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Your guide to Great Taste of the Midwest 2012 eve pre-parties and beer tastings
The festival may be sold out, but you can party like you have a ticket

The 26th annual Great Taste of the Midwest is set for Saturday, August 11 at Olin-Turville Park. While the 6,000 tickets for the festival sold out in a matter of hours back in May, beer enthusiasts who didn't score one can still be a big winner. Once again, there will be an impressive number of pre-parties and other beer-themed celebrations, with some as early as the Monday before the big day.

This year, more than three dozen locations will serve up special taps of unique brews, beer dinners, and more, culminating on the night of Friday, August 10. While the festival itself is known for offering hundreds of beers, many that aren't available on shelves or taps, that's also the case for these pre-parties. Moreover, brewmasters are increasingly turning up the night beforehand to partake in the revelry, extending the festival experience. And, as is increasingly common, far-flung breweries that aren't part of the Taste itself are joining in the scene.

The continued growth of this unofficial Great Taste Eve is impressive. While there were nearly 20 venues participating in 2010, and more than two dozen in 2011, there are around 40 lined up for this year.

Great Taste of the Midwest chairman Mark Garthwaite describes these parties as "essentially a peripheral beer festival that's spun off of the Great Taste." He adds that it's a development Great Taste organizers are very excited to see, because it allows those without tickets to experience Madison's atmosphere and its love of good beer.

To help you find a place that is close to where you live or work, we've included a list of locations and start times. As the number of parties has grown, to help distinguish them further, we include beer lists and events where available. Be sure to check back -- we'll add more to the list as party plans evolve.

Parties coinciding with the Great Taste of the Midwest include:

  • Alchemy
    Friday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • Dark Horse Brewing Company of Marshall, Michigan: Six brews are set by Dark Horse, including its Smells Like Weed IPA, Gingered (a red ale), Boffo Brown Ale, Crooked Tree IPA, and a mystery brew.

  • Argus Bar Grille
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, Indiana: Taps will feature a big flavorful lineup of Alpha King, Arctic Panzer Wolf, Dreadnaught IPA, Gumballhead, Jinx Proof, Pride & Joy Mild Ale, Robert The Bruce Scottish Ale, and Tiger Jelly Belgian Strong Pale Ale.

  • Brasserie V
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Distihl Brewing of Normal, Illinois: Five different special Distihl taps are planned as Brasserie V coincidentally celebrates its fifth anniversary. The are Black Torrent, Hopweizen, Saint Dekkera Reserve Sour Ale (Sour Hawaii, Barrel #17), Black Angel Stout, and a special keg yet to be announced.

  • Brickhouse BBQ
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wisconsin: Plans include more than 20 beers throughout the night, with special tapings at 7 p.m., 8 p.m., 9 p.m., and 10 p.m. Look for these beers on the third floor only. Limited release beers are expected to include 1414, Exodus and the brewery's newest -- a scotch ale aged in bourbon barrels for six months. Patrons can also look forward to several beers that will not even be offered at the Great Taste.
    • Nebraska Brewing Company of Papillion, Nebraska: Expect about ten beers, including a strong Belgian pale ale called Melange a Trois from the brewery's reserve series, and the Hop God Belgian IPA.
    • Shorts Brewing Company of Bellaire, Michigan: Plans are for a lineup of 15 beers, led by Snozzleberrry Griffen, a wheat ale made with oolong tea and blackberries. Other special releases on tap include Wizard (a barleywine made with raisins) and the Huma Lupa Licious IPA. The brewery is getting set to release its beers to Madison area liquor stores later this month.

  • Capital Tap Haus
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wisconsin: Brewmaster Kirby Nelson will be pouring a full line up of his brews. Among those making this stop special are Autumnal Fire and the second generation of Eternal Flame -- both will tapped directly from the lagering tanks just hours before the party!

  • Capitol Chophouse
    Monday, August 6 - Saturday, August 11
    • New Glarus Brewery of New Glarus, Wisconsin. A five course beer dinner will be served every night of the week before the Great Taste. Each course is paired with a different New Glarus brew. For reservations call 608-255-0165, tickets are $50 per person, can be purchased online.

  • The Coopers Tavern
    Thursday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Founders Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Expect several of the brewery's well-known creations, like its Red Rye Pale Ale and Porter. Founders is also bringing limited release beers like Devil Dancer (it boasts 112 IBUs and 12% ABV) and its newest beer, Frangelic Mountain Brown Ale.
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California: For the past several years, Coopers has turned over taps to Lagunitas the night before the Taste, become something like Petaluma East. This year, the beer list includes Little Sumpin' Wild, Imperial Stout, IPA, and Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale.

