Last year's Great Taste was, for me, an object lesson in not getting sidetracked by one tent. (With my last sip I spit at thee, back-side of 2014 Tent 500!) This year, while Tent 100 was heavily weighted with all my pre-event map pins, I managed to visit every tent at least once with the exception of the vintage arcade tent with Karben4, Great Lakes, and others. There's always next year -- unless next year those guys decide to have less fun. (Looking at YOU, Leinenkugel's, not bringing the Bubblicious Weisse.)
Here are my top eleven beers sampled at Great Taste of the Midwest 2015 because I didn't want to leave it at ten, listed by my Untappd score for the beer. (Sorry not sorry, Untappd haters.)
11) Minneapolis Town Hall Project 3106. I keep on saying that I'm not a fan of chocolate and citrus in food, but all signs point to big appreciation in beer form. Very chocolatey, a complex beer perfect for fest pouring.
10) Off Color Yuzu Fierce. In terms of drinking enjoyment, this is a top four beer. Just a big ol' glass of Lemon Pledge, but in a very good way. Didn't get much of the bready, biscuity presence that you'd want from a Berliner, but it was so vibrantly citrusy, I couldn't help but love it. You'll see more from Off Color today.
9) Off Color Barrel-Aged Dino'Smores. Like, now! I didn't expect the s'mores characteristics to maintain as well as they did, but I imagine they're hopping a ride on the barrel notes. This actually works to make this beer slightly less impressive since the barrel isn't as stand-out. But hey, I wonder if Off Color can monkey with this beer in a better way...
8) Off Color Coffee Dino'Smores. Yup! Here you get all the usual Dino'Smores notes, maybe even a little cranked up in the chocolate department, solid vanilla, and then a lightning bolt of coffee bitterness that flashes bright but disappears quickly. I'd like to take this moment, by the way, to shout the following: THE APOSTROPHE IS IN THE WRONG PLACE LAFFLER.
7) Temperance Manhattan Barrel-Aged Might Meets Right. A real swooner. Deep cherry notes, complex and smooth.
6) 5 Rabbit Yodo Con Leche. I didn't read any other best-of roundups (yet -- gotta maintain impartiality), but I did see that @wisconsuds might have stacked his Top 10 with coffee beers too. But if there's a beverage I love as much as beer, it's probably coffee. Wish I coulda gotten a bottle of this creamy, sweet beauty.
5) Indeed Whiskey Queen. So we're into the top 5 now, and I admit I'm a little astonished this only makes it to 5. I guess I would have liked a peeeench more barrel character to it, but this whiskey version of Indeed's Rum King stout was deep and dark and stouty. Graham crackers (almost as persistent a flavor in this top 11 as coffee, actually) and a tight tan head. I wanted more and, like Yuzu Fierce, this was one of the top four pleasures to drink.
4) Revolution Straight Jacket. Revolution undersold this one in the GTMW program; it's barrel-aged too. There's not much to say about this one, except that it was kind of perfect. A big sweet thick rich caramelly wonder and I want to know more about its production schedule so I can get some.
3) Bent Paddle Cold Press Black. This is not a festival beer. This is not a rare beer. This is not a high-ABV beer. It's not a beer I've never had before. (I've had a bunch.) This is a totally accessible, totally sessionable, totally straightforward coffee black ale. But fuck is it good. And on tap? Oh man. Even better.
2) Transient Betise. Wow. An absolute punch to the jaw in terms of sourness, which I grant might be overkill in BJCP terms, whether it's a Flanders or an Oud Bruin (the brewery calls it a Flanders Oud Bruin in the program), but it's right down main street for my tastes. The barrel is prominent, lending a dark, boozy personality to the plummy flavor of the base beer. Just great.
1) Lakefront Black Friday. The odds of me getting over to Milwaukee for a Black Friday release on, well, Black Friday are really low for a number of reasons. I sure do want to now, though -- more than ever. I might have been concerned about the depth of this beer after seeing how the Lakefront 25th Anniversary stout has aged in the bottle (not super well), but Black Friday put worries to rest. It's everything you'd want a bourbon barrel-aged stout to be, including drinkable. Graham crackers for days, roasty, smooth, perfect.
Check out roundups from Robin Shepard for Isthmus, Chris Drosner for the Wisconsin State Journal, and my dude Jake aka @wisconsuds who's always good for a beer roundup. Cheers everyone, let's do it again next year.