"This is our first time here and [we're] not prepared for so many beers," said Brian Luczak, who, along with Tabatha Boyd, joined 6,000 other beer drinkers at the Great Taste of the Midwest on Saturday at Madison's Olin-Turville Park.
The Waukesha couple rode to the event with a group of fellow beer enthusiasts who met up in Lake Mills at the Bitter Woman India Pale Ale. The option proved popular enough that the brewery actually hosted two buses, transporting about 100 festival-goers who avoided both the hassles of parking and the problem of driving immediately after enjoying the event.
This was the 24th annual Great Taste, the second-longest-running such festival in the country. The 2010 edition drew more than 120 breweries and served over 750 different beers. Festival chairman Bill Rogers says this year was the first time it reached its maximum number of breweries and had a waiting list for beer makers requesting booth space.
The sponsoring Lake Louie Brewing, which provided the first sips of its 2010 version of Louie's Reserve Scottish Ale, or LR for short. It's a beer that won't be out for some weeks, and has a tremendous following for its robust malty flavor and high alcohol content that lends LR the nickname "liquid reefer."
As an enticement for signing up for an individual membership in the Wisconsin Brewer's Guild and its Wisconsin Beer Lover (WIBL) network, Eisphyre, Autumnal Fire and Barbara Imperial Doppelbock. And, the very small Club Wort. "We have 55 members in our club and we brought 60 people with us," she said. Fellow club member Lesley Hartman of Sheboygan says the trek to the Great Taste is something she does with her boyfriend every year: "Even our tenth anniversary together will pale with the tenth anniversary of [our] attending this beer fest."
The Great Taste of the Midwest will have a significant anniversary of its own next year, marking its 25 annual edition on August 13, 2011. Tickets will go on sale May 1, 2011, but once again, it's expected to sell out in less than an hour. Time to start planning!