As our nation celebrates the annual television spectacle that is Summerslam, I thought I'd catch up with last week's Great Taste-caused miss and run this week's Flyover Friday as a head-to-head matchup when possible. Some papers didn't run a review last week, some didn't run a review this week, but for those that did, a little friendly competition is in order.Read More
The day the NCAA tournament bracket is announced has nothing on Great Taste program day. Workplaces across the country discovered about 60 pages missing from their printers on Wednesday afternoon , highlighters suspiciously low on fluid, and employees leaving with a mysterious bundle of paper under their arms.
The official program for the Great Taste of the Midwest is a beast, only 60 pages long if office beer fans graciously printed it two-sided. It takes a good bit of time to skim through the whole thing, and then the app comes out and you've got to do it all over again to mark favorites breweries and to-drink beers, and check for additions.
I'm happy to do some of that work for you, so here's my list of the beers you should probably try if you're at Olin Park this Saturday.
Sours and tarts and puckering whatnots
When I went through and winnowed out my highlighted beers, it was no surprise that this category was still near the top of the list, and I didn't even include a quarter of all the Berliner weisses and goses in vogue this year. Schell's Star of the North series comes correct, and Leinenkugel's experimental Tenth and Blake Bubblelicious Weisse is a perennial favorite. Milwaukee Brewing's Increase Wheat, a gooseberrified Berliner, just came out -- but it won't be distributed to Madison (thanks, distributor), so GTMW is Madison's best shot at it. Similarly, New Glarus' Wild Peach is on the schedule for Saturday, if you aren't able to make it to the brewery for the bottle release. Maybe the weirdest sour? MobCraft's Batshit Sour, a lacto version of Batshit Crazy coffee brown ale. Excellent stuff, perfect for a festival pour.
Caffeinated black ales
Coffee stouts and porters are great, but on a hot summer day, a ligher-bodied black ale (black IPA, Cascadian IPA, etc.) is ideal. Minnesota's Bent Paddle Cold Press Black is its standard and very tasty black ale with a coffee addition. Also from the Great White North -- our side of the border, though -- is Thirsty Pagan's Coffee Vanilla Burntwood Black; the Pagan has opened up its house black ale and infused it with coffee and vanilla, a natural direction for the roasty, stout-like flavors of the black ale to take.
A beer fest is the weird variant's natural stomping grounds. Take Indeed's Arnold Palmer Shenanigans. This summery wheat beer from the brewery's regular lineup has been amplified with lime, pineapple, and mint. (This actually seems more like a mojito than an Arnold Palmer, but whatevs.) Temperance Greenwood Beach Blonde with Pineapple has an obvious addition, and one that should highlight a trend in beer modification. Right Brain's Thai Peanut is actually a regular recipe brown ale, but it's just weird enough to be included here.
Okay, so an IPA or double IPA that blows out your palate might not be the smartest call for a tasting festival, but you gotta do what you gotta do. Dog-themed Black Husky's E-Howler is the Equinox hops version of its typical Simcoe Howler, and was pretty hard to find in bottles. A couple Chicago breweries pit humans versus creatures on a couple pales: Dryhop Shark Meets Hipster Galaxy-hopped wheat, and Pipeworks' Ninja Vs. Unicorn double IPA. And then there's Haymarket's Mathias, a Citra-hopped imperial IPA named not after a monster but a police officer from Chicago's history books.
Avoid anything that comes in a test tube from Bell's; last year's experimental chile beer was a palate wrecker of the cruelest order. Instead, try Sweet Mullets Jorge, a truly delicious jalapeño beer from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. If your tongue can handle it, ZwanzigZ's Imperial Stout on Ghost Pepper was a spicy wonder from last year's Taste.
