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Monday, October 29, 2012

Great Taste... NOT Less Filling: Day Five

After a fun breakfast down in the hotel lobby with several of the Short's Brewing fellows, we decided to make good use of the little time we had before the festival began... and what better way to spend that time by visiting Steve's to purchase some beer to tote home with us to PA?  After the short drive, we arrived at Steve's, where we purchased a few bombers and mixed six-packs, as well as some Tyranena Scurvy (IPA brewed with orange peel) and Dirty Old Man (bottles of the Imperial Coffee Porter we had the night before at the brewery).  Then it was off to do a favor for Deuane: pick up a bowling shirt at Vintage Brewing Company.  Last time Deuane visited Great Taste, they didn't have his size in stock, and he was apparently smitten with said shirt.  Lucky for him, they had his size in stock (and he was indeed giddy when we delivered the shirt to him after we'd returned home).

On to the festival.  Now, let me preface what you are about to read with the following: If you've never been to a beer festival of this magnitude, then you can't imagine the amount of beer that is available.  We're talking five tents with thirty breweries each, plus an entire tent dedicated to nothing by cask ales!  Let me also point out that each brewery doesn't just show up with two or three of their flagship beers.  Every single brewery brings its "A Game!"  Most breweries bring six beers plus numerous special or rare beers that are poured at specific times throughout the day.  For example, Three Floyds poured Cognac barrel-aged Dark Lord.  You couldn't even get near to their tent all day.  Unless you wanted to stand in line for over half an hour to get three ounces of said beer, you were out of luck.  Honestly, it's not a bad idea to display some patience waiting for beers (as well as restraint from sampling too many beers). Unfortunately, I typically display neither at a beer festival.  I will say that Brewslut and I were, um, more well-behaved this time around.  Ultimately, it is quite an overwhelming festival to take in, even for seasoned beer aficionados such as ourselves.  So due to the reality of the situation, the forthcoming events will not be recounted in chronological order, but rather in the order that I can, well, remember it happening!

We stopped by Four Hands tent and the owner remembered us from the Monk's event during Philly Beer Week.  I want to say we sampled Contact High, their summer seasonal, which I had marked in my Great Taste program, but I could be mistaken.  Still, this is a hoppy wheat beer brewed with blood orange zest.  I'd love to get my hands on a few bottles of this!

We tried several times to hunt down "Coffee" from Ale Asylum, to whom we were delivering a case of Troegs Perpetual IPA direct from John Trogner.  Apparently, Coffee taught John a lot about brewing during John's formative years.  It must have paid off, because all of the folks at Ale Asylum are huge fans of Troegs.  I even heard that one of its flagship beers - Ambergeddon - is somewhat of a Nugget Nectar clone.  So I suppose that's a fitting tribute, eh?

Taking a break with Pleeps.
One of the "special tappings" we marked down in our programs to attend was Central Waters' Bourbon Barrel Cherry Stout at 1:15pm.  Surprisingly, there was virtually no line when we arrived.  Even if there was, I would have been happy waiting for it, because it turned out to be one of the highlights of the festival!  It was similar to New Glarus' Cherry Stout but with a moderate bourbon presence.  The vanilla notes worked really well with the base beer, making this one a winner all around!  Unfortunately, they were not pouring the Brewhouse Coffee Stout, which is one of the best I've ever had.

Enjoying some Tyranena with the "dirty old man!"
While we didn't have enough time to stop at Milwaukee's Lakefront Brewery, we did make plans to swing by its tent at around 3:20pm, because they were tapping a Bourbon Barrel Vanilla Pumpkin Lager.  This was quite an interesting treat by which they took their base pumpkin lager and aged it in Black Swan Cooperage barrels from Woodinville Whiskey Company, then added Madascar vanilla beans directly to the firkin. Can you say "Yum?"

We made a quick stop at Minneapolis Town Hall's tent for a sample of their fantastic Mango Mama, a mango version of their excellent Masala Mama IPA.  We had the opportunity to share a growler of this a while back (thanks Deuane!), so it was a pleasure to revisit this after a few years.  

Pleeps rode around in my pocket all day!
Since we didn't get to visit with Dr. Joel during our visit to New Holland, we made it a point to stop by their tent several times.  They had their tent decorated like a zombie Halloween party, which was kind of cool.  Dr. Joel was decked out in a zombie costume and pouring at the event, so he hooked us up with some of the "special" offerings prior to them actually tapping.  For example, we tried the Blue Sunday Barrel #16 Brettanomyces Bruxellensis (glad I have the program to reference that one).  Back in 2009, they put some Blue Sunday into a French oak barrel.  Then in 2011, they inoculated the barrel with Brettanomyces Bruxellensis and let it work its magic.  The result was a sweet but tart cherry pie-like beer that Brewslut liked very much.  This one perhaps one of the rarest beers we were able to sample at the festival.

A "das boot" you don't want to drink out of!
Short's Brewing Company out of Bellaire, MI, is a perfect example of a brewery bringing its "A Game" to Great Taste.  In addition to a bunch of cool photo opportunity exhibits and a personable bunch of guys, they are always pouring interesting and unique beers. Case in point: Black Chai, a black India Cream Ale infused with Chai Tea.  We also enjoyed samples of Van Dammage, an IPA with American hops and Belgian yeast (and awesomely named); Grasshoppah, and American IPA brewed with chocolate mint; and Brewslut's favorite, Strawberry Short's Cake, a Golden Ale brewed with strawberries, milk sugar and biscuit malts.  Short's is always a must-stop, multi-stop tent at Great Taste.  It's a shame they are so far away, because the brewpub itself is an awesome beer destination. 

Another great stop is always at The Livery's tent.  They are always pouring the craziest of the crazy beers they produce.  For example, one of the best beers of the festival we sampled was Cherry Taxman, a mammoth 14.5% ABV Russian Imperial Stout aged in Heaven Hill bourbon barrels with Michigan-grown cherries and cocoa nibs.  Good God, this was awesome!  One other beer that I remember trying was Impeche, a Belgian style Amber Ale aged in sour casks with locally grown Red Haven peaches and nectarines for twenty months.  While it wasn't as amazing as the Nectarine Tripel I sampled a few years prior, this was still a very good beer. 

While it doesn't seem like we sampled very much beer, these were simply some of the highlights of the day.  With that said, attending a five-hour beer festival as epic as Great Taste of the Midwest is over before you know it.  It really does go by in a flash and the whole day turns from a vivid memory into a smudgy blur.  The only thing there is to do after a day like this is retire to the hotel and take a nap, then wake up after four hours, realize you are still intoxicated and go back to bed... which is precisely what we did!

Cheers to Great Taste!

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The Pour Travelers thank you for reading about our beer travels!