Great Taste of the Midwest
August 12, 2013
Last August Kiddo had an event in Madison, WI, and I was killing time by sightseeing around the city on a bike. As I passed Olin Park, I noticed hordes of folks with pretzel necklaces walking toward the park. Having been to the Great American Beer Festival, I knew exactly what those pretzels signified. I later learned it was the Great Taste of the Midwest, a beer festival hosted by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild. Further research found not only was it one of the premier beer festivals in the nation, it was an extremely hard ticket to get. Ticket sales occur each spring with a limited number sold at area beer destinations and the remainder via lottery. Ticket sales are limited to 6000 with over 2/3 of the lottery requests unfulfilled. At the time I made a mental note (but not a calendar reminder) to get in the lottery in the spring.
And then forgot.
However, was pleasantly surprised on Friday when hubby walked in the house saying he was offered two tickets including a bus shuttle from a brewpub not too far from home. Did I want to go?
The day began at Delafield BrewHaus with a Ketel One Bloody Mary and in typical Milwaukee fashion a side car of beer. This was their tasty Naga-wicked Pale Ale (Nagawicka is a lake close by), a bit of lunch and an hour bus ride west to Madison.
Again hordes of folks, lots of pretzel necklaces, some including salami and cheese. Yes, its Wisconsin. But a well organized system to get folks in quickly, ID’s checked, wristbands applied, sampler glass and programs in hand.
I was surprised how well organized the entire event felt. Much more manageable than GABF, but still with more excellent beer than I’d be able to taste in one afternoon. Not just more manageable from a waiting in line for a sample perspective, but also the crowds a bit more behaved. Porta potties were ample. Water stations easy to find. Next year, tho’ think I’ll take a clue from folks I saw, and wear a camelbak. (Hydration is key to 5 hours of beer sampling!!) Lots of music and interesting entertainment – unsure if planned or buskers, either way great.
I tried to focus on trying things not generally available, special tappings and limited releases. I was on a quest for sours. Others in my group seemed to go for Porters and Stouts, hubby was trying a bit of everything. I’ve been hearing great things about the sours being made by Troy Casey, a brewer with AC Golden/ MillerCoors, and hoped some of his stuff was at the Tenth & Blake booth. Headed there first and was not disappointed! The Peche was wonderful, the Berliner Weisse with flavor bubbles tons of fun. But it was Barry White, an amazing barrel aged sour using Leinekugel BerryWeiss treated with lactobacillus and Brettanomyces then aged in oak bourbon barrels that really stood out becoming one of my favorite beers of the day. From there on a tip, we headed over the to Shorts Brewing booth to try their PB & Banana…and fell in love with their Ginger in the Rye.
We bounced around from that point on, trying special releases things from breweries we knew, and discovering breweries we didn’t know. The Tripel Crown from Cumberland Brewery in Lousiville was another favorite of the day as was the Exodus from Central Waters in WI.
While food was obviously not the focus of the day, the bacon on a stick from Smoking Cantina was to die for. There was a small food court (pizza, italian beef, sub sandwiches) in addition to the Smoking Catina booth, and tons of picnic tables to stop and rest or eat a bite. (Oh look there’s Brook and Kyle! Thanks guys for the invite!!!!)
Equally to die for were the views across Lake Monana. Madison is not only the home of the University of Wisconsin it is also the capital, and the Capitol is visible across the lake.
All in all a great day. Grabbed a nice full pour of Triple Crown from Cumberland (others in the group were raving about their Coconut Porter), and headed back to the bus.
And, yes, I have a reminder in my calendar for next year’s ticket sales…..
Annual visit to the Wisconsin State Fair
August 11, 2013
Closing day of theWisconsin State Fair meant it was now or never for Kiddo and my annual trip to the fair. We have a bit of a routine to our visits…venturing into some new things, but generally following a similar path each year. We’re not big midway people (despite being theme park junkies), nor do the expo halls really call us. For us is more about the cream puffs, the corn, the milk, the barns and the people watching.
With Kiddo now a teenager, and becoming more independent, increasingly wrapped up in the world of his friends, I’m thrilled that this is still “our” thing.
We started with a trip up the fairgrounds on the sky glider, noticing changes from prior years, chatting about past visits, what was here when I was a kid. Talking about all the crazy foods along the grandstands. We were at first alarmed when we got to the other end, and there was no milk booth. Then we noticed the sign saying it had moved to the south end of the grandstand.
We began to weave our way through barns, checking out the chickens, rabbits, goats, cows. Making our way towards the corn. I typically pause at this container garden along the way.
The New Berlin Lions Club roasted corn has been a fair favorite of mine since I was a kid. Signs above the booth say it’s been there 55 years, so definitely older than me (yes, I know, but not by a whole lot).
The racing ducks are new this year, and were a fun stop.
Finally we found the milk booth. I’m always surprised by the lines here. They move fast and at .25cents a cup, one of the best bargains at the fair. Unfortunately, the Cherry Vanilla and RootBeer flavors were sold out. This is often the case on the last day of the fair. We did a bit of our own mixology, trying Strawberry-Banana and Chocolate-Banana.
Of course, Wisconsin is not just the dairy state, it also has a strong beer culture. Which was even apparent in the Horticulture and craft exhibition hall. Kiddo suggested I need this Christmas tree.
Finally we made it to the Cream Puff Pavilion. Went through the line so we could watch them being assembled. Then grabbed a box to go. Another fair visit complete.
Looking back at my write up of our fair visit in 2010, not much has changed…other than Kiddo growing up. ACK!!!!
May 3, 2013
By riding the same trails regularly, I can easily judge the progression of my skills. Now starting my third summer mountain biking, I’m realizing both what I’ve already learned along with an awareness of how much I don’t know. It brings a smile to my face when I look back at pictures like these from 2011 and remember struggling with a climb I can now top, being afraid to ride across rocks I barely notice, coming to a dead stop in front of a log, I now pop over without a thought.
Flat Tire Decor Review
May 30, 2011
Flat Tire Decor is a Milwaukee (West Allis) based company that recycles/reuses old tires by turning them into footwear and other products. Milwaukee company and keeping tires out of landfills, how great is that? I received their largest basket, the ‘Newport’, a two handled trug-type shape that’s about 8″high with an 8″ base and 12″ top opening. (Milwaukee folks – you can get these at any of the 4 Elliott’s Ace Hardware stores)
Kiddo suggested I use the Newport to chill drinks. This is a great use. We like serving food buffet style, and are always looking for different ways to present guests with self serve options for many different beers, wines or soda. I know, I have one smart Kiddo, thanks for noticing. He earned a pack of his fav Sprecher Cream Soda as a reward for coming up with the idea.
My other favorite use was on the back of my bike. The stiff nature of the tires, allowed the sides to hold up to the bungee cords. The open top allowed me to safely carry plants and other farmer’s market finds which could get damaged in the pannier or messenger bags.
Wordless Wednesday: Bloody Marys – Milwaukee style
May 25, 2011