On the way to perfection: Funk Factory's latest bottle pre-sale blows the doors off

With O’so Brewing’s annual anniversary party coming up in November, the brewery has once again teamed up with Funk Factory Geuzeria to release two limited-quantity beers. Those bottles went on sale at noon on Thursday on the ticket-selling site Brown Paper Tickets.

Within 90 seconds, every one of the roughly 900 bottles each of White Lodge Reserve and Frampaars were in placed in electronic shopping carts.

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My best of the fest: Great Taste winners, 2015

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.)

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How I'll spend my Great Taste Eve

One of the greatest decisions I ever made was to start taking Great Taste Eve off from work. Practically, it makes sense; there are frequently visitors coming to our house this time of year -- this specific weekend, I mean -- so there's cleaning to do. Then there's the fun stuff. The beer stuff. And it doesn't wait for the whistle at the end of the shift, man. Be there or be square.

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Full house: MobCraft and House of Brews throw another pre-GTMW party

Full house: MobCraft and House of Brews throw another pre-GTMW party

MobCraft may be pulling up stakes for its new Milwaukee digs soon (-ish), but the creative team behind the crowdsourced brewery hasn't packed up yet, and the night before the Great Taste of the Midwest is as good a night as any to party. I sat down to discuss this year's Mob the House with Henry Schwartz of MobCraft and Page Buchanan of House of Brews, and sampled most of the MobCraft beers that'll be on offer.

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A preview of Madison Craft Beer Week 2015

Maybe it's the improved website, which really enables cross-referencing and event-tagging better than ever before, but it sure feels like this year's Madison Craft Beer Week has gotten awfully smart. Tap releases, bottle releases, crossovers, brewing science, food pairings, lectures -- all of these things have been part of MCBWs Past, but I don't know. Sure looks like a hell of a fest this year.

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2014, a Beersball retrospective - Two cities, one ball, and a hell of a lot of beers

The Major League Baseball winter meetings just wrapped up in December, as did the second annual Beersball Christmas bottle exchange (I got a Mobcraft Arabian Date Night, pretty excited tbqh*), and it's the end of the year -- okay, technically the start of a new one -- so what better time than now to look back on Beersball 2014? We hit two cities this year, and recommendations? We've got 'em.
 

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Lambic-style sauna party: Funk Factory and O'so plan another gathering 'round the coolship

Repeating a fun and unexpectedly emotional event from the very full January 2014 Wisconsin beer calendar, Madison's Funk Factory Geuzeria (the burgeoning brainchild of Levi Funk) and Plover's O'so Brewing will host another coolship-filling party and bottle release at the latter's brewery space in central Wisconsin this coming January.
 

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Highlights of the highlighted: Must-try beers at Great Taste of the Midwest 2014

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.

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Madison Craft Beer Week 2014 - Let's do this

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.

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"That's not the Dark Lord, that's a 2011 Bourbon Barrel Stout." "Mmm...sacrilicious."

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.

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Glutwalk 2: Fish and old fash

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.

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Madison, drink up and listen

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I've got the briefest of posts for you -- while I work up a couple for the weekend -- to announce that the Strange Brews podcast I appear on has just gone live on Soundcloud and iTunes. Hooray! 

Click whichever link suits your needs, and check out my very enjoyable day and a half showing Tim Akimoff, Alison Cuddy, and Andrew Gill of Chicago's WBEZ all around Madison. (Or at least as much of it as we could reasonably fit into that window.)

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/strangebrews/23-madison-wisconsin-beer

iTunes:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/strange-brews-podcast/id682020277?mt=2

 

O'so, Funk Factory, Central Waters, Forequarter: A very Wisconsin beercation

O'so, Funk Factory, Central Waters, Forequarter: A very Wisconsin beercation

There are a couple times a year when beer geeks from Wisconsin and beyond get all whipped into a frenzy: Craft Beer Week, the Great Taste of the Midwest, and a handful of smaller beer parties like Capital Brewery's Bockfest. This last weekend provided the dedicated, the dorked-out, and the drinker -- yes, those with a little disposable income -- with the perfect opportunity to block off three whole days for a little beer vacation. A beercation, if you will.

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A chance encounter with Pappy

Consider the following. 1) My exposure to neat booze is low, but if there's one that I've got any experience with at all, it's bourbon. 2) My Tuesday work shift starts at noon. 3) When am I going to have access to that many Pappy vintages? 4) My wife offered her blessing as well as taxi services.

You can guess the rest. I put on some pants and we hit the road.

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Four men, a plan, the Twins, Beersball.

Last year, three guys came together with little to no track record of hanging out or anything, and put themselves in a car for 5 hours, a Minneapolis hotel room for a weekend, and the close seats of Target Field for a game between the Twins and Brewers. The event was named Beersball, and it kicked ass.

This year, a fourth joined the group, and we decided that Minneapolis was more fun than trying to follow the Brewers anywhere else in the Midwest. (One of us is an actual Twins fan, which is as many Brewers fans in the crew; plus, I had unfinished business with a Minneapolis hot dog -- more later.) So it was back to the Twin Cities for another go 'round.

