The weather couldn't have been better for this year's Great Taste of the Midwest. Very temperate with the sun being hidden by clouds every so often. Next year will either be a monsoon or 100+. Mark my words.
Everyone has their own approach to the GT. Some are out for rarities while others look for those massive whirlwinds of flavors like imperial stouts aged in a pickle barrel with lingonberry, cubeb, and haggis tapped through a hop rocket of brett-laced coffee beans shat out by a palm civet. There are those who seek out breweries whose beers are unavailable at home or perhaps breweries who are new and foreign to their palates. Plus there are a host of other stratagems too.
My own plan is to map out German styles, rye beers, and a selection of other brews that sound interesting. And there a few breweries that I hit every year. Oh, and I plan to avoid the long lines at Three Floyds, Bell's, and whatnot. I was tempted to wait in the Surly line this year but opted out. Too much good beer around to wait very long. Plus you always discover interesting brews as you wander around or run into a friend who makes a recommendation. Or you may run into Tyranena's Rob Larson dressed as a satyr.
I tasted 30+ beers and my palate was treated to some incredibly tasty suds. It's difficult to choose favorites and I refuse to label one particular brew as the best. Having said all this, I do want to note some highlights.
The first beer I drank was served from one of these guys.
The folks at Metropolitan
brew German-style lagers and do it well. I have missed out on Arc Welder in years past so I was determined to have some this year. I was not disappointed.
Arc Welder is a rye dunkles which combines one of my favorite styles with one of my favorite adjunct grains. This was fantastic. The roasted malt was complemented very well by the spicy rye flavors with hops helping out on a dry finish.
The folks at Lakefront
were throwing a disco party.
I wouldn't normally stop at the Lakefront tent but they had Dan on top. Dan was the first entry in their My Turn series and it's a Baltic porter.
Another great beer full of roasted grain goodness with a heft of sweetness and a bit of hops in a (rather futile) attempt at balance. I am still kicking myself for not having bought some of this. If anyone knows of some bottles lurking around, please let me know. They also had a rum barrel Eastside Dark. Pretty tasty but I have to admit that the rum was overpowering. But I like rum.
I drank every Berliner Weiss I could find and there were some really tasty takes on the style. The one that really stood out for me was from the folks at Flossmoor Station
It was one of the most sour Berliner Weisses I've ever had but what made it interesting was the pronounced lemon flavor. Light,citrusy, and refreshing, it was a fine summer beer.
Tenth and Blake
may be the crafty arm of the MillerCoors conglomerate, but they make a fine Berliner Weiss and the novelty of having the Schuss
come in the form of tapioca balls a la bubble tea. I went with kiwi this year.
Although I don't have a photo, their sour apricot ale was also very tasty.
had a good dunkel and a funky banner.
They also featured an accursed smoked porter that would have made H.P. Lovecraft proud. I didn't sample it but I cannot doubt the unutterable flavors that must have lurked in its stygian gloom. Plus there was a blasphemous poster for it that was filled with eldritch symbols of non-Euclidian geometry. Cthulhu fhtagn!
We wandered over to the real ale tent but I didn't find what I was looking for. However I did spy Red Eye's lemongrass blueberry rye.
I was really impressed with this stuff. The blueberry in the aroma was enticing. It was very smooth and found a perfect balance among all the flavors. It was nice to see a fruit beer where the fruit didn't overpower everything else.
Other fine beers worthy of mention:
Metropolitan's zwickel. Full of yeasty deliciousness and very fresh in contrast to the odd German zwickel that appears on store shelves. A much-underappreciated style, in my humble opinion.
Hopfentea, a Berliner Weiss steeped on tropical tea from Perennial
. A wonderful mix of sour, fruit, and herbal flavors.
White Winter Winery
had a meadjito that a friend of mine recommended but they were out by the time we got to the tent. I sampled their cranberry mead and it was light, just dry enough, and tasty.
Speaking of meads, the charnel house that is B. Nektar
was pouring the spectral Necromangocon which merged honey with the foetid taste of mango and the loathsome miasma of black pepper.
had a nice sessionable rauchbier while Barley John's
had a good roggenbier.
The Great Taste was an absolute hoot. The weather was perfect and, as I do every year, I ran into people I knew and chatted with people I didn't. I had one of my favorite foods, an Italian beef, thanks to the FIBS cart. And, of course, I drank lots of great beer and mead. There seemed to be less frat boys puking their guts out this year although a couple of them decided to hit on two pulchritudinous former co-workers of mine as we were chatting. The ladies' uninterest was palpable. Too bad those guys didn't get the message.
Lastly, apologies to Jon(?) from White Winter Winery. He was handing out meadjito recipes when I asked if he knew about mead or was just a pretty face handing out business cards as I was looking to ask about the 9 year-old bottle of their raspberry mead I have in my cellar. Turned out he knew a helluva lot about mead. D'oh! Hopefully he won't hold it against me. For too long, anyway.
Labels: Beer, Great Taste of the Midwest, Madison