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Wednesday, July 23, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 71.0° F  Fair
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Your guide to Great Taste of the Midwest 2011 eve pre-parties and beer tastings
Brews will be flowing the night before the festival


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Congratulations if you are one of the 6,000 ticket holders to the 25th anniversary of the Great Taste of the Midwest on Saturday, August 13! The privilege of buying a ticket means you may have camped up overnight just to stand in line for sales that ended in minutes, or simply beat the odds of the event's mail lottery.

Ticket or not, though, the annual Great Taste has become such a big deal around town that a burgeoning host of pre-parties are starting to rival the actual festival.

A number of Madison restaurants are hosting breweries and special beers on the evening before the festival. What's more, some out-of-state breweries turn up only that night. While last year there were less than 20 organized pre-parties, there are more than two dozen this summer, many with brewery staff attending.

While most events are held on Friday night, several others are planned for other days leading up to the festival.

Parties coinciding with the Great Taste include:

  • Alchemy
    Friday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wisconsin: Black Ale, Cave Ale, Pilsner, Steamboat Shandy, Tangerine IPA, Wee Stein Wit.

  • Argus Bar Grille
    Friday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, Indiana: Brewery staff are bringing 10 different beers, but are vague about the final list, only saying "expect some weird and funky stuff." Their messages have mentioned the reign of Alfa King over the Argus taps, with Dark Lord making a possible appearance. (Fans will understand those references.)

  • Barriques Coffee Trader
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio: Burning River (pale ale), Edmund Fitzgerald (porter), Holy Moses (Belgian wit), Lake Erie Monster (unfiltered IPA), and Market Street Wheat, a beer that normally only available at the Cleveland brewpub.

  • Barriques Market
    Thursday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • A variety of beers from around the Midwest will be offered as a warm up to the preview parties.

  • Brasserie V
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Shelton Brothers Importers of Belchertown, Massachusetts: This well-known importer is expected to bring at least eight beers, most of which will be European imports the are will likely be unique to Madison's beer scene.

  • Brickhouse BBQ
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wisconsin: More than a dozen beers, including Shine On (red ale), 2009 and 2010 vintages of Bourbon Barrel Stout, 2009 and 2011 vintages of Bourbon Barrel Barley Wine, Peruvian Morning Bourbon Barrel Imperial Stout, Glacial Trail IPA, Bourbon Barrel Glacial Trail IPA, Mudpuppy Porter, Belgian Style Blonde Ale, and Brewhouse Coffee Stout. Also look for the the barrel-aged Exodus, a tart Flanders red ale made with Door County cherries -- the beer was supposed to be out earlier this summer, but federal approval of its label delayed its release.
    • Nebraska Brewing Company of Papillion, Nebraska: Ten beers, including NE Blonde Ale, Brunette Nut Brown, Cardinal Pale Ale, EOS Wheat, Hop Gold, India Pale Ale, Infinite Wit, Smoked Porter, and Summertime Rye.
    • Shorts Brewing Company of Bellaire, Michigan: Bludgeon Yer Eye (American India black ale), Crunchy Grooves (organic pilsner), Chocolate Wheat, Dan's Pink Skirt (American IPA), Kolsch 45, Nicie Spicie (American wheat with lemon, orange, coriander and three kinds of peppercorns), Smoked Apple Ale (German rauch bier with apples), Saison Du Shorts, Spruce Pils (Imperial India pilsner made with blue spruce tips), and Stellar Ale (American pale ale).

  • Capital Tap Haus
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Capital Brewery of Middleton, Wisconsin: Brewmaster Kirby Nelson will offer samplings of Eternal Flame, a beer that is made to mark the brewery's 25th Anniversary -- portions of this year's vintage will be used as a seed beer that gets added to all future batches. Other beers on tap include Island Wheat, Supper Club, Pilsner, Wisconsin Amber, and Hop Cream Ale.

  • Capitol Chophouse
    Thursday-Saturday
    • Three Floyds Brewing of Munster, Indiana: Several beers, including Robert the Bruce Scotch Ale and Moloko Milk Stout, will be served on tap, and are also being used in the preparation of menu items. Patrons can purchase beers and then choose among appetizers, entrees and desserts from a special menu.

  • The Coopers Tavern
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Lagunitas Brewing Company of Petaluma, California: Pils (Czech style), IPA, Little Sumpin' Wild (Belgian strong ale), Hop Stoopid Ale (double IPA), Undercover Investigation Shut-Down Ale (Imperial mild, red ale), and Fusion VI, a double IPA that is usually reserved only for visitors of the California brewery. Karen Hamilton, a sister of the brewery's owners will be on hand. The restaurant will also match its menu with Lagunitas beers, so watch for mussels steamed in Lagunitas Pils.

