A glass shatters, everybody cheers, and the doors open for the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest, one of the best, most Wisconsin events I have ever been to.
"Pace yourself" is my editor's advice as I walk into Alliant Energy Center's Exhibition Hall Saturday. Got it. I add that to my two goals for the day: try as many booths as possible and don't drop my glass.
With security in my hand, I go in pursuit of something new, using the scientific method of picking a booth completely at random. There I decide to try my favorite beer name of the day, Fatty Boombalatty from Furthermore Beer of Spring Green. It's as good as the name, the highest compliment in craft beer.
I ask a group of UW students to take a quick picture of me with Manti Te'o's girlfriend so everyone will know I did, indeed, bring a date. The guys help me fashion my very own pretzel necklace and point me in the direction of a rice beer from Minoqua Brewing Company. This becomes my routine for the rest of the day: meet some people, and get directed to a new beer.
In the middle of the day I learn happy cows don't come from California, they come from Wisconsin, and it's because of the spent grain they are fed from Ale Asylum's Hopalicious. It's one of many 'How cool is that?' moments.
Ale Asylum vice president Otto Dilba tells us the cows come running for the Hopalicious grain during a special beer and cheese pairing with Sarah Hill. The beer I'm enjoying was also enjoyed by a cow, which possibly helped produce the cheese that found its way to my table. Beer and cheese synergy.
That as well as anything sums up the experience that is the Isthmus Beer & Cheese Fest. Everything works together to deliver a delicious blend of Wisconsin favorites. The hall is lined with every variety of beer and cheese I know about and many I do not. I tried too many to name but favorites were probably Ballistic by Ale Asylum and Booyah by Milwaukee Brewing Company.New Madison brewer, Karben4 Brewing, got great reviews I enjoyed a great black IPA, their Silk Scorpion.
It's late in the day, probably around 5, when I had experienced just about everything there is to do at the Fest, and then I hear about barbecue beer.
Immediately I bid farewell to a family from Green Bay that has given me this news and make my way over to the Woodman Brewery stand to try their BBQ Rauschbier, a "Belgian style ale infused with real BBQ" the menu tells me. And that is exactly what it tasted like, a surprisingly satisfying couple of ounces that would go great with a bloody mary.
As the event winds down, I try to decide on the best part of the day. For a while I couldn't figure it out, and then it hit me. I never dropped my glass. Booyah!