This year's Great Taste logo is a strongman carrying two barrels, so why not honor the branding with a few sips of the Midwest's best barrel-aged stouts? Of course there's Three Floyds' Dark Lord, but also Perennial's Barrel-Aged Abraxas and Great Lakes' Barrel-Aged Blackout Stout -- two beers that don't come around here otherwise. Same with Chicago's own Goose Island's Proprietor's Bourbon County Stout and Off Color's Barrel-Aged DinoS'mores vanilla/chocolate/graham cracker stout, also adorably known in this hibernated version as Dinosnores. Toppling Goliath Mornin' Delight makes a return visit; bottles of this guy don't often leave Iowa. And closest to home, Milwaukee's Lakefront 25th Anniversary Vol. 1 Imperial Stout has been rum barrel-aged, which should be pretty interesting.
Or, if this is all too much, maybe just sidle up with a pour of New Albanian's Turbo Hog malt liquor. Maybe they'll repeat last year's novelty act and serve it out of a Ghostbusters proton pack-esque mobile dispenser. Is the Great Taste great, or what?
They're coming. The beer drinkers are coming. Great Taste of the Midwest is almost upon us, and so are the thirsty festival attendees coming from out of state, looking to stock up on the best of Wisconsin's brewed goodness. Let me give you, Madison locals, advice on which beers you shouldn't count on being around post-GTMW.Read More
Something a little new this week. Previously, I've captured reviews from Midwestern newspapers published from Friday through Thursday. I'm shifting that a little, since it feels more useful to publish a Friday review on a Friday considering weekend travel, rather than sitting on it for a week. This means you'll see two reviews from a couple papers this week. This will also eliminate pre-noon Friday posts (unless the Reader stops putting up new reviews at 5:30 PM...guys), but that's a change we'll all learn to grow into here at Flyover Friday.Read More
I've been listening to The X-Files Files podcast pretty well non-stop lately. The show triggered the same gene in me that comic books do; I love a long story, a mythology. I like references that pay off in three seasons. And thus, for its weaknesses, I like the podcast, too. Haven't been happy with the Wisconsin/Midwest references so far (dismissive and a little snide) but hey, we live with that every day. Not just on Flyover Fridays.Read More
The second half of every year starts with a big summery Independence Day holiday kickoff -- Memorial Day may be the "official" start of the season, but it's always rainy that day and that's a total bummer for summer mood-setting. On top of the usual Fourth festivities this year, we had the World Cup to fill our afternoons. So in recognition of one half being in the books, I've got a few highlights of 2014 in dining so far.Read More
There's no sneaky theme to this week's post, no subtle through-line. There's just a relative shitload of Middle Eastern joints getting reviewed this week, including the same one twice by different papers. The area's one of my genealogical home teams, so it feels right to come back to Flyover Friday on this note. Flyover Friday on three...break!Read More
Not every city can support full-time, full-effort food criticism. Not every paper can afford to put the proper inches underneath a critic's name. Madison's a lucky town. St. Louis is a lucky town. The Twin Cities would be flush, too, if their critics didn't take so many weeks off. Other cities don't have the talent in the lineup, or the budget, to really dig into a restaurant review. Flyover Friday is a reference that implies altitude; let's measure from surface to core this week.Read More
As you may have noticed, Flyover Friday disappeared for a couple weeks. I've been taking a little writing break, but break's over. A few glorious late-spring days -- I've taken to referring to that kind of day as "Wisconolulu" -- have me daydreaming about writing more, untethered by any office or desk, clacking away on my deck. Until then, Irony or Mayo continues apace. Flyover Friday is back.Read More
This is actually a post I'd been procrastinating on since March, when New York Times contributor and self-confessed joyless grump David Tanis wrote an article espousing anti-brunch, pro-lunch sentiments.Read More
This week's column touches on themes we've discussed before, like authenticity and cultural appropriation. I was thinking of these subjects again recently with the release of the trailer for Eddie Huang's new TV series; Eddie Huang, you may remember, is a fairly fierce defender of cultural culinary authenticity. His show, on the other hand, is airing on the very white, Disney-owned ABC network, is written by a second-generation Iranian, and has turned his Taiwanese family into a Chinese one. But: cultural culinary integrity, y'all. You ask me, culture is meant to be shared; there wouldn't be a point to noting our differences otherwise. Pass some more mile markers for cultural distinctions in this week's Flyover Friday.Read More
