Great Taste of the Midwest and Bar Hopping in Madison, Wisconsin
I feel like I talk about Wisconsin all the time but people in this state live for having a good time. How can you not love that? I've visited Wisconsin during 3 of 4 seasons but I can say Wisconsonites come alive in the summertime. The Great Taste of the Midwest is one of the most beloved beer fests in the Midwest. Just about every brewery you can imagine is there and it sells out every year. I went for the first time this past weekend with some experienced attendees (Upland Brewing Co brewers) and checked out their favorite bars and restaurants before and after the fest.
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Great Taste of the Midwest Details
- held in early August (Aug 11, 2018)
- location: Olin Park on Lake Monona
- over 190 breweries, over 1400 different beers
The Great Taste Festival was just that - one great taste after another. At the time I was handling social media for Upland Brewing so I got to hang out at the booth and pour beer for lots of thirsty folks. If you love beer this is one of the best festivals in the country with all the midwest heavyweights and newbies alike. It sells out in a flash so when tickets are on sale, best be quick on the draw.
Other important things to know :
- You must take a shuttle, cab, or walk to the fest. No parking is allowed
- There are three hotels nearby: Sheraton Madison (I stayed here), Holiday Inn & Suites, and Comfort Inn.
- The festival is quite crowded so if you can swing it, I'd buy the VIP tickets to get early entry to the festival.
No trip to Madison, Wisconsin is complete without some delicious food and bar hopping. Having never been there before, I let the brewers lead the way. We hit the classics and tried a few new spots.
Heritage Tavern - We had drinks here after our tap takeover party and then brunch on Sunday morning before leaving town. Farm to table menu, creative cocktails and like most Madison restaurants, an impressive beer menu. My fav cocktail: The Foxtrot - tasty spin on Pimms Cup. Favorite brunch item: Fried poached eggs.
Essen Haus - German style beer hall. Loud polka music, $1 giant pretzels and 2 liter beer boots... YES.
The Old Fashioned - "Where Wisconsin is King." Downtown Madison staple serving up Wisconsin favorites featuring all the cheese you could imagine and a custom Old-Fashion cocktail menu.
Side Trip to New Glarus
After the festival, we topped off our epic Madison trip with a visit to New Glarus Brewery. New Glarus is equally famous for their incredible beer and for the fact that they only distribute within the state of Wisconsin. Their Spotted Cow Saison is basically the house beer of every restaurant in Wisconsin and their fruit beers are some of the most sought after in the country. I could drink their Belgian Red (cherry) all freaking day. Beer lovers flock to their homebase to sip from the source and stock up on some of their famous bottles. famous beer. Brewery tours are free and self-guided so grab a pint and stroll through their immaculate brew house before you hit the gift shop.
After New Glarus, our remaining mission was to snag some squeaky cheese curds. Cheese curds are everywhere in Wisconsin and eating a basket of fried curds is like being initiated into the Wisconsin way of life. The Mars Cheese Castle is a favorite but you can score excellent and local cheese at just about any gas station in Wisconsin. of passage for any visitor. That's what we did :)