August 10th was the date for the 27th annual Great Taste of the Midwest. If you are not familiar with the Great Taste, it is the biggest beer festival in the Midwest with over 100 breweries and probably close to a thousand different beers to try. Always held on the second Saturday of August, only 6000 tickets are sold. I know that sounds like a lot but tickets always sell out on the day they go on sale. Approximately two thirds of the tickets go on sale the first Sunday in May at various locations in Madison, WI and at Tyranena Brewing in Lake Mills. The other third are sold via lottery. In order to secure tickets, getting there the night before is usually required as most ticket outlets sell out hours before they go on sale. The Friday night before the Great Taste has become a big event as many Madison bars hold pre-parties hosted by area brewers. These usually include tap takeovers and the introduction of special beers, many not available anywhere else. We began at one of Madison’s newer brew pubs, One Barrel Brewing. They are small, producing only a few beers on tap at a time. I had the Behemoth, a big IPA coming in at 9.5%. Next was the Essen Haus for the Revolution party for their Anti-Hero IPA and A Little Crazy Pale Ale. Next was the Blue Moon for the Oso Party. Oso, from Plover Wisconsin is one of our better breweries. The next day and finally it is time for the Great Taste. Gates open at one but the line starts forming pretty early. Once inside, it is unlimited sampling (2 oz. pours) for five hours. Highlights for me included Solemn Oath (Butterfly Flashmob – IPA), Kuhnhenn Brewing (DRIPA – Double Rice IPA), Flat 12 Bierwerks (Funk-o-Dile Dundee – Belgian Pale Ale) and from Chicago DryHop (The Devil Jumped Up – Belgian IPA). The local winner was the House of Brews with their Rye Barrel Aged Dulpexx Double. For me this festival was all about the Illinois breweries, going to old favorites and trying new beers. I tend to miss the Michigan Breweries (except Kuhnhenn and Dragonmead) because I will be going to the Detroit Beer festival in October. It is second only to the Great Taste and you don’t have to camp out to buy tickets.