  • Dexter's Pub
    Wednesday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • New Belgium Brewing of Fort Collins, Colorado: Ranger IPA, and several beers from the brewery's Lips of Faith series, including La Fleur Misseur (15th anniversary beer made with Brettanomyces yeast), Super Cru (20th anniversary beer), Dunkelweiss, Ooh La La (a raspberry ale), and Vrienden Ale (a beer made in collaboration with Allagash Brewing Company of Maine made with Brettanomyces yeast and Lactobacillus).
    Thursday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Tyranena Brewing Company of Lake Mills, Wisconsin: A special release party for the brewery's 2011 version of its Oktoberfest.
    Friday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • Pearl Street Brewery of La Crosse, Wisconsin: Brewer Joe Katchever and his staff will be on hand to pour Pearl Street Pale Ale, DTB Brown Ale, El Hefe Hefeweizen Holy MALTrimony (altbier), Dankenstein (double IPA) and Tambois Raspberry Frambois. When ordering Pearl Street beers all week, you can put your name in for a Friday night drawing for a pair of Great Taste tickets.
    • Summit Brewing Company of St. Paul, Minnesota: Summit's Silver Anniversary Ale (a crisp dry version of the brewery's Extra Pale Ale), Extra Pale Ale (EPA), Horizon Red, IPA, Oatmeal Stout on a nitrogen tap, and Unchained #7 Honeymoon Saison, all poured by brewery staff.

  • Drackenberg's Cigar Bar
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Potosi Brewing Company of Potosi, Wisconsin: Gandy Dancer Porter, Good Old Potosi, Potosi Pilsner, Tangerine IPA, and Wee Stein Wit.
    • Sand Creek Brewing Company of Black River Falls, Wisconsin: Several general and special releases, including Mango IPA, Bourbon Barrel Scottish Ale and a version of Oscar's Double Chocolate Oatmeal Stout aged in port wine barrels.
    Saturday, starting at 6 p.m.

  • Glass Nickel Pizza-Atwood
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Founders Brewing Company of Grand Rapids, Michigan: At least eight beers, including Cashew Mountain Brown (American brown ale), Centennial IPA, Devil Dancer (double IPA), Dirty Bastard (Scotch ale), Red Rye, Blushing Monk, a 2010 vintage of Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and the only keg that known to be left of Nemesis (black barley wine).

  • Great Dane-Downtown
    All week
    • No specific public party is scheduled for Friday, but look for special beers being released all week leading up to the Great Taste, including cask versions of HopJack Pale Ale and Black Watch Scotch.

  • Jordan's Big 10 Pub
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Jolly Pumpkin Artisan Ales of Dexter, Michigan: Bam Biere (saison), Noel De Calabaza (Belgian strong dark ale), and Oro De Calabaza (Bière de Garde).
    • Upland Brewing Company of Bloomington, Indiana: Dragonfly (IPA), a Milk Stout made just for this party and the Great Taste, and several specialty bottles that may include a sampling of Belgian lambics.

  • Madison's
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Goose Island of Chicago, Illinois: IPA, Matilda (Belgian pale ale), Sofie (Belgian farmhouse ale aged in wine barrels with orange peel), Fleur (Belgian pale ale with hibiscus and kombucha tea), Pepe Nero (Belgian farmhouse ale with black peppercorns), Demolition (Belgian golden ale), five vintage-reserve experimental beers new to Wisconsin, and Goose Island cane sugar sodas.

  • Maduro
    Friday, starting at noon
    • Bell's Brewery of Kalamazoo, Michigan: The bar gives all of its 19 taps to this brewery every year, and the list of beers is always long and surprising. This year, expect four lines reserved for the brewery's Jazz Series of farmhouse ales that include Le Pianiste (Biere de Garde). A team of brewers and staff from Kalamazoo brewery will be there to drink and talk with fans.
    • Maduro attempted to acquire a city permit to close off the 100 block of E. Main St. for a block party in conjunction with the Argus Bar Grill and The Tipsy Cow, but was not successful in this effort.

  • The Malt House
    Thursday, starting at 5 p.m.
      Upland Brewing Company of Bloomington, Indiana: The brewery has not yet announced specific beers to be served, but fans should expect some of Upland's unique sour ales.
    • Great Lakes Brewing Company of Cleveland, Ohio: Blackout Stout, Burning River (Pale ale), Holy Moses (Belgian wit), and Lake Erie Monster (unfiltered IPA).
    • The bar will also give away a pair of tickets to the Great Taste this evening.
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Lakefront Brewery of Milwaukee, Wisconsin: Bridge Burner Strong Ale, East Side Dark, Fixed Gear American Red Ale, Oktoberfest, Fuel Café (barrel aged coffee stout), and Rosie (an oak-aged Kriek). The brewery will also be bringing two beers that will served from a stichfäss keg, a German type of barrel, or firkin, that sits upright on its end: Klisch Pilsner, and a version of Fuel Café that was fermented in whiskey barrels from the Great Lakes Distillery of Milwaukee.

