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Saturday, January 31, 2015 |  Madison, WI: 28.0° F  Overcast
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Great Taste of the Midwest still the hottest ticket in town
Star Liquor manager Adam Casey: "The first one in the line following the last ticket sold usually turns around and picks up a six-pack."
Credit:Robin Shepard

The window for in-person ticket sales for this summer's Great Taste of the Midwest came and went in about 30 minutes on Sunday. With long lines at all six of in-person ticket sites around Madison, the sales were actually over before they started. Mike Schultz of Sun Prairie showed up at Star Liquor on Willy Street with a sleeping bag and a lawn chair around 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night, making him the first person in a line by the next morning circled the parking lot and around the building before stretching on another two blocks.

The 23rd edition of the Great Taste will be held at Olin-Turville Park on August 8. Organized by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild, admission to the event is limited to 6,000, up about 1,000 from last year. Half are sold in a mail order lottery and the rest are offered via in-person sales at a limited number of locations, with tickets held to two purchases per person.

Schultz said he wanted to make sure he got tickets in hand, because the mail order process left too much to chance for him: "We're a dedicated bunch when it comes to beer." Schultz is in fact quite dedicated; he's been the first in line for ticket sales at Star and the fest itself the past three years. For this all-nighter, he walked away with the actual tickets numbered "01" and "02" for the event, along with a designated driver pass showing number "DD1."

Next in line was his buddy, Josh Ringelstetter of Sun Prairie, who offered another testimonial to dedication in getting tickets. Ringelstetter didn't want to take any chances not having tickets when the festival gates open in August. He had back surgery three weeks ago and still had his surgical staples in place. But that didn't stop him from camping out overnight in Star's parking lot. "They told me I should get up and walk around," he said, in an attempt to make it seem like this was doctor's orders.

Inside, Star manager Adam Casey said 600 tickets were offered at the location, explaining that the hardest thing about being a sales site is telling the 601st person in line that there are no more tickets. "The first one in the line following the last ticket sold usually turns around and picks up a six-pack," Casey adds, "and they should because they deserve it."

Three-time Great Taste chairman Bill Rogers said this year's festival will host nearly 120 brewers, who will bring 700-plus beers for tasting during the five-hour gathering. "Over the years it seems that more brewers are bringing smaller, one-sixth barrels," he explains, "and that allows for a greater variety of beers." He expects more cask conditioned ales, which have grown in popularity with festival goers. Rogers adds that the event will expand its educational tent where homebrewing and food pairings occur.

As for those who may have camped out over night and stood in long lines and not ended up with ticket? "That's just part of managing this very popular event and there are only so many tickets available," declares Rogers.

Whether you acquired a ticket or not to the Great Taste of the Midwest on Sunday, here are a few noteworthy beer festivals around Wisconsin over the summer season.

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