So, I do understand that I'm a little tardy at blogging about my adventures at the 2009 Great Taste and am just getting around to it. Again, like last year, we were able to get tickets via craigslist a few weeks before the event! We happened to come up empty again in the ticket lottery drawing, so craigslist was our only hope. It sure is amazing to see how popular this event has gotten and how difficult it is to obtain tickets. On craigslist and Ebay the tickets were going for around $100-$150 each, which is absolutely rediculous. Tip to all; wait until a week before the event and you can always get your hands on tickets for face value and not be totally scalped.
Like last year, we went to Maduro for the Bell's pre-Great Taste release. 18 Bell's beers on tap can make any craft beer fanatic cry. As you can see from 'The Lineup', there were many choices to dabble in! From Poolside Ale, Bourbon Barrel Hell Hath No Fury to Hop Slam, this was a Bell's fans' dream! Thank goodness we had a good hearty meal beforehand at The Great Dane Pub, and a few beers of course! If it weren't for the meal before Maduro's, this would have been a very short night!
I'm not sure I can pinpoint a favorite of all the Bell's lineup as a few were gone before we had gotten to Maduro's at 8:30pm or so. I had never had the Poolside before and it was very light, but very refreshing. The nose was very fruity and there was no mistaking it. It poured a golden peach color with a nice head. I'd probably give it a solid "B" (BeerAdvocate's reviews).
Saturday finally arrived and we all headed over to the Ale Asylum for a bloody mary and to catch the shuttle over to the festival. Ale Asylum is pretty damn close to the Aloha Inn, where we usually stay for the weekend. It was uber cheap and beats staying downtown/State Street where hotels usually go for $120+. We save a lot just staying at the Aloha and taking cabs into downtown during the evening!
After a very tasty bloody at the Ale Asylum, the shuttle finally showed and we hopped on for our yearly bus ride to Olin-Turville Park for the 2009 Great Taste of the Midwest! I've been going to the fest for 10 of the past 11 years and it has only rained or sprinkled once, which was last year where it sprinkled for about an hour! The weather has almost always been perfect! This day (August 8th, 2009) was no different, even though it was quite warm and humid. Thanks to the water stations positioned all around the grounds as I did get very thirsty for water towards the end, 6:00pm.
Of course Bell's had the largest setup and 'show' at their tent, but quite a few other breweries are starting do the same, with themes and dress.
The Official Program and Brewery List (.pdf) was once again nice and thick, easy to use and is nice that the people running the festival decided to revamp the layout of the festival, which was much needed!
After not hitting the Real Ale tent last year because I guess I was concentrating on my drinking and socializing that I had totally forgotten about it! The selection (.xls) of real ales was once again fantastic! I spent about an hour or so sampling and chatting up folks about their experience and their favorites as of yet... I believe this is the point where I lost most of my friends and just meandered around solo and meeting interesting people, everywhere! I did try to find my friends, but alas, it didn't happen after standing at one of the exits at festival close. After wrapping up my drink, I headed for the shuttles and hoped to find the Ale Asylum bus to get back and hopefully would find them there! I somehow was able to find the shuttle before it took off with a full load of fest-goers! The ride back was awesome, I'd given away all my hops that I had attached to my had to those who wanted to eat them or put them in their drink - a fine idea if you haven't tried it!
Back at the Asylum and no friends, but that's cool; I met a few people on the shuttle ride back and all chatted for an hour or so. Back to the Aloha Inn, maybe they were there!!! Nope! I waited for about an hour before my friend Peter wound-up getting back in a taxi after taking the wrong shuttle to the other side of Madison (a crappy $30 mistake). Out for a few more drinks and some reggae music we went! Great time at the Great Taste, again!