The week before Great Taste of the Midwest is almost as important as the event itself, which is why I like to call it Madison Craft Beer Week, Part Deux: The Reckoning. Many breweries participating in Great Taste send their reps to the area a few days early with some special treats just for Madison bars. These rare beers are distributed at special events leading up to Great Taste, which is fantastic for those of us who didn’t score tickets in the ridiculously antiquated purchasing process. Here are a few of the highlights before the big event at Olin Park on Saturday.
Thursday: St. Louis Tap Takeover at Dexter’s Pub
St. Louis has a damn good craft beer scene. Madisonians are hopefully familiar with Perennial’s brews by now, but for this event they’ll be joined by four other St. Louis breweries including 4 Hands, 2nd Shift, Narrow Gauge and Civil Life. I’ve worn out my F5 key on the Facebook event page in anticipation of the release of the night’s tap list, but ideally you’ll find me there throwing back a few OJ Runs (4.37 on Untappd) from Narrow Gauge or barrel aged Bona Fides from 4 Hands (4.41).
Friday morning: New Glarus R&D Release
Start Great Taste eve (you took off work, right?) down in New Glarus for the latest release of their R&D series. This year’s pre-Taste release is the Vintage 2016 ale, an American sour blonde aged in oak barrels for one year. Bring a bottle or two to share with your fellow beer geek compatriots while you wait in line for the 10 a.m. release.
Friday afternoon: Toppling Goliath at Blue Moon
Rumors abound of a falling out between Toppling Goliath and Dexter’s, the traditional site of TG’s pre-Taste party. Whatever the reason, MCBW hotspot Blue Moon Bar & Grill is the new host. Get there early and enjoy a few pints of King Sue and Supa SuMo to secure your spot for the 4 p.m. tapping of Mornin’ Delight (4.70!).
Friday evening: Central Waters at Lucille
Savor your Mornin’ Delight, but then hurry over to Lucille anytime after 11 a.m. for their Central Waters Brewing Company party. Those that missed out on last week’s distribution of Cassian Sunset (4.43) can enjoy a pour from their 5:30 p.m. tapping. The real heavy-hitters come later with a 6:30 p.m. tapping of Nineteen (4.58) and a 7:30 p.m. tapping of Black Gold (4.57).
Friday night: Go to bed
Remember that this is the pre-party. It’s tempting to overindulge on all these rare offerings, and if you don’t have a ticket to the main event, by all means do so. But for ticket holders, make sure you get a good night’s rest, are not (too) hungover, and are well-hydrated for Saturday’s 1.pm. start.
Bonus event: Odd-Side Ales Launch WI Distribution
Though not officially a Great Taste event, head to Dexter’s Pub on Wednesday for the Wisconsin launch of Odd Side Ales. The brewery has quickly made itself a Western Michigan brewery destination since opening its doors in 2010, even in the crowded Grand Rapids market. Odd Side is bringing 12 taps to Dexter’s. Find me at the bar sipping on a Rye Hipster Brunch (4.50 rating on Untappd), an imperial stout with maple syrup that is aged in rye whiskey barrels.
Head to Great Taste’s website for the full, extra-long list of official Great Taste Eve events.