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Wisconsin beer and breweries: News and reviews
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Madison Craft Beer Week 2014: A guide to essential events with Wisconsin breweries
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Madison Craft Beer Week 2014 runs May 2-11.

The fourth annual Madison Craft Beer Week officially runs over May 2-11 -- if you're counting, that's actually 10 days. The celebration is all things to the beer enthusiast, with special tappings, unique beer and food pairings, beer dinners, educational programs and personal appearances by many local brewers at numerous Madison area restaurants and taverns.

With over 350 events that are planned across the 10 days, there's almost too much to choose from. Just scan the Madison Craft Beer Week guide, and it's easy to quickly become overwhelmed.

For me, the decision of which events to attend is often based on the beers that are intended to be served, with an emphasis on finding new ones I've not tried before. There are plenty of limited releases planned for the week, including a sextet of special brews for Tex Tubb's, and another series of beers created in collaborations amongst local breweries and taverns.

Here's my list of what not-to-pass-up, with a focus on rare brews, unique beer-food pairings, and special events that feature brewmaster appearances. While there's no way I'll get to all of these, it's a good starting point for making the most of a problem caused by too many good options.

Friday, May 2

  • Common Thread: Madison Craft Beer Week opens with the debut of Common Thread 2014, the third annual collaborative beer made for the celebration. The project features the participation of many Madison-area brewers, with dozens gathering at Wisconsin Brewing Company for the brew day on March 15. This year's edition is a Bohemian pilsner -- this limited release will be served at breweries and brewpubs throughout the region over the course of the week.
  • Karben4 release party: Ryan Koga, brewmaster at Karben4 Brewing, releases his new seasonal IPA called Horse Face. This hoppy wheat beer features the bitterness of Simcoe and Chinook hops. It finishes around 5.3% ABV and nearly 60 IBUs. It's intended to be a lighter and more seasonal IPA for summer. Released in this all-day party at Karben4 Brewing, it will be Koga's first wheat ale since the brewery opened nearly a year-and-a-half ago. "Horse Face" is a reference to the nickname of a good friend, so it better be a good payback.
  • Lake Louie meet and greet: This Arena-based brewery is mixing line-up of beers in 2014 and introducing several new products. Tom Porter, owner and brewmaster of Lake Louie Brewing will be at the Argus Bar Grille at 6 p.m. to talk about changes and unveil at least two new beers for Lake Louie fans. Look for Bunny Green Toe, which borders on an imperial IPA with its Magnum, Columbus and Amarillo hops. The beer gets its name from the wife of The Big Lebowski. Porter will also be pouring Maple Surple, a classic brown ale made with maple syrup. It's name is inspired by a line in the Roger Miller song "Dang Me" that states, "Roses are red and violets are purple, you are sweeter than Maple Surple."

Saturday, May 3

Sunday, May 4

  • UW-Madison Brewing and Beer Styles Short Course: The UW's Department of Food Science is offering a short course on beers. Running 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m., the program will cover information about how brewers select ingredients and adjust their brewing techniques. Wisconsin Brewing Company brewmaster Kirby Nelson and MillerCoors quality manager Suzanne Thompson will lead a sensory analysis of beers and beer styles. Tickets are $50 per person and are available online.
  • Minnesconsin: Karben4 and Summit Brewing of St. Paul, Minnesota, have teamed up to make what is likely to be one of the most interesting hoppy beers of Madison Craft Beer Week. MACCC Daddy, a red IPA, will be released in a launch party at Merchant, starting at 9 p.m. The beer gets its name from the hops that go into it, which are Mosaic, Amarillo, Citra, Centennial and Chinook. Karben4 brewmaster Ryan Koga traveled to Minnesota to work up the recipe, and Summit brewer Mike Lundell came to Madison in early April to make the beer in the Karben4 brewhouse. This is a limited 15-barrel batch, and will be available in the days and weeks ahead at just a handful of local tap houses around Madison that pre-purchased kegs.

