This was another great year for the Great Lakes Brewfest, one of my favorite beer festivals of the year. The new venue was not what I was expecting at all, which was a plus. I was a bit apprehensive about it being at the zoo, because I was thinking we would be among the animals and who knows what could have happened when you get 4,000 people drinking some great craft beer among a bunch of caged animals. But the area was not around the cages and was a very nice open area.
I was unable to make the Friday event, but from the postings on their facebook page, that event had a great turnout and some very positive feedback. I cannot comment on this portion of the event because we did not travel down Friday and stay the extra night. You can probably place that blame on the economy.
The staging area beautiful. There was some entertainment as the monkey cage was right there. They seemed a bit confused about what all those people were doing there. I also like the castle-like entrance. All that though was small potatoes compared to the electric feel of the anticipation of the doors opening.
One the gates opened it was a mad dash to your fist tent. If you are an experienced fest participant, it is smart of have a game plan for your first few beers. We had a game plan and that was to bypass the first few tents because like every year, those seem to be the first hit, so we made a dash for some of the back tents. This brings me to my first noticeable difference in the fest at the zoo compared to the Festival grounds. At the festival grounds, a bulk of your breweries were located in a central location. It got a bit crowded and at times hard to get into the beers you wanted. While the tent situation scattered the breweries all around the grounds, which lead to more moving about from station to station, it did open up the area and it was not as congested as it is at the Festival grounds. Each setup had it’s advantages and disadvantages I guess. I didn’t mind either way. I do have to say I had a hard time finding (and in the end never got to) the stone brewery tent which was not where it said it was on the map. I was a bit disappointed in that. But it’s not like I didn’t have other choices.
There were many great craft brewers represented at the fest, as well as a few mead and cider producers as well. A few local breweries to note were Ale Asylum, New Glarus, Aeppletreow Winery, Hinterland Brewery, Furthermore, and Titletown brewing. On the National level you had heavy hitters like Stone, Left Hand, Avery, New Belgium, Rogue, Moylens, Dogfish Head, Ommegang, and Flying dog…..just to name a few. In the end there were hundreds of beers represented, some special firken tappings, or special offerings that were tapped at specific times. You had over 90 different brewers to choose from. If you couldn’t find something you like, you were not looking. That’s for sure. A few of my personal favorites from the day were Ale Asylum’s Hopalicious, Ommegang’s Aphrodite, and Left Hand Brewing’s 400 Pound Monkey. But really when you think about it, how many great beers do you have after you’re already well on your way? LOL.
I’m going to be honest. I was so engrossed in the beer tasting, that I didn’t even notice the band playing. From time to time I recall hearing some background music but I didn’t get to pay much attention. The area was so big, perhaps the sound just was not carrying. I did get to stop and see the Kilties perform which is a treat every year. The Kilties help sponsor the event every year.
The Food is top notch for a beer festival. Although I didn’t get to sample much, I do go right for the pig roast sandwich. It has become my favorite meal at the fest. However, inside the food tent I did see that there were crepes, roasted corn, popcorn, brats and burgers, chili fries, and beer candy. There may have been more, but that was what I saw.
If you are concerned with driving, the GLBF takes good care of you. This was the first year I took advantage of the shuttles to and from the hotel, and I have to say it was a lot of fun both on the way there, and a lot more fun on the way back. There are other services available as well, from cabs to a designated driver program. There should be no excuse for drinking and driving from the festival.
So in the end, again year after year the Great Lakes Brewfest provides an outstanding assortment of craft beers, great food, and good good solid entertainment. I can’t stress enough that if you life in Wisconsin (or even if you don’t) this event is the one to hit. I’ve been going for years, and plan to keep going for many many more. This year, I did do something a little different. I asked a couple of other Fest goers about what they thought of the fest and below are their thoughts.
My first set of feedback is from Fest Goer, Brian Lesperance. I asked Brian the following questions.
Is this your first year at the fest? No.
Did you like the new venue, or did you prefer the Festival Park grounds? I Like the new venue it’s more open and not as maze like.
Was it easy to locate all the beers/brewery’s you wanted to try? Pretty much. But I could not find tent 19 with Stone and Lagunitas.
What did you think of the choices of brewery’s? I am always looking for new brewery’s and beers to sample and regionally undistributed beers are great to sample.
Did you attend the Friday night event? No. We come down on Friday night but we sample the local cuisine and tour the Racine area.
What was your favorite beer of the night? Four Wolves English Ale from Stonefly, Left Hand’s 400 Pound Monkey, I also enjoyed Alaskan Amber by Alaskan Brewing Co.
Did you like the Entertainment? I Didn’t care for this years band. The Kilties performance is always top notch.
Were you happy with food choices? Hell yeah! Pulled pork is awesome, as well as the usual fair of burgers and brats. The chili cheese fries were yummy.
What do you like most about the Fest? The beer of course. But the other fest goers at the GLBF are the most friendly group I’ve been around. for the most part No fights, No raging drunks and everyone is friendly and courteous!
What do you like the least of the fest? Staggered Sampling.
Will you attend next year? Yes!
I also received feedback from a first time Great Lakes Brewfest Attendee, David Taylor.
Was this your first year at the fest? Yes.
Did you like the new venue, or did you prefer the Festival Park grounds? I have no way to compare but I think I would prefer a more circular shape so that the path from any one brewery to any other is more 2-dimensional. But that’s just being picky.
Was it easy to locate all the beers/brewery’s you wanted to try? Yes, for the most part, although I did miss a couple that I would have loved to have seen.
What did you think of the choices of brewery’s? Excellent!
Did you attend the Friday night event? No
What was your favorite beer of the night? Does it have to be beer? I loved Aeppeltreow’s Cyser Rose the best. For beer it would be one of two of Bear Republic’s — Racer 5 IPA or the Stout.
How would you describe the atmosphere of the festival? Big and beautiful, and pretty laid back. There were a lot of lines but you didn’t hear people complaining much about them either.
Did you like the Entertainment? I didn’t pay attention.
Were you happy with food choices? Yes, it all looked very good.
What do you like most about the Fest? The selection and the outdoorsy-ness.
What do you like the least of the fest? The sheer size and the lines. Need more port-a-potties!
Will you attend next year? Honestly, probably not. It’s a great fest, but a little too huge for my personal taste. I like being able to get from point A to B in zero minutes with no lines.
I would like to thank Brian and David for their feedback on the fest. It’s always good to give the readers a different opinion other than just my own. I hope to see you next year, I already have my room reserved.