A Year in Beer

rewery of the Year celebrates many things. How much did they make? Which medals did what brewery win nationally? Globally? What’s the best beer experience in the Madison area?

Few folks realize how many people it takes to make good beer. Brewmasters are backed by a bevy of assistants, keg washers, field sales and delivery people. Farmers, truckers and maltiers, engineers, mechanics and scientists are all part of the final product. And never forget the bartenders and waitstaff in the taphouse!

The best brewers make the best beer, beers that taste bold and crisp and clean. No matter what type or style—dark or pale, lager or ale—it’s gotta pop, it’s gotta sizzle.

Our local boys did well last year at the Great American Beer Festival. Among national craft brewers, New Glarus placed 23rd while Capital (Middleton) came in 49th. Of America’s top 50 overall brewers by sales volume, Miller (Milwaukee) placed 2nd with Minhas (Monroe) coming in 15th. New Glarus notched 36th.

Give The Great Dane (Madison/ Fitchburg) an honorable mention; they helped amend Wisconsin’s Prohibition-era tied house laws. Now our state’s smaller brewers can compete and brew more, taking advantage of economies of scale through expanded production and distribution.

The Great American Beer Festival annually issues medals for the nation’s top beers brewed to style. In 2007 the GABF awarded Mark Duchow and Mount Horeb’s Grumpy Troll gold for their delightfully dark Baltic-style porter, Amnesia. Miller cleaned up with all sorts of American lagers, clustering seven golds, silvers and bronzes. The Brewers Association awards the World Beer Cup every other year as well. In April 2008 Amnesia won gold, this time on a global stage. Milwaukee’s Miller and Lakefront also medaled.

Madison’s Great Taste of the Midwest is our annual beer bacchanalia, serving over five thousand people more than five hundred brews from one hundred-plus breweries. For only $35, it’s all-you-can-drink for five whole hours, plus a commemorative glass. Each year I attend I pick a style and attempt to sample every like beer on the premises. One year I focused on pale ale; another was all about stout. On the grounds of Olin-Turville Park, Monona Terrace and Wisconsin’s Capitol stand as a quintessential Madison backdrop.

I don’t know how many people waited all summer (or twenty-six years) to drink beer and watch their Milwaukee Brewers play postseason ball this fall. Win or lose, beer and baseball have always gone together. Cheers to our best! Cheers to the Brewers’ great season! 

*Read Palmer’s Bottle Half-Full blog on madisonmagazine.com