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A guide to Great Taste of the Midwest 2010 eve pre-parties and beer tastings
Don't have a ticket to the festival? No worries, there's plenty of beer beforehand

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The 24th annual Great Taste of the Midwest will be held in Olin-Turville Park on Saturday, August 14. The 6,000 tickets for the event were sold or otherwise claimed in just one hour from when they went on sale back in May. Getting one meant camping out all night where tickets were being sold, or winning a lottery held by the sponsoring Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild.

This year over 120 breweries will bring their products, making it the largest number appearing yet at the Great Taste. There figures to be an estimated 750 different beers offered over the festival's five hours.

Now, if you are not one of those with a ticket, the next best thing is the night before. Actually, the Friday evening pre-events have evolved over the years to something like a festival on their own. Perhaps, for those who don't enjoy crowds and standing in lines at the various tents, the pre-parties are even better than the actual Saturday tasting frenzy.

This year, nearly 20 pre-event parties will offer an impressive beer list of their own. Many of the Madison restaurants and taverns hosting them are providing food specials and a chance to talk with the brewmasters and brewery staff.

Parties on the eve of the Great Taste include:

  • Alchemy
    Starting at 2 p.m.
    • Upland Brewing Company of Bloomington, Indiana: Oktoberfest Lager, Presentation Pils, Upland Wheat Ale, Baddest Elmer's Bourbon Barrel Baltic Porter, Wild Sour Lambic, and some secrets yet to be divulged. Head brewer Caleb Stanton pours from 8 p.m.-11 p.m.
    • The east side pub is also hosting a special dinner featuring the beers of Southern Tier Brewing Company with seatings at 5 and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 10; tickets are $30.

  • Barriques Coffee Trader
    Starting at 7 p.m.
    • Hinterland Brewery of Green Bay, Wisconsin: Brewmaster Joe Karls will be serving his popular wheat made with Door County cherries. Featuring: Amber Ale, Bourbon Barrel Scottish Ale, Amber Ale, Cherry Wheat, Luna Stout, and Pale Ale.

  • Brasserie V
    Starting at 5 p.m.
    • Shelton Brothers Importers of Belchertown, Massachusetts: This importer is offering both well-known and rare imported beers on the taps: Featuring: Dieu du Ciel! Aphrodite of Dieu du Ciel in Quebec, De Ranke Saison de Dottingnies of Brouwerij De Ranke in Belgium, Mikkeller Monk's Brew of De Proef Brouwerij in Belgium, Serafijn Pale Ale of Microbrouwerij Achilles in Belgium, Kulmbacher Mönchshof Kellerbräu of Kulmbacher Brewery in Germany, Kaimai Porter's Rye Ale of Kaimai Brewing in New Zealand, Christoffel Bier Blond and Christoffel Wijs of Sint Christoffel Bier in the Netherlands, Nøgne- Imperial Brown Ale of Nøgne- in Norway, and Haandbryggeriet Odin's Tipple of Haandbryggeriet in Norway.
    • Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter, Michigan: Bam Bière (farmhouse ale) and Weizen Bam Bière (farmhouse wheat ale).

  • Brickhouse BBQ
    Starting at 6 p.m.
      Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wisconsin: Bourbon Barrel Stout, Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine, Peruvian Morning Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, Illumination Double IPA. Co-owner and brewmaster Anello Mollica will be on hand.
    • Shorts Brewing Company of Bellaire, Michigan: Black Licorice Lager (schwarzbier), Good Humans (imperial brown), Huma-Lupa-Licious (IPA), Key Lime Pie (one of a limited number of the brewery's R&D batches -- a brown brew with fruity tones).
    • Brickhouse, with its 40 taps, is also expected to have a few special kegs of other brews that have been held back for the occasion. And if that's not enough, it will host a special dinner featuring the beer of Bell's Brewery on Thursday, August 12; this six-course meal is $60/person.

  • The Coopers Tavern
    Starting at 7 p.m.
    • Summit Brewing Company of Saint Paul, Minnesota: Hefe Weizen, Horizon Red, Extra Pale Ale, Oatmeal Stout, Belgian Golden Ale from the limited-release Unchained series, and a special cask ale. Founder and brewmaster Mark Stutrud will be present to answer questions and share a pint.

  • Dexter's Pub
    Starting at 9 p.m.
    • Pearl Street Brewery of La Crosse, Wisconsin: Dankenstein Iimperial IPA, El Hefe Bavarian Style Hefeweizen, Pearl Street Pale Ale, Smokin' Hemp Porter (bourbon barrel aged, expected to be tapped around midnight), two other taps to be determined. Owner and brewmaster Joe Katchever, along with several brewery staff members, will be in attendance.
    • Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, Maryland: Tire Bite Golden Ale, Doggie Style Classic Pale Ale, 20th Anniversary Raging Bitch (Belgian IPA), two other taps to be determined.
      Dexter's is expected to pull out a few special kegs of other brews that have been held back for just the occasion.

  • Drackenberg's Cigar Bar
    Starting at 3 p.m.

  • Francesca's al Lago
    Starting at 5 p.m.
    • Goose Island of Chicago, Illinois: 312 (wheat ale), Matilda (Belgian pale ale), Sofia (Belgian farmhouse ale), two additional beers to be determined. Brewery representatives are expected to attend.