  • Mason Lounge
    Thursday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • The Livery of Benton Harbor, Michigan: Old Cedar (English dry hopped strong ale).
    Friday, starting at 6:30 p.m.
    • The Blind Pig Brewery of Champaign, Illinois: Brewmaster Bill Morgan will be on hand to offer three of his beers.

  • Merchant
    Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
    • Tyranena Brewing Company of Lake Mills, Wisconsin: A "Tap Takeover" with HopWhore (Imperial IPA), Gemuetlichkeit Oktoberfest and an exclusive release of Deb & Glenn's Cherry Kinda-Lambic. The restaurant will also be serving a three-course beer dinner for $40.

  • The Old Fashioned
    Friday, starting at 7 p.m.
    • Red Eye Brewing of Wausau, Wisconsin: Owner and brewer Kevin Eichelberger will be pouring a two-year old Belgian Golden Ale and his Big Betty German Dunkel Weizen.
    • Dave's BrewFarm of Wilson, Wisconsin: Look for owner and brewer David Anderson to pour BrewFarm Select (golden lager) and Matacabras (strong ale).
    • Hinterland of Green Bay, Wisconsin: The brewery will be serving Hinterland IPA and Cherry Wheat, and may be bringing a special firkin of an unnamed brew.

  • Paradise Lounge
    Friday, starting at 8 p.m.
    • August Schell Brewing Company of New Ulm, Minnesota: The oldest continuous operating brewery in Minnesota, dating back to 1860, will bring its Hefeweizen and Firebrick (red lager).

  • Star Liquor
    Thursday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • Central Waters Brewing Company of Amherst, Wisconsin: Glacial Trail IPA, Illumination (double IPA), and other brewery mainstays. Central Waters has also known to bring an unannounced growler or two of special beers when it stops by Star Liquor for special tastings.

  • Steve's - Mineral Point Road
    Tuesday, starting at 5 p.m.

  • The Tipsy Cow
    Friday, starting at 4 p.m.
    • Furthermore Beer of Spring Green, Wisconsin: Owner and brewer Aran Madden will be serving his brews, including Fatty Boombalatty, Makeweight (triple pale ale), Knot Stock (pale ale brewed with cracked black pepper), and Oscura (coffee infused dark lager).
    • New Holland Brewing of New Holland, Michigan: Beehive Tripel, Dragon's Milk (oak-aged American stout), Full Circle (kölsch), Saison Cacoa (saison), and at least one cask beer.
    • Dark Horse Brewing Company of Marshall, Michigan: Smalls Like Week IPA, Red Hot Shocker (red ale with cinnamon Red Hots and jalapeños), Kmita (kölsh), Raspberry Ale, and Rod (a cask American red with an infusion of "aphrodisiac" herbs).

  • Tornado Club
    Friday, starting at 8:30 p.m. in the downstairs Corral Room
    • O'so Brewing Company of Plover, Wisconsin: Owner and brewer Marc Buttera will be serving Picnic Ants (saison), Hop Whoopin (IPA), Lupulin Maximus (double IPA), Rusty Red, a special batch of Dank (imperial red ale) made with Brettonymices yeast, Goldilocks Revenge (Imperial stout), and three versions of Night Train (porter) aged in bourbon barrels -- one straight bourbon barrel aged, another with coffee added, and a third with cocoa nibs. This event is also a fundraiser for Underground Kitchen, which was destroyed by a fire on June 30.

  • Vintage Brewing Company
    Friday, starting at 6 p.m.
    • Vintage will dedicate most of its 22 tap lines to special pre-party beers, including Bourbon Barrel Max Stout, DeVille Belgian Barley Wine, and Alpentraum smoked weizenbock. Among the most unique brews will be a barrel-aged version of a Belgian abbey ale named Dedication -- it is more than nine months old, and for most of that time was aged in a barrel used to make apply brandy. Also look for whiskey barrel-aged versions of the brewpub's imperial stout.
    • Titletown Brewing Company of Green Bay, Wisconsin: Brewers Dave Oldenburg and Dave Malcolm make a special guest appearance, and plan to bring Hopasaurus Rex (IPA), 400 Honey Blonde Ale, and Apricary (apricot and honey summer ale).
    • Vintage will also be running its bus to transport patrons between its brewpub on Whitney Way, its downtown location Vintage Spirits & Grill, and the Walgreens on the Capital square. The bus will run from 6 p.m to 9 p.m. on Friday evening, with plans for it to leave the west side Vintage on the hour, and stop at Walgreens approximately 20-25 minutes past the hour and the downtown Vintage around 30-40 minutes after the hour.
    Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.
    • Vintage will be offering a brunch with bus transportation to and from the Great Taste at Olin Turville Park. Departure times are 10 a.m., 11 a.m., 12 p.m. and 1 p.m.; return trips are at 4 p.m., 5 p.m. and 6 p.m.
    Sunday, starting at 10 a.m.
    • Vintage will offer a hang-ver brunch to cap (or tap) off the weekend.


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

More info about Great Taste pre-parties can be found in a guide published by the Madison Homebrewers and Tasters Guild.

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