Well, another Great Taste of the Midwest has come and gone. Man, this year was awesome. It helped that we went in with a plan, as opposed to last year, where we just wandered around and looked for brewery names (until Emily rescued us from our folly).
This year, on the 4 hour drive up, we read through the list of breweries and what they were bringing, and put a star next to the must hits, a question mark by the most likely hits, and left the others blank. Then since they provide a map, we went through and circled all the booths of the brewers that we either starred, or question marked. We had 47 brewers circled on our map.
We left Champaign around 8, and arrived in Madison shortly before noon. We parked at Ale Asylum, as it's the closest place that has a shuttle. We didn't get on the first shuttle, so we had time for a beer. Paddy got the Big Slick Stout, and kridz and I shared ... um ... Satisfaction Jackson double IPA, which was pretty good.
We got on the second bus and headed to the fair grounds. As soon as we got off the bus, we ran into Jacob from Radio Maria. Then, Tom, Nancy, Emily, Luis, and a couple of others from the CU Beer Club walked up. When the gates opened, Noah and some others from the club were way ahead in the line, so they let us know where "Camp Paign" was going to be, it was situated on the hill above New Glarus.
When Kridz, Paddy and I, got in, we headed for the real ale (cask) tent. We had 3 beers in there, but the lines were really long, so we headed down to the other tents. Our first stop was at the Great Dane booth, I had the Tri-pepper pils (again, I had it first the night before we got the tix). It was as good as I remembered. It was kind of funny, just going from circled brewery to circled brewery on the map. Sometimes we'd walk up to one and wonder, "Why the hell did we choose this one?". Then we'd see the beer list and be like... oh... I'll have one of those.
Some of the beer highlights were: Founders Canadian Breakfast Stout; 3 Floyds Barrel Aged Dark Lord *missed the vanilla bean by like 4 people :( * ; 2 different Collaborative Evil's (Flossmoor, and Fat Heads); possibly the best beer there, Kuhnhenn Creme Brulee Java Stout (I only got a little sip out of someone else's glass); Minneapolis Town Hall Russian Roulette (which didn't last long, and I managed to get it before it ran out); and another pepper beer, that I don't remember.
I promised Bruisin' Ales, that I would wear their shirt... (discount?) and ran in to some people who were old friends of the owners, from back in Julie's Pennsylvania days. Also ran into someone else who is a fan of that store; and who can really blame them. *on a side note, I do think I should be able to charge for advertising their beer; I wear beer shirts enough, I like the beer, but I am giving advertising for them, and I even paid for the shirt! (normally).
Just like last year, I didn't run into anyone that I know from online, Cizauskas was there, and supposed to be around the Real Ale tent, but I don't think I saw him. Tommy Werner was there, and I also didn't see him.
I did run into the girl that I had some beers with at Great Dane the day before the tix, which was kinda cool. I seemed to make some friends, although I may have just been an annoying guy trying to steal pretzels off people's necklaces... which, when you think about it, is rather disgusting, since the thing's been around a sweaty guys neck for about 4 hours.
The drive home (for me) seemed uneventful, as I was asleep/passed out, for about 75% of it.
It was a great time, again, if you can go, you need to. It's 2 weekends out of your life, getting the tix, and using the tix. If you like beer (and you are here, aren't you?) you should find a way to go. The circling of the breweries we wanted to go to was a good idea. Also, having several people in a group going around is a good idea too, as you can get more samples from each brewery and then just rotate glasses around.
I still find it hard to believe that we actually couldn't find anyone in Champaign/Urbana who was willing to go up with us. Paddy had to sell his other ticket to just someone walking around who needed a ticket.
Next event is probably the Urbana Beer and Chili Cookoff, September 19, although the Great Lakes Brewfest is the same day. Last year, we had a good beer drinking party at Kridz after the Urbana fest, but dunno if we'll do that again. If we do, we WON'T buy tickets online, it's $7 at the door and $5 online, and the online fees made it cost more than at the gate! Oh, and the buy tix online thing seems to be broken.
See you at a bar/brewery/liquor store near you.