  • Come Back Inn
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Left Hand Brewing of Longmont, Colorado: Beers will include the strong ESB Saw Tooth and a milk stout. Revelers can also drift into the darkness, with a special version in the brewery's series of black ales called "Fade to Black."

  • Dexter's Pub
    Wednesday, starting at 11 a.m.
    • Oskar Blues Brewing Company of Lyons, Colorado: Seven beers from Oskar's will be on tap, including G'Knight Imperial Red, Mama's Little Yella Pils, Deviant Dale's IPA, GUBNA Imperial IPA, and a special barrel aged version of Ten Fidy.
    Thursday, starting at 11 a.m.
    • Summit Brewing Company of Saint Paul, Minnesota: A brewery representative will be bringing several standards, including Summit EPA and Oktoberfest. One special release on the menu is Sága, a West Coast IPA made with New Zealand Rakau hops, and named after a Norse goddess. Also on tap will be beer #10 in the brewery's Unchained Series, a Belgian Abbey created by brewer Nate Siats.
    • B. Nektar Meadery of Ferndale, Michigan: A special limited keg of Evil Genius, an IPA-style mead, will be tapped.
    Friday, starting at 11 a.m.
    • Toppling Goliath of Decorah, Iowa: This small brewery from northeast Iowa is making a big name for itself. Samples to look forward to will be from the brewery's series of Hop Patrol IPAs, with names like Intergalactic Warrior and ZeeLander. Other offerings on taps will include Pseudo Sue, Golden Nugget, Dorothy's New World Lager, and an oak-barrel aged Naughty 90. Beginning at 3 p.m., several special firkins of beer will be released. A few to expect will be Mornin' Delight Stout and Rover Truck Oatmeal Stout. There might even be a few rare bottles of Assassin Imperial Stout floating around the bar.

  • Dotty Dumpling's Dowry
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm, Minnesota: Family members of the second oldest family-owned brewery in the nation will be serving samples of their creations and awarding prizes, culminating with a beer and sausage pairing.

  • Drackenberg's Cigar Bar
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Sand Creek Brewing Company of Black River Falls, Wisconsin: Brewer Nate Peck will be on hand to serve a doppelbock, and a very limited release of port-barrel aged Oscar's Stout, along with a few other surprises.

  • Echo Tap
    Thursday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wisconsin: The southwest Wisconsin brewery will be serving free samples of its beers.
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Summit Brewing Company of Saint Paul, Minnesota: The taps at the Tap will be taken over by Summit representatives who plan to serve several of the brewery's well-known releases, as well as the West Coast IPA called Sága.

  • Essen Haus
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Revolution Brewing of Chicago, Illinois: This young Chicago brewery started in 2010 and hasn't yet been seen regularly in Madison. However, it's trying to generate interest from local tap houses around town, so it might be more visible in the near future. This tasting offers a preview of at least four Revolution brews, including an American Blonde Ale called Cross of Gold, the Anti-Hero IPA, plus an early taste of the seasonal Oktoberfest. Also look for a special limited release or two from Revolution's Logan Square brewpub. Fitting in with the festive German atmosphere of the Essen Haus, Revolution is bringing the Polkaholics from Chicago to play in the restaurant's parking lot.

  • Forequarter
    Friday, starting at 9 p.m.
    • O'so Brewing Company of Plover, Wisconsin: Brewery founder Marc Buttera will serve O'so originals and several unique and very limited releases. He plans to present at least six beers, including Rusty Red Brett (which is fermented with Brettanomyces for a sour edge), a version of Night Train porter aged in bourbon barrels, along with Oud Bruin, Grand Cru, and Hop Whoopin'. And Buttera may even offer a few unannounced surprise beers on tap.

  • Genna's Lounge
    Friday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • Sand Creek Brewing Company of Black River Falls, Wisconsin: Brewery representatives, include brewer Nate Peck, will be on hand. He is bringing a few special limited release brews just for Genna's, including a Tangerine IPA, a bourbon barrel aged IPA, Mole Oscar's, and Noir Black Belgian Barleywine.

  • Glass Nickel Pizza-Atwood
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Founders Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Look for a range of brews, including a 2011 version of KBS (Kentucky Breakfast Stout), Devil Dancer, and a new summer release called Frangelic Mountain Brown Ale. At least six taps will be decided to Founders, so early predictions also include Centennial IPA and Dirty Bastard (Wee Heavy).