  • Glass Nickel Pizza-Atwood
    Starting at 6 p.m.
    • Founders Brewing of Grand Rapids, Michigan: Curmudgeon (Old Ale made with molasses and aged in oak), Centennial IPA, Red's Rye Pale Ale, Kentucky Breakfast (bourbon barrel aged stout), Double Trouble (imperial IPA), three other taps to be determined. Brewery representatives are expected to attend.

  • The Haze Asian + American BBQ
    Starting at 6 p.m.
    • Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California: Lagunitas IPA, Hop Stoopid Ale (IPA), Little Sumpin' Sumpin' Ale (wheat ale), Gnarly Wine (barley wine), a very limited release pinot noir barrel aged saison. Brewery representatives are expected to attend.

  • Jordan's Big 10 Pub
    Starting at 9 p.m.
    • New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado: Eric's Ale (dry, sour beer aged in oak combined with semi-sweet higher-alcohol base beer, named for longtime brewer Eric Salazar), Berlinerweiss (imperial Berliner Weisse), Hoptober (golden ale), Ranger India Pale Ale. Brewery representatives are expected to attend.
    • Stone Brewing Company of Escondido, California: Arrogant Bastard Ale, Sublimely Self-Righteous Ale, Stone 14th Anniversary Emperial IPA, an IPA to be determined.
    • This party is being billed as the "Great Taste of the West," and has a $15 admission charge.

  • King and Mane
    Starting at 4 p.m.
    • New Holland Brewing of Holland, Michigan: The beer list isn't set yet, but attendees can hope for the hoppy Mad Hatter with its distinctive floral aroma and crisp bitterness, or the spicy Hopquila. Brewery representatives are expected to attend.

  • Maduro
    Starting at 2 p.m.
    • Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo, Michigan: The beers of Bell's are a pre-Great Taste tradition at the East Main Street cigar bar. This year is the 25th anniversary for the brewery, and founder Larry Bell is taking over the bar with 25 of his beers. Save room for a sour brown ale named Wild One, as well as an anniversary brew that has not been described, other than it'll be "very special for the occasion." Featuring: Amber Ale, Batch 9000 (12.5% ABV brewed in the spirit of a double American stout), Deb's Red, Hopslam, Kal-Haven (made with malted rye), La Batteur (Bière de Garde), La Pianiste (Bière de Garde), Oberon (wheat ale), Sparkling Ale (Belgian Abbey yeast and Pacific Northwest hops), Wild One (blended sour brown ale aged in 20 wooden barrels), 25th Anniversary.

  • The Malt House
    Starting at 7 p.m.

  • The Mason Lounge
    Staring at 4 p.m.
    • Crispin Cider of Minneapolis, Minnesota: An assortment of several artisanal ciders is expected to be served, including Fox Barrel Pear Cider and Clyde (unfiltered heirloom apple-wine aged in Chardonnay barrels).

  • Natt Spil
    Starting at 3 p.m.

  • The Old Fashioned
    Starting at 5 p.m.
    • Red Eye Brewing of Wausau, Wisconsin: Owner and brewmaster Kevin Eichelberger is bringing a new creation, El Tormento, an imperial red ale made with six different types of hops.
    • Dave's BrewFarm of Wilson, Wisconsin: Owner and brewmaster Dave Anderson will likely be bringing his BrewFarm Select (golden lager) and Matacabras (strong ale).
    • Additionally, manager Jen DeBolt is on the road this week acquiring more beers to add to the restaurant's all-Wisconsin tap lineup for the event.

  • Vintage Brewing Company
    Starting at 5:30 p.m.
    • Vintage Brewing Company of Madison, Wisconsin: Weiss Blau, Rhine Heights (alt), Sister Golden Ale (kolsch), Derby Girl (English-style bitter), India Pale Ale, Scaredy Cat (oatmeal stout), McLovin' Irish Red (served nitrogen-conditioned), Alpentraum (weizenbock brewed with smoked malt), Rye of the Tiger (amber ale brewed with rye malt), Palindrome (APA), DeVille (Abbey strong ale). The brewpub will also be serving a cask-conditioned rosemary-infused IPA reserved for the party. Brewmaster Scott Manning will be in attendance.
    • Furthermore Beer of Spring Green, Wisconsin: Proper (English ale), Knot Stock (pale ale brewed with cracked black pepper), Oscura (coffee-infused Mexican dark lager), Three Feet Deep (Irish stout brewed with peated malt), Fatty Boombalaty (Belgian ale), Thermo Refur (made with red beets), Makeweight (triple pale ale). Brewmaster Aran Maddan will be in attendance.
    • The brewpub will also be hosting a special tasting featuring the beers of Unibroue from 7-8 p.m. on Tuesday, August 10; tickets are $10 and available at Steve's locations.

Times for the specific brewery servings may vary, so it is wise to call ahead to find out when a particular beer might be available. These pre-Great Taste events are actually scattered throughout the city, but downtown Madison has a number of them, all within short walks of each other. And just as importantly, the proximity to parking ramps and public transportation makes for a great evening.

More details about these pre-parties can be found in guides published by Madison Beer Review and Beer Buffalo Lodge. The Madison Home Brewers and Tasters Guild additionally provides info about these parties and a guide to the festival itself.

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