Monday, May 5

  • Milwaukee Brewing Company Mini Taps Take-Over: At this party, which starts at 6 p.m., Milwaukee Brewing Company is serving of its rarest brews that are hardly ever found outside its home turf. Its imperial Schwartzbeer named Dark Matter and the barrel-aged version called Anti Matter will be among the offerings at Brickhouse BBQ. These beers have only been on tap so far, but the brewery is planning to introduce them in 750 mL bottles later this year.
  • Hydro Street at Eddie's: Take a little detour away from the standard Madison beer bars and visit Eddie's Alehouse in Sun Prairie at 7:30 p.m. Hydro Street Brewing brewmaster Aaron Adams will be on hand with a special batch of his Seven Sisters Scotch Ale that's been aged in apple brandy barrels.

Tuesday, May 6

Wednesday, May 7

Thursday, May 8

Friday, May 9

  • Friday with O'so and Central Waters: Central Wisconsin breweries O'so Brewing of Plover and Central Waters Brewing of Amherst are in town to participate in several events during Madison Craft Beer Week. Among the largest of those is an all-day affair as the two team up to take over the taps at Dexter's Pub.
  • Sweet Mullets Tap Takeover: The Oconomowoc-based Sweet Mullets Brewing will take over the taps at One Barrel Brewing, starting at 3:30 p.m. Brewmaster Mark Duchow will serve a range of his beers, including Rye Bob and Jorge Jalapeño.
  • Capital Tap Haus will serve a pear-infused Kölsch-style beer created by Capital Brewery brewmaster Brian Destree. The special tapping begins at 4 p.m., and will be followed shortly thereafter by the restaurant's Brewmaster for a Day contest.
  • Dave's BrewFarm Tap Takeover: David Anderson, brewmaster at Dave's BrewFarm, always blows into town with creative beers from his wind-powered brewery that's located in Wilson, Wisconsin. Starting at 5:30 p.m., Barriques-Monroe Street will host a tasting with Anderson that will feature eight beers, including several that are usually only on offer for those visiting the brewery. Among these limited releases are Mocha Diablo, which is a big 9.1% ABV stout made with ancho, cayenne and paprika peppers, and Breakfast Lager, which is made with Grape Nuts cereal in the mash and finishes at 8% ABV. Other BrewFarm beers to look forward to include Sweet Tart, Black Sour, BrewFarm Funk #4, Azacca Single Hop Lager, and Sassy Saison.
  • Busting Out: Mike Wilson of Lucette Brewing will be on hand at the Malt House for an evening of tasting, beginning at 6 p.m. The menu will include Hips Don't Lie (Bavarian Weissbier), The Farmer's Daughter (spiced blonde ale), Ride Again (American pale ale), Slow Hand (American tout), Shining Dawn (Belgian golden), and Double Dawn (Belgian imperial golden).

Saturday, May 10

  • Learn How to Grow Your Own Hops: Rich Joseph, owner of The Hop Garden in Belleville, recently started making his own line of beers in collaboration with the House of Brews in Madison. He will host two workshops about growing hops, one at 10:30 a.m. and another at 12:30 p.m.
  • Sour Saturday: It will be sour all-day-long at the Malt House as its menu focuses on complex and tart beers, including Flemish reds and the Berliner Weisse.
  • Big Barrel Tararrel: It wouldn't be the final Saturday of Madison Craft Beer Week if Scott Manning didn't hold his annual barrel-themed festival at Vintage Brewing Company. The celebration offers an assortment of barrel-aged and sour beers. Tasting begins at 1 p.m., and special sample charges will apply.
  • Grumpy Troll Challenge: This annual homebrew competition returns to the Grumpy Troll in Mount Horeb. Two winners will get to make their creations at the brewpub and have them served on tap.

Sunday, May 11

The complete schedule for Madison Craft Beer Week 2014 is available in an event guide, which provides additional details about these and many more events over ten days of toasts.

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