Beer Expo disappointing


Temporary workers hired by the Wisconsin Beer Expo serve samples to attendees at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison on Nov. 4.

Jason Cuevas, Clarion Staff Writer

Wisconsin and beer seem to go hand in hand. It’s a long tradition to love beer in the state, and there are many festivals to celebrate this beverage. Some are much better than others.

The Wisconsin Beer Expo took place at the Alliant Energy Center on Nov., 5. Those who have visited the yearly Great Taste of the Midwest beer festival may have found themselves disappointed with what they saw. This was definitely a low budget operation that made it hard to justify the $40 entrance fee.

Entering the Alliant Energy Center, people received one pint glass to use at the festival as your credit card was rung up on the ticket guy’s cell phone. This was a little unorthodox, but seemed to work fine. People that attended earlier in the day reported issues with the cell phone reader working, and said they were instead sent to an ATM.

Entering the festival itself was pretty underwhelming. It simply was not very big. You could easily walk to the front of any line and receive your sample of beer with no wait at all. The beer was poured from bottles. There were no kegs of any kind to be found, only buckets filled with ice and beer bottles. Patrons were only served from the non-iced beer sitting on the display tables.

Each table had a small printed description of the beers, which was very much needed, as there was little other information to be found. Only three companies had workers with any connection to the beer. Berghoff had its president in attendance, while Pearl Street Brewery had a Madison based friend of the company working. Potosi Brewing Company was the only one to have an actual brewmaster on site.

Steve Buszka, Potosi brewmaster, said he was very much enjoying the festival. He had a very positive attitude and one could tell he has a great love for sharing about beer. He said he was always happy to attend such events, and that he was glad to have been invited.

The range of who else was serving beer could be very mixed. A good portion were simply buddies of people who had recently got a call to help out. A few more were attractive young women that do various promotional work, such as being shot girls in local bars. There was also a section of home brewers that had showed up to help out. While they still did not know much about the actual beers they were displaying, they did at least have some understanding of brewing in general.

The most talked about beer at the festival was the Leinenkugel Big Eddy Russian Imperial Stout. With a non-glossy paper logo and a fresh design you can see that Leinenkugel is trying to set this beer apart from their others. It seemed to be of the love it or hate it variety. Some patrons were raving about how everyone had to try it, while personally I found the molasses in the beer completely overwhelming. The flavor was so strong that it almost came off like medicine.

The big winner at the event was Three Floyd’s Gumballhead. It has a full flavor, but it’s so sweet that it’s hard to put down. There really is a bit of a candy hint to it. The enticing flavor mixed with its high alcohol content make this one to watch out for over indulgence.

Mendocino Brewing Company also had a couple of tasty beers in their Red Tail and Black Hawk Stout. The Red Tail was light while the Black Hawk was dark, but both were smooth while having obvious flavor that was never quite enough to offend.

A band performed for a short period, but in general the expo was very quiet, especially for a room full of people doing nothing but drinking. The most excitement that ever swept through the crowd occurred when the occasional glass would fall and break. The standard Expo Center snack bar was open, joined by Ian’s pizza as the only other food vender.

Had the entrance fee been $20, it would have seemed like a nice little event. $40 just seems like a lot to spend for drinking out of bottles, two ounces at time, that you find in town with pretty minimal effort.