fed Stichfass kegs: Barrel-aged Fuel Café; Klisch Pilsner [ed note: Stichfass Kegs are sorta like German casks]

Press Release for Goose Island at Madison's (119 King St, Downtown) on Friday Night
--------------START PRESS RELEASE--------------

You are cordially invited to join us--Goose Island--for our 4th annual pre-party for the Great
Taste of the Midwest.

When: Friday, August 12th, 2011

Establishment: Madison’s Downtown – 119 King Street, Madison, WI

Time: 5:00 - 7:00pm: Complementary samples

7:00pm – close: Cash bar

Serving: Goose Island IPA (English Style IPA); Goose Island Matilda (Belgium Style Pale Ale); Goose Island Sofie (Belgium Style Farmhouse Ale aged in wine barrels with orange peel); Goose Island Fleur (Belgium Style Pale Ale blended with hibiscus and kombucha tea); Goose Island Pepe Nero (Belgium Style Farmhouse Ale brewed with black peppercorns); Goose Island Demolition (Belgium Style Golden Ale); 5 Vintage reserve/experimental beers new to Wisconsin; Goose Island Gourmet 100% cane sugar Sodas
---------------END PRESS RELEASE-----------------

Friday Night: Summit Brewing Co at Dexter's: taplist and details TBA
Friday Night: Leinie's TBA

Friday Night: August Schell at Paradise Lounge