Tag: Wisconsin

Great Taste of the Midwest

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.

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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.

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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!!!!)

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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

IMG_1080Closing 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.

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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.

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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.

Aug 11, 2013

Looking back at my write up of our fair visit in 2010, not much has changed…other than Kiddo growing up. ACK!!!!


To really know if you are improving, you need some kind of benchmark to evaluate progress against. It’s as true in sports as it is in business. At work, we routinely set baselines or benchmarks, and this week’s first trail rides of the season have me thinking about benchmarks in my mountain biking. Every sport has its own ways to measure training and skill progression. As with road cycling or running, there’s the simple measure of time taken or average speed within a section of trail. More important than a speed measure in mountain biking is judging the development of technique and how that allows you to ride harder trails, tackle larger obstacles, get more air, be more aggressive. if you are only interested in speed it can be bench marked against your own performance or that of others. There’s tons of gadgets and smartphone apps that help you track this. Many of these allow you to compare how others rode the same routes. I find this interesting and a piece of the bigger picture, but my biggest competitor is myself. I need to measure my progress versus the trail, improvement in technique. I am at the point in my mountain biking skills development that increasing strength and stamina play a significant role, but I still have so much to learn in this sport. So much technique to develop.

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.

As I rode this week, I remembered how we used to have to stop at each and every bench, along with at the top of every small climb to rest and recover. I’m working hard at active recovery, continuing to pedal while I catch my breath. Limiting rest stops. I continue to be surprised how much the line you take or the momentum you have going into a climb, descent or obstacle plays a part. There were places on Sunday’s ride I struggled due to a line that put me into bigger roots or rocks, or how by not having proper momentum, I had to put a foot down in areas I’ve cleaned in past. At the same time in a section of the Muir trails called The Beach, I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to ride. I remember the first time we rode that section, stopping half way up to rest. It’s the first time I’ve actually felt like I was enjoying a climb. Minutes later Hell’s Kitchen reminded me why it has the name it does.
But with increased confidence and skills, also comes increased chances for error. I’m riding faster. Attacking sections more. Weaknesses are being exposed. At the Ray’s Women’s clinic, I struggled with both speed and bike angle/position in the bermed turns of the pump track. At Valmont Bike Park in Boulder, I did better at speed, but Kiddo chastised me for not leaning the bike, for going through upright. On Sunday’s ride, in a section called Bermuda…. Damn bermed turn. I just don’t trust myself to lean the bike through them. Towards the bottom of the section, the final left turn, took the turn too high on the berm, upright, no real lean. On the exit there’s a small tree to the right. Because I was high I was on the right edge of the trail and bbeing upright meant my handlebars were not leaning away, I clipped the tree. Leading to a face plant and a bloody nose. Funny how many thoughts go through your head in a millisecond. ….Don’t look at tree! You’re gonna hit tree. I’m flying. Splat. Oops there’s gonna be a bloody nose. Get off bike off trail before someone barrels into you. Feel blood begin to pour. Pinch nose….
Still work to do. Benchmarks set, and continually updated. I’m super stoked about this summer’s riding. Here in Wisconsin  I hope to do some rides with other women in addition to the family and solo training rides, there will be rides and the Women’s Clinic in Brown County, IN in June, riding on our family vacation to Breckinridge, CO in July and another prior to my nieces wedding at Killington, VT in August. Plan on doing a WORS race or two, The Brown County Super-D, Fall Colors Festival. Hopefully we can sneak in another spot or two, like maybe a trip up tp Copper Harbor, MI.
Tho, face it, even with a desire to more formally train this summer, I still want to stop and smell the roses so to speak…pausing to snap a few pictures and enjoy the view will always be a part of my enjoyment of mountain biking.

Flat Tire Decor Review

My friend and garden blog guru, MrBrownThumb, asked me to join a group of garden bloggers reviewing products from Flat Tire Decor. I would receive one of their products for no charge, and provide a blog post of my experience and opinion. Other than receiving the product, I was not compensated for this review, and these are my honest opinions.

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.

Ironically, the most obvious use of the Newport was my least favorite. I am a huge fan of using trugs in the garden, and already own three. I mix dirt and fertilizer in them, fill them with weeds, use them to tote tools, plants and other things around the garden. However, for this purpose, I wasn’t overly fond of the Newport. A bit too small, handles felt a bit clunky in my hands.

However, I so liked the idea of using the Flat Tire Decor items with my bike, that I exchanged several tweets with the owner (their twitter account is @flattiredecor) suggesting they make a bike basket version. An oval similar in size to the Newport with a way to attach to handlebars would be great. Even better with an easy on off feature to allow the user to carry it around while shopping and then quickly put on the bike. Something about using waste from an auto while using my bike as transportation makes me smile.

Wordless Wednesday: Bloody Marys – Milwaukee style

Love the beer side cars!

(A photo collection discovered on my phone: AJ Bombers, Sobelman’s, HoneyPie, in MKE airport, upgraded and at gate on AirTran)
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