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Your home for Forequarter Beer Week coverage

As it turns out, Forequarter's schedule for Madison Craft Beer Week won't be on madbeerweek.com after all. But if blogs are good for one thing, it's not having a deadline. So without further ado, here's the full rundown of James Beard Best New Restaurant semifinalist Forequarter's schedule for MCBW, courtesy of Hastings Cameron.

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Tonight 5/2
- Tapping our keg of Common Thread at midnight (strict adherence to the "wait till Friday" edict). $2.5 pints from midnight-bar time.

Friday 5/3 (10pm-bar close, food until 1am)
"Bitter Much?"
- Bright/citrusy bitter cocktails, (i.e. classic negroni, a more aggressive house gin & tonic, Malört cosmo, and a revisited "hop Collins") paired with Green Flash Imperial IPA
- Dark/roasty bitter cocktails paired with Lagunitas Wilco Tango Foxtrot: a kegged "negroni" made with gin, Campari + "vermouth" comprised of Karben4's Silk Scorpion sweetened with house raspberry cordial.
- Goblets of Lagunitas' WTF and Green Flash IIPA are $3 and $4.5 respectively. Standalone cocktails $5-7, beer/cocktail pairings $6-9, shots of Malört $3. All cocktails but the k4 negroni will be available during dinner.

Saturday 5/4 (10pm-bar close, food until 1am)
"MALT BOMB"
- Speyside, Campbelltown and Islay single malt scotches paired with beers both delicate and malt bomb-y. Rob Roys made with an O'So Dominator Dopplebock reduction. A dessert drink inspired by Whoppers and the Briess malt balls a beer rep handed me at the Malt House right before I drove to visit my family for Christmas. Prices TBD, but will be very friendly, unless someone shouts for an Octomore 10 boilermaker. All of this bombast leavened by a soundtrack of nothing but Belle & Sebastian and Camera Obscura.

Monday 5/6
"Dave's Lager & Agave Experience"
- During dinner: Nuanced pairing flights of an array of mezcal and tequila with lager beer (pilsners and Vienna reds) that's a touch craftier than Negra Modelo. Dave is our resident Oaxaca fanatic. I'm sure he'd prefer this be called something else. Pick his brain re: mezcal, or have him make a suero, a beery paloma or this ridiculous chavela variation we're working on. It's garnished with a spicier rendition of the Underground Meats landjäger we commissioned just for our bar. After 10pm, specials on all of the above.

Tuesday 5/7
- Tasting menu as previously covered.

- After 10pm, it will become night of a billion saisons and weird farmhouse variations. Beer list to come.

Wednesday 5/8
"Stillwater + Evil Twin tap takeover"
- I am both excited and terrified by this.

Thursday 5/9
"Sausage party at Karben4"
- I think this means our meats people will be doing artisanally broish things out there.

Saturday 5/10
Details hazy, but will involve beer/cheese pairing with Uplands Cheese Company boss man Andy Hatch and three vintages of Pleasant Ridge Reserve.

A breaking Madison Craft Beer Week update

Fashionably late to the Madison Craft Beer Week guide is Forequarter, the Underground Food Collective restaurant on Johnson Street. Main bar dude Hastings Cameron tells Team Irony or Mayo (read: me) that the event he's most excited about is a farmhouse ale tasting menu planned for Tuesday, May 7.

"It's essentially a brand-agnostic beer dinner that we'll be doing during regular dinner service," he says. "[Head chef] Mark Schieber put together a tasting menu conceived around farmhouse ales by North American producers -- a bière de garde, a bretted saison. The outlier will be a quad paired with dessert."

The five-course menu is still in a rough format, but Hastings says the layout will look something like:

First course: Torchon of foie gras with molasses & pickled peach on toasted brioche

Second course: Razor clam crudo with smoked salt & Hopfenstark mignonette

Third course: Pork tenderloin medallion and guanciale with rhubarb mostarda & grains

Fourth course: Pheasant breast with fried sunchokes, nduja vinaigrette & herb salad

Fifth course (dessert): "Whatever Nisse [Lovendahl] wants to make."

The asking price is set at $65, with no reservations required; the only requirement is that whole parties commit to either the tasting menu or the regular menu. Small parties seated at the bar may be exempted from that policy.

That the ticket price includes five courses and beer pairings is no small thing; it's a fine price point. But consider that this will be running during regular dinner service, which is no quiet affair at Forequarter, and, well, be a little impressed, okay? Hastings will be pouring like a madman.

"Jamming a five-course tasting menu with pairings into the middle of a regular dinner service gave me a bit of pause, but we're going to have full kitchen and bar staff," he says. "Plus Mark will be expoing in the kitchen and I'll be lurking at the pass to pour the corresponding beer as each course comes up."

"It should be fun," he summarizes, in that inexplicably Zen UFC way. But yeah, it should be.

Check out www.madbeerweek.com for more Forequarter updates as they fly off Hasting's fingertips.