Glendale, WI – Is there a better place to hold a brewfest than the gorgeous streets of Wisconsin’s premier outdoor mall; Bayshore? I think not! Located smack in the middle of the mall complex was the second annual Wisconsin Beer Lovers Festival, bigger and better than last year!
I got behind the scenes this year as a few friends and myself poured for Central Waters in their absence (the fest happened to fall on one of their busiest weekends; playing host to the Midwest Energy Fair). We proudly donned CW’s apparel and gladly pulled tap handles for thirsty fest-goers, occasionally getting out to visit other venues at the festival.
My greatest surprise came when I went looking for my friend Scott, the brewmaster at the ever-amazing Vintage Brewing. Having not previously paged through the pamphlet handout, I had no idea what was in store for me. I paced up and down our street, the same street we had been on at the last festival. No where to be found. As I opened the pamphlet once I got back to our booth I was awesomely shocked to see the festival was now on BOTH of the main streets through Bayshore, not just ONE!
I promptly dropped the pamphlet and booked it across the town square courtyard to checkout what I hadn’t even known existed. Another whole street of brew and food! The pamphlet, once I read it, was also the key to quickly and easily finding where everything was located, which brews from which breweries were paired with what (conveniently located just next to the beer!), and even allowed a few blank lines for notes!
Not only did this aid in fest attendance dispersion and the glorious lack of the Summerfest-like claustrophobic feeling, but it allowed the venders more space. This is one of the key points to the development of this years fest above last years’. This year saw the new standard for beer and food pairing. Each brewery, from Wisconsin, was paired with a bite-size, but unlimited, entrée from a Wisconsin restaurant, many right in Glendale! The Central Waters Bourbon Barrel Stout, we were pouring, which kicked about an hour from the end of the festival, was paired quite nicely with Smoked BBQ Pork from Zambonie’s, and just to our right were equally delicious pretzel bites with out-of-this-world honey mustard and/or queso (depending on your preference).
I was lucky enough to make it over to Hinterland for their Peanut Butter Tart with Blackberries paired with their Door County Cherry Wheat beer. Nothing less than stellar from these guys, the combo tasted just like a PB&J! Equally stellar was Vintage’s BBQ Chicken Drummies, FULL-SIZE chicken drumsticks smothered in a delicious sauce made with Vintage beer and plopped on a bed of coleslaw so good it deserved it’s own plate. This near-full meal was paired with a fantastic Vintage brew I got to experience for the first time; their Black Mirror Imperial Black IPA.
Walking around the festival briefly allowed me the chance to see a few other usual suspects pouring refreshing beer paired with carefully paired, delicious food.
While I didn’t get to experience the festival exactly the way I initially intended, I had a blast pouring some terrific beers at the Central Waters booth and thoroughly enjoyed serving all the excited people there!
With the expansion that doubled the capacity, additions of more accessible bathrooms, and a myriad of awesome Wisconsin brews paired with fantastic food, the Wisconsin Beer Lovers Festival in Glendale, WI is quickly becoming the must-attend festival in the state! I can’t wait for next year!