The 2008 Great Taste of the Midwest was a great taste indeed.
We (we being me, Kris, Scott and Kat) started the weekend off on Friday with lunch and beers at Ale Asylum. That was our second time there. If you're in the area, you must stop in. All the beers were excellent and the place has a great atmosphere. Dave and Sharon caught up with us there and the six of us bummed around the rest of the evening together. We also made some new friends in the chatty, beer-enthusiast crowd. That seems to a be a common theme at beer bars and beer events.
Our next stop was a newer joint in town, The Malt House, that opened in June. A fellow named Bill Rogers, former president of the Madison Hombrewers and Tasters Guild (as I'm told), owns the joint. It's a humble beer bar with a pretty good selection of beer. They had a nice variety of beer, including two from Stone Brewing. It's a little bit off the beaten path (i.e. it isn't downtown) but a worthy destination.
We ended Friday night, unfortunately, at Capital (which was in walking distance of our hotel). They had live music and a festive crowd, but it wasn't much of a beer lover's event. They shut things down at 9 P.M., which I guess was okay since we weren't having much of a good time there anyway. One highlight was that Scott and I bumped into a fellow beer loving Minnesotan, Jason (I believe, anyway. I'm bad enough with names as it is, but put a few beers in me and I can't remember my own.). He was wearing a Surly shirt, which drew our attention. Like I said before, it wouldn't be a worthy beer event if we didn't make new friends.
The weather on Saturday ended up being perfect for the Great Taste. It was sunny and warm with a nice cooling breeze. And yet there was a dearth of scantily clad, buxom women. That was the only downside. Many buxom men, but too few buxom men. *sigh* We met up with Cal and Al of Blue Nile fame in line. As usual, the folks running the Great Taste were extremely organized and put on a very well run event.
The group didn't hang together inside as everyone ran off to all corners to chase their favorites or try new stuff. We bumped into one another from time to time...just enough to share recommendations and highlights. I had absolutely no plan this year and simply wandered around trying random stuff. For me the highlights were Gray's bourbon barrel aged stout and Ohio Brewing's dopple alt. That's not to say I didn't have a lot of other great beers, but those two stood out as being especially good and from breweries to which I had not had much, if any, previous exposure. I had a chance to chat a bit with Omar of Surly and Jeff of Flat Earth as well, but mainly I sought out beers we can't get in Minnesota. Scott and I bumped into Jason again and I spent much of the afternoon chatting w/ some fellows from Michigan. And, as usual, the evening ended pretty early for Kris and I. All that sun and beer is good for the soul but tough on the body.