  • Great Dane-Downtown
    • Great Dane Pub of Madison, Wisconsin: No specific public party is scheduled for Friday, but watch for new release brews all week leading up to the Great Taste. One of those includes a saison, and a second version of the same farmhouse ale, only fermented with a tropic twist of pineapple.
    • Following the Great Taste, the Great Dane will unveil its first bottled beer! The Dane will be selling 22-ounce bottles of Imperial Red Ale in late August. You should be able to find it in limited supply from the four Madison-area brewpubs and few select liquor stores.

  • Harmony Bar
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wisconsin: Look for seven beers from Potosi brewmaster Steve Buszka, including special limited releases of his hefeweizen, a black ale, and Hop Rocked Snake Hollow IPA. Four other standard Potosi brews will also be on tap.

  • House of Brews
    Friday, starting at 3 p.m.
    • House of Brews of Madison, Wisconsin: Join owner and brewmaster Page Buchanan for special brewery tours and check out his new taproom that's only been open a few weeks. There will be four or five brews on tap. Buchanan has also been working on a British Pale Ale, and with a little luck, it might be ready in time for this pre-party.

  • Jordan's Big 10 Pub
    Thursday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California: Four tap lines will be taken over for brews such as Lagunitas IPA, Hop Stupid, Censored, and a beer from the Little Sumpin' series.

  • Lucky's Bar and Grille
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • House of Brews of Madison, Wisconsin: Brewmaster Page Buchanan will be on hand to serve four or five of his brews and maybe even that British Pale Ale.

  • Madison Children's Museum
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m., tickets required
    • Adult Swim Night: No swimming is actually involved in this party, which is in the tradition of an "adult swim," where the custom was to kick the kids out so grown-ups can enjoy an experience on their own. This will be a chance to celebrate Wisconsin's unofficial state beverage, make bottlecap jewelry, print custom beer bottle labels for homebrews, and learn about brewing. Boo Bradley will provide a live soundtrack. Admission is $12 per person, and tickets can be purchased online.

  • Madison's
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Goose Island Beer Company of Chicago, Illinois: Brewery representatives will be serving Matilda (Belgian Strong Ale), Sofie and Pepe Nero (both saisons), Pere Jacques (a Belgian dubbel), En Passant, Black Mission, Bourbon Count (stout), and Lolita and Juliet (both wild ales). Also on tap will be a few Goose Island standards, like Summertime (a kölsch), 312 Urban Wheat, and Honkers Ale.

  • Maduro
    Friday, starting at noon.
    • Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo, Michigan: This is always the place to be if you are a fan of Bell's. Maduro hands over all 19 of its tap handles to this central Michigan brewery. Brews are expected to include: Wedding Ale, Oracle, Smoked Vienna Lager, Harvest Ale, Black Note Stout, Two Hearted Ale, Pale Ale, Roundhouse Amber Ale, Oberon, Third Coast (on firkin), and the Berliner Weiss called Oarsman.

  • Majestic Theatre
    Friday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • Pearl Street Brewery of La Crosse, Wisconsin: Brewmaster Joe Kitchener is expected to be on hand, and will be serving his Imperial Pilsner, Smokin' Hemp Porter, Java Lava (stout), and Rubber Mills Pils. The party will also feature live music, with performances by Sexy Ester, the reggae rockers T.U.G.G., and DJ Nick Nice. Another draw: ticket giveaways for the Great Taste!

  • The Malt House
    Wednesday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • Tallgrass Brewing Company of Manhattan, Kansas: Malt House owner Bill Rogers will host this Kansas brewery's party. He has two firkins of its hoppy American pale ale called 8-Bit, one infused with apricots and the other with peaches.
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.

  • Mason Lounge
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • The Blind Pig Brewery of Champaign, Illinois: Brewmaster Bill Morgan will be pouring at least three of his beers.

  • Merchant
    Friday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • Sixpoint Brewery of Brooklyn, New York: Taste beers made by former Madison resident Shane Welch, now the owner of this new east coast brewery. Brews on hand will include Spice of Life (made with Amarillo hops), Righteous Ale, Brownstone, and a new beer called Redd (an American red ale).

  • Natt Spil
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Furthermore Beer of Spring Green, Wisconsin: Brewmaster Aran Madden will be there to pour his standards, including Fatty Boombalatty, Proper, Oscura, Makeweight, and Knot Stock. For a special treat Madden is bringing a special spiced brew he calls "Natt Stock." He also plans to have an oaked version of Fatty Boombalatty on hand to try.