I was talking to a dude at a bar recently, and the subject swung around to Chinese food. He was blown away by the concept of the secret Chinese-only menu, and that Madison had at least one joint doing it. Or used to -- I seemed to recall hearing that the split menu was no more (to mixed reviews, if Yelp is to be believed). In the same conversation, Fugu was mentioned, a restaurant that'll be spinning off into a second, more sushi-centric restaurant in Waunakee. There's always something new to figure out, new to experience, or old to re-enliven, especially in this week's Flyover Friday.Read More
I decided when I started this column that I'd basically keep the coverage limited to print media. And while it hasn't always worked out that way, I select reviews that are reviews in the truest sense: multiple visits, four-week delay, etc. Sometimes these papers don't hold to the "rules" of the trade, but exposing people to the genre of writing is even more important to me than whether or not a reviewer sticks to the guidelines. And sometimes, it's as illustrative to see what gets into the review as what filter the review goes through before publication. Come, see how the sausage is made in this edition of Flyover Friday.Read More
There are a few weeks on Madison’s social calendar that demand attention. Restaurant Week shows up a couple times a year; it’s okay. The Wisconsin Film Festival is worthy of its fanfare. Even the generally excellent neighborhood festival La Fete de Marquette eats up the majority of a week. But for my money, there’s just no better time than Madison Craft Beer Week.Read More
This one's a pretty self-centered edition. In addition to taking my sweet time posting it, I'm apparently all "it seems to me" this and "I guess" that, and while some of the reviews are decidedly negative, I felt as I was writing my commentary that I was deploying more sass than usual myself. But in the words of the judge on Futurama, I'm going to allow this. It's my Flyover Friday.Read More
Well, it's Dark Lord Day here in the upper Midwest, a day when the lucky chosen who made it through the opaque online ticketing process line up in Munster, Indiana, to stock up on a very big, very sweet Russian imperial stout from 3 Floyds called Dark Lord. My wife and I gave it a shot this year, but the ticket site stymied our efforts.Read More
Well, as you probably noticed, I had to take a week off last week. It's been some kind of spring, with kinds of stress I didn't think I'd ever have coming. Gotta look out for number one sometimes, though, and I'm glad to say I'm back and feeling ready to review some reviews. This week, consider how we -- writers, restaurants, just, y'know, we -- go about being ourselves. Welcome back to Flyover Friday.Read More
Maybe I'm a glutton for punishment, or maybe just a straight-up glutton, but I've gone and done it again. I've gathered a group of friends to do a full-immersion tour of one of Madison's food ecosystems. Last March, it was fried cheese curd and Bloody Mary research on the Capitol Square and State Street. This year? A Lenten assault on Friday fish fry and old fashioneds down the Monroe Street corridor: the Laurel Tavern, jacs Dining and Tap House, and Gates and Brovi. We called it Glutwalk 2: Fishpocalypse, and the results are in.Read More
Well, you can't fault me for being busy, what with the 2014 Wisconsin Film Festival in full swing, and me with five movies to see with my wife, over three days. Eight days of curated culture, laid out by folks who know a hell of a lot more about film than I do. But I betcha I got 'em when it comes to where to eat after the lights come back up. Let's all go to the lobby, it's a slightly late Flyover Friday.Read More
Eddie Huang, the firebrand restaurateur always willing to get into the debate over authenticity, just recently started up a podcast. Called "Monosodium Glutamate," its very first episode was all about authenticity. I'm inclined to give it a listen, because I will listen to just about every food podcast, but haven't yet because I don't want to start pulling my hair out over who's allowed to make what food and where. I'd just as soon we focused on the equation of quality + history, and stop double-checking the math to see if it = authenticity. This is your real-deal Flyover Friday.Read More