10 May, 2011

My Madison Craft Beer Week Experience (And a New Pilsner to Boot)

To be honest, I attended only one Madison Craft Beer Week event. Fish fries featuring batter made from a craft brew and special dinners for $40/head just didn't interest me or were out of my price range. But that still left some fine opportunities to quaff.

My lone event was meeting Mark Buttera from O'so at the Baldwin Street Grill last Friday evening to sample his wares. The BSG is a long way from Jan's (Un)Friendly. The joint is pretty respectable these days and family-friendly. Too bad.

We arrived before 6 and so we contented ourselves with a couple drinks until Buttera was in full meet'n'greet mode. My Leine's Original was mighty refreshing. Eventually our brewmaster set up shop at the end of the bar with a complement of bottles and growlers. Buttera was certainly congenial enough and happy to chat with whomever approached him. Depending on who was doing the asking, he'd modify his answers. If the interrogator was a homebrewer, he'd get into the nitty gritty with all the terminology. But if you were just someone who liked good beer, you'd get an answer at your level of beer understanding. My companion that evening is a huge Picnic Ants fan and so, as we were getting samples, I asked Buttera about it. He said that the beer is nearly ready but not quite. They switched yeasts this year from a Saison Dupont to the French saison variety - or vice-versa – and I guess the change has thrown their schedule off a bit.

In addition to pouring a couple of their annuals – Hopdinger and The Big O – there were growlers of their Night Train porter which had been aged in bourbon barrels and some coffee-infused Night Train. I give O'so points for using Ethiopian coffee for the latter because I prefer African coffees over all others. The stuff was pretty good but not great. It needed a bit more body and the porter and coffee flavors seemed a little too distinct instead of doing a nice pas de deux. When we took our first sips of the bourbon barrel Night Train we concluded that it had been aged in a barrel that still had bourbon in it. This stuff was potent! Luckily I like bourbon and so it was not a disaster but I'd have liked a bit more balance.

Hopefully I'll catch more events next year. Also, I'm angling to host a craft beer and junk food demo in 2012. Robyn is now aware of my idea so let's hope she and the rest of the organizers are game.

In other beer news, Sprecher has a new summer seasonal.

It's due out this month though I didn't see it over the weekend. I'm looking forward to it as it'll no doubt be a good thirst quencher for the summer.

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