  • The Old Fashioned
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Dave's BrewFarm of Wilson, Wisconsin: Owner and brewmaster David Anderson plans to bring his Hoppy Hefeweizen and a special treat called "SOB OMG" (Sour Orange Basil - Oh My Goodness!).
    • Lake Louie Brewing of Arena, Wisconsin: Owner and brewmaster Tom Porter will make an appearance around 8 p.m. Look for the addictive strong scotch ale Louie's Reserve, or what the beer geeks call L.R. (a.k.a., liquid reefer)!

  • One Barrel Brewing
    Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • One Barrel Brewing of Madison, Wisconsin: Join owner and brewmaster Peter Gentry for an open house of Madison's new nanobrewery. Brewing in one-barrel batches has made it difficult for Gentry to keep up with the popularity of his brews. He says "We'll have at least one of our beers available, but who knows which one -- it'll be mysterious!"

  • The Rigby
    Friday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Expect the complex and hoppy Fixed Gear. Other brews have not been announced.
    • Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio: Brewery staff are expected to be on hand to pour five different beers, including Rye of The Tiger, Holy Moses, Engine 20 Smoked Pale Ale, The Wright Pils, and Edmund Fitzgerald Porter. Four bands will perform live through the evening.

  • Star Liquor
    Thursday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • Furthermore Beer of Spring Green, Wisconsin: Expect the primary lineup from Furthermore, plus a little something special.
    • Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wisconsin: Several of the brewery's flaghsip brews will be served, along with maybe something from its growing barrel aging program.

  • Steve's
    All locations (Mineral Point Road, University Avenue, and McKee Road)
    Thursday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo, Michigan: Shoppers can try samples of several of Bell's standard brews.

  • The Tipsy Cow
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Oskar Blues Brewing Company of Lyons, Colorado: No announced beer list.
    • Hinterland Brewery of Green Bay, Wisconsin: Brewery staff, including assistant brewmaster Scott Kissman, will offer the first-time release to Madison of Hinterland's bourbon barrel doppelbock that is aged for 12 months in oak barrels once used by the Four Roses Bourbon distillery of Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Kissman is also bringing a firkin of Apollo dry-hopped IPA, and several of the brewery's mainstays, like Saison, Luna Stout on nitrogen, Cherry Wheat, and Grand Cru.
    • New Holland Brewing Company of Holland, Michigan: No announced beer list.

  • Up North Pub
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Tallgrass Brewing Company of Manhattan, Kansas: This brewery has been venturing into the upper Midwest over the past couple of years, mostly in select tap houses. It offers about a half-dozen different styles in 16-ounce cans. Among the beers on tap at this party will be the 8-Bit (an American pale ale) and a surprise un-named special brew -- let's hope something to crow about like Tallgrass's Belgian Tripel called Velvet Rooster.

  • Vintage Spirits & Grill
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Vintage Spirits & Grill of Madison, Wisconsin: The downtown satellite of Vintage brewpub will feature special tapings of its 2011 barrel-aged Max Stout, Trepidation, Pumpkin Disorderly, and Oude DeVille #1 (a rye-whiskey barrel-aged soured Belgian barleywine).

  • Vintage Brewing Company
    Friday, starting at 3 p.m.
    • Vintage Brewing Company of Madison, Wisconsin: Brewmaster Scott Manning will be pulling out his rare brews from the cellar. The list includes 2011 versions of Sun D'Appled Orchard Ale, Pumpkin Disorderly, the abbey strong ale Trepidation, Hop Harvest, and Oude DeVille #1. For those who like strong and robust stouts, Manning will tap his last remaining non-barrel-aged Max Stout for some side-by-side comparison with a one-year old barrel-aged version.
    Saturday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • After the gates close at Olin on the big day, Scott Manning will be hosting a Great Taste "post party." He'll offer a few special beers that he held back for the occasion. Look for the 2011 porter called Snowflake, a Belgian amber ale called Hop Skip and Jump, and Oude DeVille #2 (a soured Belgian barleywine aged in an apple brandy barrel).
    Sunday, starting at 10 a.m.
    • Vintage doesn't allow you to sleep overnight, but if you're back the next morning, there'll be a "Day After" hangover brunch and growler specials.

Specific brewery servings may vary, so it is a good idea to call ahead to find out what beers will be served and when they might be available. Most Great Taste pre-parties are centered around the Capitol Square in downtown Madison, all within short walks of one another, but others are scattered throughout the city. Public transportation and taxis are a safe and sensible option for a great evening.

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