Happy Madison Craft Beer Week! This year it runs from May 4-13, so it’s time again to roundup all the best events you should get to, including the usual annual favorites. The Madison craft beer scene has evolved and grown over the past year, so there’s plenty of new events to check out, too.
Just based on reputation alone, certain spots in Madison are going to bring their A-game to Craft Beer Week. I typically kick off my beer week at The Malt House, as their Central Waters tap takeover always features some of the brewery’s most sought after offerings. This year Central Waters is bringing a couple of barrel-aged imperial stouts: Black Gold and XX, their anniversary beer. Pro tip: the Malt House does not open until 4 p.m., but get there a little bit before that. Last year’s keg of Nineteen lasted fewer minutes than its namesake.
Dexter’s is also a MCBW stalwart, and they’ll be taking a familiar approach to this year’s binge, hosting a week’s worth of tap takeovers dedicated to a couple breweries each night. They’re still rolling out the tap list announcements for the week on their Facebook page, but Sunday, May 6 looks like a winner with a Founder’s/Half Acre/Perennial takeover. Perennial is bringing both Sump and Vanilla Abraxas, while Half Acre hits with Moonset, a West Coast-style IPA and a barrel-aged version of Big Hugs, their imperial coffee stout.
Blue Moon Bar & Grill scored its “reliable” tag with last year’s MCBW effort, and they are once again gearing up to host their annual Bourbon Derby to coincide with Saturday, May 5’s Kentucky Derby. Their lineup of 14 bourbon barrel-aged brews will feature Goose Island’s 2016 Bourbon County Coffee Stout and Founder’s CBS, an imperial stout aged in bourbon barrels that previously housed maple syrup.
I’m also pleased to welcome Growlers to Go-Go to my “old reliable” roster for MCBW. Growlers to Go-Go is taking a more competitive approach to this year’s MCBW, pitting two breweries against each other during their events. No two Wisconsin breweries have grown their reputation in my estimation over the past year as much as Brewing Projekt and 3 Sheeps. Growlers to Go-Go clearly read my mind and decided to let the two breweries take over their taps on Saturday, May 5. I’m most looking forward to seeing how Brewing Projekt’s Hustle, a Mosaic Pale Ale, compares to the latest offering in 3 Sheeps’ pilot series, Chalk Board (crossing my fingers for a hazy pale ale!).
There’s no better way for an establishment to make a name for itself as a craft beer spot than to kill it during MCBW. Working Draft Beer Company is looking to do just that with a few special tappings throughout the week. On Monday, May 7, they’ll release a double dry hopped version of their hazy IPA, Pulp Culture (with a sneak peek kicking off Brasserie V’s craft beer week on Saturday, May 5). Then on Saturday, May 12, they’re hosting a “pool party for the ages” with the release of Above Ground Pool, their American light lager to accompany a festival of 11 lagers both from Working Draft and other Wisconsin lager producers.
Funk Factory Geuzeria’s Gilson Street taproom was not yet open for last year’s MCBW, so to celebrate having a place of their own this year, they’re releasing two special beers. The first will drop on Saturday, May 5 and is a batch of Karben4’s Fantasy Factory that FFG subjected to a 100% wild fermentation. Hoppy wild ales are not particularly common, as the funk and sour of wild fermentation can be difficult to balance with the aroma and bitterness from the hops. But if anyone can do it successfully, it’s FFG. On Saturday, May 12, their second beer is Glory in the Morning, a blend of several “Methode Traditionnelle” (beer made with traditional Belgian methods of making lambic and gueuze, just outside of Belgium) vintages to create the first in what FFG is calling their “Barn Quilt” series.
While BarleyPop Tap and Shop opened its doors just ahead of Craft Beer Week in 2017, it didn’t leave a lot of time to put together much of a program. They’re more prepared this time around, hosting a Super Sour Night featuring 30 different wild ales (Saturday, May 5) and a Barrel-Aged Royal Rumble (Thursday, May 10) featuring what I believe to be Wisconsin’s three best barrel-aged brewers: Central Waters, Tyranena and 3 Sheeps. The Rumble will feature the first tapping of 3 Sheeps’ 2018 barrel-aged version of Paid Time Off! to occur outside of the brewery’s taproom.
Whether you go old reliable or decide to check out the newcomers’ offerings, the only way to screw up Madison Craft Beer Week is to sit at home. It’s the best 10 days to be a beer drinker in Madison, so get out there and try something new or take comfort in the familiar.